MBB Preview: Oregon vs. #8 Missouri


WHO:  #8 Missouri Tigers (5-1) at Oregon Ducks (4-2)

WHERE:  McArthur Court, 8 PM PT

MEDIA: FSN National

After a demolition at the hands of Duke last Saturday, the Ducks continue their run of top ten teams by battling Missouri tonight in the Pac 10/Big 12 Hardwood Series.  We all remember last year's game againt the Tigers, a 36 point beatdown in Columbia that was an embarassment to us all.  Sadly, there is no reason to expect any different this year, as I full expect us to get run out of the Pit tonight.

For those not familiar with Mizzou basketball, SI had a great primer today by Andy Glockner.  Embracing the mantra "the fastest 40 minutes of basketball," think Oregon Football on a basketball court (which is probably a big part of why Pat Kilkenny eyed Tiger coach Mike Anderson for the opening last spring).  Missouri wants to get the tempo up really fast, trusting that the pace will force other teams into mistakes and bad shots.  Mizzou will press full court the whole game, and Oregon likewise, meaning that, if nothing else, this game will get up and down the floor.  That said, the Ducks have shown over and over this season, and especially in the Duke game, that they are poor scorers from any distance, and to put up the kind of offense needed to beat a Missouri is asking a lot of this team.  Also, with this Oregon team not being terribly deep, can they sustain effort on defense while both pressing and being pressed the whole game?

Missouri is a deep and balanced team, four starters and one reserve averaging double digits, as well as getting contributions from several other players.  Sophomore point guard Michael Dixon is a pest on both sides of the ball, averaging ten points, five assists, and three steals a game all while hitting at a 37% clip from three.  Guard Marcus Denmon is doing even better, at 16 ppg and 53% from three.  Kim English is the third guard in the three guard lineup, and while he's struggling at just a shade over ten ppg this year, he's the returning scorer on the team.  Center Laurence Bowers also averages nearly a double-double a game, and throws in two blocks to boot.  The only saving grace for Oregon is that Mizzou played an overtime game against Georgetown in Kansas City day before yesterday, and perhaps that plus the long travel in such a short time will create some fatigue for the Tigers.

KEYS TO THE GAME:

1.  Limit turnovers.  I know it seems obvious in basketball, but this is especially true in this game.  Mizzou will try and press, and will likely get layins on every turnover that the press creates.  The Ducks have to hold onto the basketball to have any chance.

2.  Make the easy shots.  Oregon missed way too many easy scoring chances against the Blue Devils last weekend.  This team is always going to have trouble winning games.  But if they miss their layins, they have no shot.

3.  Don't let the game get away early.  Oregon got run out of the gym from the opening tip last season.  If Oregon can hang around into the second half, the fatigue may set in for Missouri, and you could see their will start to break.

That said, I don't anticipate #3 happening.  Missouri is just way too good for us to feel like we have a puncher's shot in this game.  But, stranger things have happened.  Its also interesting that while Duke completely destroyed Oregon, that game validated Dana Altman's system for me, because there were several minute stretches of that game where the Ducks gave Duke fits despite having Big Sky talent.  And Oregon missed a lot of easy scoring opportunites.  But the fun right now involves watching the system, and picturing better players in it.  That makes these games worth watching, even though we know the likely result in advance.

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