Missouri’s 81-76 road win over LSU on Wednesday gave the team a lot of leverage in securing one of the top four seeds in the SEC tournament next week.
A loss in the regular season finale would drop the Tigers to the No. 6 or 7 seed. But a win would put them in the top five, with their final position being decided by two other games taking place on Saturday: Kentucky at Arkansas and Tennessee at Auburn. If both the Wildcats and Volunteers win, Mizzou would be the No. 5 seeds. If both teams lose, Missouri would be the No. 3 seeds. In any other scenario, MU would clinch the No. 4 seed, advancing directly to the conference quarterfinals.
Head coach Dennis Gates said he hasn’t looked into all the different scenarios of how the seedings could shake out. He just knows that it’ll be important for the Tigers to close out the regular season with a win over Ole Miss.
The Rebels fell to Mizzou at home last month, 89-77, and haven’t been much better since then, winning just two of their previous 10 games. Ole Miss fired head coach Kermit Davis he Feb. 24 and named Win Case as the interim. The team beat LSU in its next game but lost to Texas A&M on Tuesday.
Saturday will be an emotional day for Missouri, with it being the last home game for fifth-year senior guards DeAndre Holston, Tre Gomillion, D’Moi Hodge and Ben Sternberg. Gates said the team plans to honor all of its fourth-year players as well, whether they decide to return next season or not, including Kobe Brown, Noah Carter, Sean East II, Nick Honor and Isaiah Mosley — a tradition Gates started while he was head coach at Cleveland State.
The Senior Day ceremony will take place after the game. The Tigers will look to send their seniors into the postseason with a win and a double-bye.
“I want these guys to have two feet into where they are, not where they think they should be next, because you may miss out on some unbelievable memories,” Gates said. “And that’s why we focus on what we focus on. I want not just these guys to be recognized, but our team. It is still a recognition of this team.”
TIME INFORMATION TYPE
Missouri (22-8, 10-7 SEC) vs. Ole Miss (11-19, 3-14)
WHEN: 2:30 pm CT
WHERE: Mizzou Arena, Columbia, Missouri
TV: SEC Network
SERIES: Ole Miss leads, 15-7
KENPOM PREDICTION: Missouri 81, Ole Miss 72
BY THE NUMBERS
BEST LINEUP OF THE LAST 5 OUTINGS (PER CBB ANALYTICS)
Nick Honor-Tre Gomillion-D’Moi Hodge-Noah Carter-Aidan Shaw
Minutes played: 6
Offensive rating: 140.3
Defensive rating: 54.0
Net rating: +86.3
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Key in on Matthew Murrell. Missouri and Mississippi’s rotations will look a little different than they did the first time they played against each other. Isiaih Mosley was in the starting lineup for the Tigers in their first meeting, but has not played in the last seven games. Tre Gomillion was sidelined with a groin injury — the game against the Rebels was the first he’d ever missed in his college career — but he’s been back and healthy in the last four games. The same goes for Murrell, Ole Miss’ leading scorer who sat during the team’s first matchup with Mizzou. The junior guard is a below-average shooter both inside the arc and out, making just 44.1% of his 2-pointers and 31.9% of his 3s. But he plays an important part of the Rebels’ offense as their lead guard and shot creator. In all three of the team’s wins in SEC play, Murrell had double-digit points. Mizzou will need to keep him from getting hot.
2. Barricade the paint. Opponents often get off to a hot start from deep when the Tigers run a zone defense, taking advantage of the open looks afforded to them along the perimeter. But they often also tend to regress to the mean as the game wears on. LSU, for instance, drilled 11 triples in the first half of its game against MU but sank just three in the second half. The Rebels went 10-28 from distance in their first meeting with Missouri, but ranked as one of the 20 worst 3-point shooting teams in the nation, making just 30.0% of their treys. Ole Miss would much rather score inside, where 55.3% of its points have come from according to KenPom. The Tigers’ goal is to keep Ole Miss from getting to the hoop without surrendering a high number of 3s.
3. Fire away from deep. The 89 points Mizzou scored against the Rebels were tied for the most they accumulated in any SEC game this year. The Tigers were able to run it up on Ole Miss by catching fire from outside, sinking 16-30, tying their season high for most 3-pointers in a game. The team might have to do it this time around without Mosley, who went 4-7 from long range against Ole Miss. But the Tigers have shot the ball much better at home anyway, making 36.4% of their 3s inside Mizzou Arena and just 33.8% away from it. The Rebels have allowed opponents to make 34.0% of their triples this season, meaning Missouri should be able to find an edge along the arc.
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