If Xavier's NCAA tournament dreams are to be realized, at some point the Musketeers must start beating decent teams away from home. Thus far, Xavier is 1-2 away from Cintas Center, with San Diego being their lone victim and their pair of defeats belonging to uninspiring opponents. The Missouri Tigers are a struggling team from a power conference, who will give Xavier a good chance of picking up that first road win on Saturday.
Missouri opened their season in disarray, losing 68-61 to Missouri Kansas City, the 265th ranked team in the KenPom ratings. The Tigers are now 5-4, but still without a top 100 win and only one top 200 win. Needless to say, the days of the Mike Anderson and Frank Haith led squads that put Missouri back on the college basketball map are a fading memory, and a young Tigers squad has already begun the painful experience of growing back into a contender.
Missouri has one of the youngest teams in DI, ranking 304th in experience. With their exciting youth movement comes size, as well, as the Tigers have the 50th ranked effective height nationally. Combine that with their SEC pedigree, and they are like a faux-Kentucky, except they are not hurtling towards an NCAA sanction doomsday. Very little sticks out about Missouri offensively except that, Xavier fans take a seat, they are one of the top 50 three point shooting teams in the nation, hitting just under 40% from downtown. This will obviously be a factor against a Xavier defense that has struggled to stop shooting teams, especially away from home, this season.
Defensively, Missouri is below average at almost everything without being awful at much of anything. Opponents shoot roughly average against Missouri, but turn it into a lot of points, due to the fact that the Tigers allow a third of misses to go back to the offense, and are outside the top 250 in taking the ball away from their opponents. They also foul very frequently, sending their opponents to the line at the 50th highest rate in the country. All in all, this is a team that can struggle to hold teams, especially ones who are as aggressive on the glass as Xavier.
|Keith Shamburger||Point Guard||Dee Davis|
|5'11" 170||Measurements||6'0", 160|
|Shamburger played his first two seasons at San Jose State, before playing for Hawaii last year. The journeyman point guard is enjoying by far his best season, currently placing in the top 10 in Effective Field Goal and True Shooting percentage. He has assisted fairly well, topping the team with 30, but has dished out an appalling 28 turnovers alongside. For the Tigers to be effective, they need their hot shooting point guard to score them in bunches against Xavier, which almost never happens (except for always).|
|Namon Wright||Shooting Guard||Remy Abell|
|6'5", 200||Measurements||6'4", 200|
|Wright is just one of Missouri's promising freshmen this year, having taken over the starting role three games ago. Wright went off against Chaminade, scoring 21 points on 7 attempts, and has played well when called upon in the last two games. Wright isn't terribly assertive on offense, though he is reasonably effective. After guarding leading scorers the last two games, this will be a different type of player for Abell to try and keep quiet.|
|Montaque Gill-Caesar||Small Forward||Trevon Bluiett|
|6'5", 215||Measurements||6'6", 215|
|Gill-Caesar is a highly touted recruit out of Canada, and Missouri's best answer to Bluiett, although Trevon holds the edge in nearly every offensive category. However, Gill-Caesar is also carrying the weight of being Missouri's plans A-C on offense, shooting on 31% of the possessions for which he is on the floor. He is a volume scorer, without eye-popping shooting stats, but is counted on to lead the way for Missouri nonetheless.|
|Johnathan Williams III||Power Forward||James Farr|
|6'9", 225||Measurements||6'10", 237|
|Williams III's main value to Missouri is on the boards, where he is the team's leading rebounder and the only Tiger who cracks the top 500 nationally in rebounding rate at the defensive end. Without his presence down low, it would be a grim situation for Mizzou. Williams III also scores at a decent rate. Maybe not at will, but better than Missouri's other bigs, which really isn't saying a whole bunch. Williams III is Missouri's main force down low on both ends, so it will be interesting to see how he matches up to Stainbrook, Farr, and Reynolds.|
|Ryan Rosburg||Center||Matt Stainbrook|
|6'10", 264||Measurements||6'10", 270|
|Rosburg genuinely struggles to score the ball, having broken double figures just twice in his career. The thing is, he also is not a great rebounder, either, although he does better work on the offensive end than the defensive. His block rate is up this year, but his free throw percentage is down from the blistering .569 he shot last year.|
Sophomore guard Wes Clark is 4th on the team in minutes, having started the first six games of the season. Clark's closest comparison on KenPom is Mike Caffey, which should send Xavier fans in to panic attacks. However, unlike Caffey, Clark isn't the primary ball handler while on the court, although he does move the ball better than Namon Wright, coming in with a 8.6/3.6/3.3. The reason he doesn't start probably has to do with how his .324/.370/.867 shooting line compares to Wright's.
Next off the pine is freshman forward D'Angelo Allen, who, at 6'7", is the tallest Tiger getting more than ten minutes off the bench. Allen is a decent offensive rebounder, but doesn't hit the boards on either end at a prolific rate. His line of 3.3/3.6/0.7 on .419/.350/.275 shooting paints him more as a minutes eater than an impact sub at this point in his career.
Rounding out the notables is another freshman in Tramaine Isabell who, despite playing only 13 minutes a game, is 4th on the team in three point attempts with 22. Far be it from me to squelch a young man's exuberance, but the fact only 6 have gone in leads me to believe that better shot selection may be a part of Tramaine's growth. He does get 5 points a game, is 4th behind the same three people in steals, and has dished up 12 assists to 8 turnovers this year, so for a freshman backup point guard, Isabell does a job.
Can the offense get going on the road? Xavier will have harder road games than this in the coming season, and the ability for a young team to play away from home can sometime take a bit of time to develop. While Missouri might not be a very talked about team right now, anything can happen between now and Selection Sunday, and wins over power conference opponents on the road never hurt a resume.
Are we losing our balance? Over the last two games, Matt Stainbrook has shot ten times from the field. This was especially galling against a lilliputian IUPUI squad, who were kept in the game for a long time by a disjointed, misfiring Xavier attack. Early season wins were on the back of a whole team moving and distributing the ball, and the need to feed the post is a urgent one for Xavier going forward.
Can Xavier use a zone effectively? One of the things that has come out of the two games since Thanksgiving has been a willingness to play press and zone defense for Xavier. Missouri is not a great team when it comes to taking care of the ball, and this may be a good litmus test to see if X can take an opponent out of the game with a press/zone scheme.
- Attack the glass - Missouri struggles to rebound the ball on defense, plain and simple. Xavier rebounds the ball extremely well on offense, and can make it a long day for the Tigers if they can extend possessions and turn misses into points. This is where Farr and Reynolds in particular have a chance to shine, as they have been two of the best so far.
- Go with the flow - Last time out against IUPUI, Xavier's depth was explored, with no one getting more than 27 minutes. However, it seemed there was some difficulty in adjusting to new personnel as quickly as they were being rotated, especially on offense. For Xavier to contend against tougher teams later in the year, players need to be able to acclimate instantly to the different personnel groups throughout the game.
- Go for the early kill - With this being the first true road game of the year, it would be nice for Xavier to able to take the Mizzou Arena crowd out of it with a dominant early performance. If Missouri's shots aren't falling, they are definitely there for the taking on defense, and Xavier could ease the transition into road play by taking the Tigers out of the contest early.