Posted: Feb 12, 2014 3:41 PM by Mark Kim, KOMU 8 Sports Columnist
Updated: Feb 13, 2014 6:13 PM
COLUMBIA - Missouri is officially on bubble watch.
After a three game skid against the likes of Kentucky, Florida and Ole Miss, the Tigers enter their next game with a rematch against the Arkansas Razorbacks with a 16-7 record (4-6 in SEC). If Missouri loses this game, the Tigers will slide down to 9th in the SEC. The pressure is on for Missouri at this point and they can begin their ascension back to tournament status with a win in this upcoming game.
Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson are the dynamic duo of scoring for the Tigers, but they can't do it alone. Yes, they're averaging 18+ points a game, but that's not enough to win games.The Tigers need a third player to step up their game on the offensive end. During Missouri's last game against Ole Miss, Earnest Ross showed his potential as a third scorer as he dropped 24 on the Rebels. He also scored 24 points against Arkansas in their last matchup as well. Ross seems to be the biggest candidate to be that third option, but it doesn't have to be him. It could be Wes Clark, Ryan Rosburg, Jonathan Williams III, etc. Just someone else needs to take the defense's attention away from Brown and Clarkson. This also brings the issue of ball distribution up. Jordan Clarkson is not playing his role as a point guard. Instead of playing hero ball, Clarkson needs to pass first and score second.
The Tigers seem to have trouble covering the other team's star player. James Young, Scottie Wilbekin and Marshall Henderson are just some of the players that have burned Missouri throughout the past few games. The key for them? The three pointer. Young, Wilbekin and Henderson have shot for a combined 14/27 from beyond the arc. Rashad Madden is the man to watch for the Tigers. He scored 20 points while shooting 4/8 from three against Missouri in their last game. The Tigers need to keep a man on Madden at all times.
Ball control is a big reason why the Razorbacks almost beat the Tigers in their last matchup. Arkansas had six more steals than Missouri. The problem hasn't gone away either. Ole Miss had three more steals than Missouri in the Tigers' most recent game. These turnovers could decide a game. Luckily for Missouri, they managed to escape against Arkansas. For Ole Miss, they weren't as lucky. Missouri needs to be a lot more cautious with the ball or else it will cost them the game.
Missouri will have a good chance to win this game. They're playing at home and they're motivated to stay in the NCAA Tournament picture. A win here for the Tigers would get them back on track. Expect the usual from Brown and Clarkson, but watch Ross score some buckets for the Tigers as well. This is a game Missouri can't lose and won't lose.