Missouri Basketball Preview vs Baylor

On Saturday (1:00 P.M., ESPN), the #5 Missouri Tigers (17-1, 4-1) travel to Waco to take on the #3 Baylor Bears (17-1, 4-1).We preview the battle between the top two top 10 teams.

On Saturday (1:00 P.M., ESPN), the #5 Missouri Tigers (17-1, 4-1) travel to Waco to take on the #3 Baylor Bears (17-1, 4-1). 

Coach Scott Drew's Bears return home after suffering their first loss of the season, a 74-92 defeat at Kansas.  Earlier this week, Coach Drew talked about the improvement in his team from a year ago.

"If you look at the numbers statistically, we've been first and second in offensive field goal percentage the last two years,"   said Coach Drew.  "And defensively, we've been top three in the league the last two years in defensive field-goal percentage.  But, our assist to turnover ratio was horrendous last year.  And, I think everyone on the team, not just the point guard play, but everybody's improved their ball-handling skills, and passing skills.  Because we're taking better care of the ball, and getting more shot attempts, that's making a big difference.  And, we are deeper this year, which gives us an opportunity to keep people fresher." 

When you look at the Big 12 statistics, you find Missouri and Baylor sitting prominently among the league leaders in almost all offensive categories, and some defensive categories, as well.  Missouri leads the league, and Baylor is second, in scoring, and field goal percentage.  Missouri leads the league, and Baylor is third, in scoring margin, free throw percentage, and assists.  Baylor leads the league, and Missouri is second, in 3-PT field goal percentage, and steals.   In most of these categories, there's not a lot of separation between these two nationally ranked teams.

But, Baylor also leads the league in blocked shots, at 6.3 blocked shots/game.  Missouri averages just 3.1 blocked shots/game, fewer than half as many as Baylor.  With their almost overwhelming length, Baylor is one of the top shot-blocking teams in the country.  How much of a factor will Baylor's shot-blocking ability be on Saturday?

Missouri leads the league by a wide margin in turnover margin, and in assist/turnover ratio, where the Tigers' 1.64 assist/turnover ratio leads the nation.  Missouri is the nation's most efficient offensive basketball team, as measured by points/possession.

Despite the Bears tremendous height advantage, as compared to Missouri, Baylor owns just a 2.6 rebounds/game advantage over Missouri on the season.  What will be significant on Saturday is whether Missouri will be able to minimize Baylor's rebounding advantage in this game.

Baylor features five double-digit scorers, including one of the league's top point guards, in 5'10" junior guard Pierre Jackson, who is coming off of the Baylor bench to score 12.2 points/game, hand out 5.4 assists/game, pick up 2 steals/game, and who carries a 1.5 assist/turnover ratio into Saturday's contest.  Jackson is quite a threat on both ends of the floor.  He's a very good defender, and on offense, he's a tremendous triple threat.

Baylor's other four double-digit scorers are usually found in the starting line-up, including 6'11" sophomore forward Perry Jones III (14.2 points/game, 7.5 rebounds/game), 6'7" senior forward Quincy Acy (12.4 points/game, 6.8 rebounds/game, 2.4 blocks/game), 6'9" freshman Quincy Miller (12 points/game, 5.1 rebounds/game), and 6'2" sophomore guard Brady Heslip (10.1 points/game).

Completing the starting line-up for the Bears is 6'1" junior guard A.J. Walton, who averages 3.7 assists/game and 1.6 steals/game.  Walton carries a 1.7 assist/turnover ratio into the game against Missouri.

Baylor Starters (17-1) - Based on the most recent game

Pos. No. Name HT WT YR P/G R/G A/G S/G Hometown

F 01 Perry Jones III 6-11 235 So. 14.2 7.5 1.1 1.1 Duncanville, Texas

F 04 Quincy Acy 6-7 235 Sr. 12.4 6.8 0.7 1.0 Mesquite, Texas

F 30 Quincy Miller 6-9 210 Fr. 12.0 5.1 1.8 0.7 Chicago, Ill.

G 05 Brady Heslip 6-2 180 So. 10.1 1.4 1.4 0.8  Burlington, Ontario

G 22 A.J. Walton 6-1 185 Jr. 4.3 3.0 3.7 1.6 Little Rock, Ark.

As previously stated, Baylor leads the Big 12, with their 41% 3-PT FG%.  The two Bears who take the most 3-PT shots, Heslip and Jackson, are each making 48% of their 3-PT FGAs.  For Heslip, 5 out of every 6 shots that he takes are from behind the 3-PT line.  As a team, almost one-third of the Bears field goal attempts come from beyond the arc.  Heslip and Jackson account for over half of Baylor's 3-PT field goal attempts.  Other Bears who shoot a good percentage from behind the arc are Miller (39% 3-PT FG%), Jones III (35% 3-PT FG%), and off of the Baylor bench, 6'2" sophomore guard Gary Franklin (38% 3-PT FG%).

Also off of the bench for Coach Drew, who regularly plays 10 players, are 6'4" freshman guard Deuce Bello, 6'9" sophomore forward Cory Jefferson, and 6'10" senior forward Anthony Jones (1.7 blocks/game).   The Bears are very long, very deep, very talented, and very skilled.

"Baylor is extremely talented,"  said Missouri Head Coach Frank Haith.  "(They're) a very gifted team.  I think they're as good as any team in the country.  I really believe that about their club.  Watching them on tape, they have no weaknesses.  They have size.  They have athleticism.  They have great ball-handling.  They have shooting, now with Brady Heslip.  They have a complete ballclub.  And, they're coming off of a tough loss………………………………..  We're going to get their best effort.  They're going to be very focused on Saturday afternoon.  So, we understand what we're up against."

The Tigers are not without their own offensive firepower.  All-American candidate Marcus Denmon is the second-leading scorer in the Big 12, at 17.8 points/game.  Kim English scores 14.6 points/game, and is the nation's leader in 3-PT field goal percentage, at 51% 3-PT FG%.  Ricardo Ratliffe, scores 13.9 points/game, grabs 6.7 rebounds/game, and leads the nation in field goal percentage, at 77% FG%.

Phil Pressey, who also scores 9.7 points/game, leads the Big 12 in assists (5.9 assists/game), steals (2.1 steals/game), and assist/turnover ratio (2.8 A/T ratio).  How well Phil plays on Saturday, how well he remains solid on both ends of the floor, will go a long way in determining whether or not Missouri can go on the road to Waco and pull off the upset.

Missouri Starters (17-1) - Based on the most recent game

Pos. No. Name HT WT YR P/G R/G A/G S/G Hometown

F 10 Ricardo Ratli?e 6-8 240 Sr. 13.9 6.7 0.8 0.8 Hampton, Va.

G 12 Marcus Denmon 6-3 185 Sr. 17.8 5.5 2.7 1.5 Kansas City, Mo.

G 24 Kim English 6-6 200 Sr. 14.6 4.6 1.5 1.2 Baltimore, Md.

G 03 Matt  Pressey 6-2 195 Sr. 8.0 4.1 1.9 0.9 Dallas, Texas

G 01 Phil Pressey 5-10 175 So. 9.7 3.3 5.9 2.1 Dallas, Texas

The Tigers have their own double-digit scorer off of the bench, in Michael Dixon (12.6 points/game).  Missouri needs a solid game from Dixon, as well.

Overall, Missouri leads the Big 12 in seven different statistical categories, including scoring offense (83.1 points/game), scoring margin (+20.8), free throw percentage (78% FT%), field goal percentage (51% FG%), assists (16.6 assists/game), turnover margin (+5.4), and assist-turnover ratio (1.64).

"We know what to expect, in terms of how we've got to play to win on the road,"  explained Coach Haith.   "I think our guys understand the toughness with which we have to play in order to have success.  It's a game in which we have to be as sharp as we've been all year."

Missouri needs to be mentally tough, and do their work early, to establish early position on both ends of the floor.  The Tigers need to defend and rebound the basketball.  They need to attack the Baylor zone with patience, with player movement, and with ball movement.

"It would be big to get a win down there in Waco,"   said Phil Pressey.  "They're a great team, and if we can pull that off, it'd be a great win for us."

Comparative Statistics

Missouri    Baylor 

Record:  17-1  17-1

FGM:  517  492

FGA:  1019  1007

FG %:  .507  .489

3pt FGM: 147  134

3pt FGA:  371  328

3FG %:  .396  .409

FTM:  315  280

FTA:  406  383

FT %  .776  .731

Points:  1496  1398

Per Game: 83.1  77.7

Reb./Gm 34.4  38.0

Steals  9.1  5.5

Assists:  16.6  16.0

Blocks:  3.1  6.3


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