Missouri vs. Alabama Preview: Players to watch, keys to victory, etc.

In Features by Andrew Parrish

Missouri will travel to Coleman Coliseum to take on Alabama in an important mid-week contest for both squads as they head into crucial weekend matchups.

The Tigers will host Kentucky on Saturday, while the Crimson Tide will travel to Florida to take on the Gators.

Missouri has struggled in its last three contests, losing all three by an average margin of 13.7 points per game, but have had an NCAA tournament-caliber season to this point by posting a 13-8 record while playing a top-25 strength of schedule.

Cuonzo Martin’s squad is currently sitting in a four-way tie for ninth in the conference with Georgia, LSU, and Mississippi State, but the Tigers can certainly affect that with a back-half of their schedule that features a lot of home games.

The Crimson Tide are on the other end of the spectrum in regard to recent play, winning five of their last six games, including this past Saturday’s blockbuster showdown with Trae Young and 12th-ranked Oklahoma in Tuscaloosa,.

Alabama also has wins over South Carolina, LSU, SEC-leader Auburn, and Mississippi State during that time period, which has vaulted the Tide into a three-way tie for third in the conference with Tennessee and Kentucky.

Let’s take a look at the players to watch, the keys to victory, and a score prediction for Wednesday’s matchup.

Players to Watch

Kassius Robertson (Missouri)

Robertson has been the best offensive player for the Tigers this season by far, and for Missouri to have any sort of offensive rhythm, the senior needs to have it going early and often from the point guard position.

He leads the Tigers in scoring at 15.7 points per game, as well as being second on the team in assists at just over two per contest.

So, the offensive impact that Robertson provides will be very important for the Tigers to win a road game for the first time since January 3.

Herbert Jones (Alabama)

Jones has been in the national spotlight as of late, as his outstanding defensive performance on Trae Young was one of the main highlights of Alabama’s win over Oklahoma.

But the freshman’s game is more than just defense. At 6’7” and super long, Jones has positional versatility, being able to play three or four positions on the floor in different lineup compositions. And with Avery Johnson utilizing that versatility over the past few games, Jones has seen a marked increase in his production.

Since conference play began, Jones has not played less than 21 minutes and has averaged 9.5 points per game over his last four games, accompanied by 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals.

Jones will need to continue that high level of play in this game against Jordan Barnett, Kevin Puryear, and even Robertson when Collin Sexton isn’t on the floor for the Tide to win this game comfortably.

How Missouri Can Win

The Tigers need to have a good shooting game to beat the Tide, especially in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama tends to struggle to defend the 3-point line at times, and with the Tide’s extremely long frontcourt in Donta Hall (who had 8 blocks against Oklahoma), Daniel Giddens, Alex Reese, and Galin Smith, Missouri will have a tough time getting good looks at the basket.

If the Tigers can hit outside shots off of good ball movement and spacing, they can challenge Alabama to outscore them, which is to Missouri’s advantage.

How Alabama Can Win

The Tide need to not get caught up too much in the #BuckleUp mentality and make mistakes by going too fast.

There are times where their offense will move too quickly, especially off of a made basket, and they will turn the ball over easily by wasting possessions and allowing easy looks for the opposition.

When the Tide can force turnovers in the half-court and run off of that, they have a lot of success, but when they show off their youth and take a bad shot after a made basket by the other team, games can spiral out of control relatively quickly.

Simply put, if the Tide can limit mistakes in transition and capitalize off of Missouri’s turnovers, they should be able to win this game convincingly.

Prediction

Alabama and Missouri are two teams that have a lot of talent, but given the difference in levels of recent play, I expect the Tide to win this game relatively comfortably since it is at home.

The Tigers have an outside chance of pulling the upset if they get hot, but I don’t see their fortunes changing in this contest.

Prediction: Alabama 78, Missouri 66

I cover general SEC basketball at Southeast Hoops. I am currently a sophomore at the University of Alabama, at which I major in Management Information Systems, perform with the marching band, and am an avid supporter of the athletic programs. I hail from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but now reside in Glen Burnie, Maryland.