Show Me My Opponent, 2020-21: Missouri (#1)

Lineup notes

Missouri:

  • Starting lineup in all six games has been Pinson, Dru Smith, Mark Smith, Brown, Tilmon.
  • Ten players will make an appearance in this game, but it’s an eight-man rotation Martin largely runs with: the above five players plus Mitchell Smith, Javon Pickett, and Drew Buggs.
  • Best lineup so far: Pinson, the three Smiths, and Tilmon.

Tennessee:


  • Vescovi, Bailey, James, Pons, Fulkerson.
  • As I explored in the Quarterly Review this week, Tennessee’s tried out a few different backcourt combos to see what works, but the most efficient of them shooting-wise has been…well, Vescovi and Bailey. Not sure what else we expected!
  • The best defensive frontcourt lineup is, surprisingly, Pons and Anosike. Could see more of that going forward.

Key matchups

Jeremiah Tilmon vs. John Fulkerson. This one may tip the balance one way or the other. Tilmon isn’t as important an offensive piece as the three guards, but he’s the focal point of Missouri’s two-point defense. When Tilmon is off the court, Missouri allows nearly 7% more offensive rebounds and 9% more free throws per 100 possessions, per Hoop Explorer. Fulkerson needs to beat Tilmon early and often and force him into foul trouble.

Mark Smith vs. four different players. I expect all of Josiah-Jordan James, Keon Johnson, Jaden Springer, and Victor Bailey to get run in this matchup. Missouri’s offense, after adjusting for luck, has been nearly 15 points better per 100 possessions with Smith on than off. This is due to the Tigers taking 13% more threes and 13.5% fewer mid-range twos when he’s on. Tennessee’s got to limit his impact from three as much as possible.

Dru Smith vs. Victor Bailey, Jr. My single favorite matchup in the game, because these are my two favorite players on the court right now. Smith is a vicious two-way player that swipes the ball from very much suspecting guards all the time; Bailey has reinvented himself as a serious 3-and-also-twos-and-D guy that has been Tennessee’s best player through six games. Tennessee needs to win two of these three matchups to win the game, and I’d really like for Bailey to take this one.

Three predictions

  1. Tennessee holds their seventh straight opponent below a point per possession;
  2. There will be at least one stretch of this game where neither team scores over the course of at least two minutes;
  3. Tennessee, 66-64.

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