Xavier’s non-conference season has not gone well. This is evidenced in the fact that a win in Missouri could, by the end of the year, be the Musketeers best outside the Big East. Last season UC, Baylor, Wisconsin, and ETSU were all better wins than the Tigers would represent now, but there’s little left to do but limit the damage. In order to do so, X needs to win their final road game before the break.
Missouri was a power under Mike Anderson in the Big 12 and had some success in the SEC under Frank Haith. When Kim Anderson took over in the 2015 season, the Tigers fell off a cliff and have yet to recover. Cuonzo Martin rode Michael Porter and his seniors to a good year last year that ended when Mizzou ran into the Florida St. Seminoles. This year, the Tigers are hovering down around 100th in the KenPom rankings and once again looking like little more than a speed bump in the SEC.
Missouri plays offense both poorly (111th in the nation) and incredibly slowly. Only 14 teams in the nation play at a slower pace than the Tigers. When Missouri can work the ball around for a good look from deep, they bang it, knocking down 39% of their looks from there. Inside the arc, the Tigers are genuinely awful, making just 45.6%. To compound that issue, Missouri turns the ball over on more than 20% of their possessions and shoots only 66% from the line as well.
Defensively, the Tigers aren’t a great deal better, ranking 85th in the nation. They will force teams to grind the pace to find a good look, though. In fact, only Kansas State has scored more than 80 against them and their recent victory over UCF was only 64-62 after an additional five minutes of play. Limiting scoring and actually being good on defense are different things though, and Missouri isn’t particularly good at any aspect on that end of the floor. Teams shoot well against them, have some joy on the offensive glass, and generally don’t turn the ball over much.
|Jordan Geist||Point Guard||Quentin Goodin|
|"6'2"", 180"||Measurements||"6'4"", 194"|
|In an ideal world, your top scorer would be shooting more than 40% from the floor, but Missouri doesn't live that life. Geist dribbles into jump shots inside and beyond the arc and has mixed success, to say the least. Geist doesn't have great assist numbers, but he's secure with the ball and gets to the line well. He has good rebounding numbers for a smallish guard.|
|Javon Pickett||Shooting Guard||Paul Scruggs|
|"6'4"", 207"||Measurements||"6'3"", 200"|
|Pickett is a mediocre to bad shooter from all three levels and sucks from the free throw line. It's kind of a mystery to me why he gets so much court time, actually. He's a decent offensive rebounder who doesn't foul a lot. I'm sure he's about to drop 22 on X now that I've written this.|
|Mark Smith||Small Forward||Kyle Castlin|
|"6'4"", 220"||Measurements||"6'4"", 193"|
|Smith is the team's most efficient offensive player by almost 20 points of ORtg. He is an excellent shooter, especially from beyond the arc. He will catch and shoot from deep, but most of his two-point baskets come off the bounce, so good closeouts are key. He's a good defensive rebounder and rarely turns the ball over.|
|Kevin Puryear||Power Forward||Naji Marshall|
|"6'7"", 238"||Measurements||"6'7"", 222"|
|From his freshman season to this one, Puryear has been an incredibly consistent performer. He's a solid but unspectacular rebounder at both ends. He's a career 30% three-point shooter, but he has steadily shot more of them as his career has gone on. He doesn't do much in the way of rim protection.|
|Jeremiah Tilmon||Center||Tyrique Jones|
|"6'10"", 252"||Measurements||"6'9"", 235"|
|Tilmon is a big time rebounder at both ends whose offensive efficiency is really undermined by a turnover problem. He's a really good shot blocker, but he hasn't learned to do it without fouling yet. Tyrique has his work cut out for him with this matchup.|
Freshman guard Xavier Pinson posts 5.3/1.7/2.0 on .429/.421/.625 shooting off the bench. His efficiency is really dragged down by a 28.5% TO rate. Torrence Watson is a freshman wing who almost never turns the ball over and makes his bones from behind the arc, where he shoots 41.4%.
Six-ten sophomore Mitchell Smith absolutely cleans the glass on both ends and posts 3.8/4.2/0.2 in just 16 minutes per game.
- Can Xavier win outside the Cintas? They haven’t done much of it yet. While Mizzou Arena (creative name, guys) isn’t Nova or Georgetown, it would give the Musketeers that little boost that they can win in a place where their names are permanently on the lockers.
- Is this team any good at all? Xavier’s postseason aspirations are hanging by a thread. A team deserving of being in the tournament should be able to beat a team like Missouri even if the game is held on the moon. While a loss here wouldn’t necessarily land in the “bad” column at the end of the year, it would be more evidence to support the indictment that the Musketeers just aren’t that good.
- Will Xavier pound the ball? Against EKU either a new a focus or the Colonels incompetence saw Xavier take 33 shots inside the arc against just 16 outside. The Tigers can be had inside if the Musketeers are willing to take the time to do it.
- Pound the ball: Yes, it’s the same thing again. The Musketeers shoot better inside the arc than any other team in the nation. Missouri is 114th in the nation in interior defense. The math here isn’t that difficult. Feed Jones and Hankins and let things go from there.
- Protect the ball: The Tigers aren’t great at forcing turnovers, but Xavier had a 31.4% TO rate in their last game against the 243rd best defense in the nation. If the game is played at Missouri’s pace, wasted possessions could doom the Musketeers.
- Figure out a way to use Ryan Welage: Welly bombed his way to a cool 205 offensive rating against EKU. In a game where the pace is open and the shots are flowing, he’s a weapon that can eviscerate a defense in seconds. In the 15 minutes Welage played in the rock fight at the Fifth Third, he scored eight but was a turnstile on defense. This game will be at that pace, Xavier needs to find a way to hide their best offensive player lest he become nothing more than a luxury piece.