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Missouri Preview

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NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Nashville Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

It's time for the game nobody asked for, a revival of the Border War with Missouri. Today the Jayhawks take on a Mizzou team that is struggling, to say the least. When I first started reviewing their shooting numbers I thought it had to be a misprint. There's no way they're really shooting 24% (yes, that's twenty four percent!) from three, right?

As it turns out, yes, that's a correct number. Mizzou attempts threes on roughly just a third of their shots, and somehow they're making less than a quarter of them through nine games. Only five teams in all of D1 basketball are shooting any worse. That's part of the reason KenPom ranks Missouri just 139th overall with the 202nd ranked offense.

Pomeroy and Bart Torvik's systems disagree on Missouri about as much as I've ever seen on a single team, as Torvik ranks them a dismal 238th overall, and actually considers them an easier opponent than previous KU conquests like Stony Brook, Tarleton State, and UTEP.

For what it's worth, I think Torvik's rating seems impossibly low, as Missouri actually recruits power five level players, even if coach Cuonzo Martin has had trouble getting much out of them throughout his career. I can't imagine this will be an easier game than Stony Brook. Three point shooting aside, the Tigers have struggled inside the arc as well, shooting just 48.5%, ranking 202nd nationally. If you keep in mind Missouri has played four opponents ranked 300th or worse, then these numbers seem more astounding.

Stylistically, they don't play particularly fast, so expect them to run a lot of (probably ugly) half-court offense. One thing they've been legitimately good at its crashing the offensive boards, grabbing 35% of their misses. Defensively, they've been far better than their offense, and KenPom ranks them 91st in that regard. They force quite a few turnovers and rebound well on that end too.

Oh, they're also 4th in the country in free throw defense! Allowing opponents to hit just 58% at the free throw stripe is quite an accomplishment. Way to go, guys!

Player To Watch

Kobe Brown, junior center

I usually pick three players, but wow it's tough to find players to highlight on this team. Brown has done his part as Missouri's big man, putting up impressive numbers in both block and steal rate. That might mean that this won't be a "get McCormack going" type of game, unless Brown gets into foul trouble. Brown is also an excellent defensive rebounder, and shoots almost 60% from two. He is capable of stepping out to the three point line, but like everyone else on this team, he's not succeeding there, hitting just 6-19 (31%).

Prediction

I hate to say this, but Missouri's three point shooting has been unsustainably low, and regression to the mean has to start sometime. This afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse could be that time. I've also poked fun at them in this preview, which means karma is not on our side now. Sorry, guys.

Still, this Missouri team has been so bad, it would take more than just some improved shooting to make up the difference between these two teams. As long as KU doesn't come out tight because of the renewed "rivalry" (I'm not sure why they would, considering most of these guys were in grade school the last time KU and MU played), they should be able to withstand better-than-expected shooting by Missouri and still win this fairly easily.

The line now is Kansas -23, and I just can't buy that Missouri is that much worse, unless they jack a bunch of threes and continue hitting just 20-25% of them. I'll take Kansas to win fairly easily, but Missouri to cover the spread.

Kansas 83, Missouri 66

Record straight up: 7-0

Record ATS: 5-2