Hoops breakdown: Arkansas

In a resurrection of one of the better rivalries of the 1990s, Missouri welcomes Arkansas to Mizzou Arena on Tuesday evening. After sneaking back above the .500 mark over the weekend, the Tigers could start their most difficult stretch of their nonconference schedule with a win against the Razorbacks.

1) Youth vs. youth: In his second recruiting class since taking over the reins at Arkansas, coach Stan Heath reeled in one of the nation's best yields. He focused on the interior, landing Charles Thomas, Darian Townes and Steven Hill, a Branson native. Hill has started all six of the Razorbacks' games at center, while Thomas has established himself as Arkansas' main offensive threat in the paint. The freshmen are averaging 16.6 points per game.

Missouri's freshmen, while nearly as heralded, have not been as productive. Both sets of youngsters see a lot of playing time and are asked to contribute more than the typical newcomer. Hill, averaging 3.5 blocks to go with 3.3 points per game, appears to be one of the country's premier defensive players. If he can avoid foul trouble, he will neutralize Missouri's limited inside game, forcing the Tigers to rely on the outside shot. If the 3-pointer isn't falling, it's hard to see how the Tigers could win.

2) The turnover battle: It's not exactly the "40 Minutes of Hell" that former coach Nolan Richardson made famous, but the Razorbacks play an aggressive defense that often involve presses and traps. Arkansas' opponents have wilted under the pressure, turning the ball over more than 19 times per game. That includes 10.5 Arkansas steals.

The Razorbacks are almost as loose with the ball as they force their opponents into being, turning it over nearly 16 times per game. If a team holds a decisive edge in this category -- most likely Arkansas, since Missouri is relatively vanilla in its defensive looks -- it will have a significant advantage.

3) Finding balance: Brewer leads Arkansas at 15.7 points per game, but he is just one of four players to average more than nine points. Guard Eric Ferguson ranks second, averaging 13.5 points off the bench. Swingman Olu Famutimi reaches double digits with 10.8 points, while Thomas rounds out the group with 9.3 points. If one player slips, there are several other Razorbacks waiting in the wings to pick up the slack.

In some ways, the Tigers have a similar mindset. Missouri has three players that can lead the team in scoring on any given night, as sophomore forward Linas Kleiza, senior guard Jason Conley and sophomore guard Thomas Gardner have the ability to take over games offensively. Kleiza had his most diverse game as a Tiger against Oakland over the weekend, falling just shy of a triple-double. Missouri could use another performance like that, especially in the assist count. If Kleiza has more than five helpers, the Tigers should win this game.

4) Family matters: The Razorbacks would have felt right at home at the Paige Sports Arena after leaving the Bud Walton Arena, their home in Fayetteville since 1994. Alas, the Razorbacks missed that opportunity.

Regardless of the name, this will be Arkansas' first road game of the season after playing four neutral games and two road contests. On Monday, Heath mentioned how important it would be for his young players to deal with an opposing crowd for the first time.

With the surprisingly low attendance the shiny new building has seen in the first few weeks of the season, that might not be much of a problem. If Missouri fans fill the building to see their Tigers play a quality opponent, they could play a large role in deciding the outcome.

5) Projected headline: Razorbacks rally past Tigers

I think it's fair to say Missouri has yet to play a game to its full potential, often playing down to its opponent during the first few weeks. That worked a few times, leading to wins against Murray State and Brown. It failed at others, as Missouri lost to mediocre clubs Davidson and Houston.

The good news is the Tigers can't play down to their opponent this time around. If anything, they'll have to pick up their game to hang with the Hogs. Arkansas has several scoring weapons, the quality of which Missouri has yet to see. A win could start a strong run in the coming weeks before conference play.

A loss could be the beginning of an extremely long December for Tiger fans.

Final score: Razorbacks 77, Tigers 68



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