One of the first things any fan looks at when analyzing a game is whether the opponent plays well on the road. Missouri historically has been a much poorer team away from Mizzou Arena, and this year has been no exception. The Tigers have played three opponents — all with lesser rankings, according to KenPom — on the road this year. Two of those games have been losses. Missouri (currently ranked 17th on KenPom) lost to No. 29 Texas A&M and No. 59 Colorado, with the Tigers' only win coming against an Oregon squad ranked No. 116. So the Tigers haven't really shown an ability to go out and beat a tough team away from Columbia.
Then there's the Tigers' strength: forcing teams into turnovers. Missouri's opponents are turning the ball over at a 25.1 percent rate, good for 14th in the country. That is helped by Missouri's steal percentage (38th), with the Tigers boasting a whopping five players with a steal percentage over 3.0. That allows the Tigers to play at the nation's 10th fastest tempo and sets up easier shots.
There's just one problem: the Longhorns don't turn the ball over. Texas is a top-30 team in offensive turnover rate, and boasts three guards in J'Covan Brown, Dogus Balbay and Cory Joseph, who are on a ball-handling hot streak. Over the last six games, which includes contests against Connecticut and Texas A&M and road trips to Kansas and Oklahoma State, each guard has at least a 2-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, with each player dishing out at least 14 assists over that time period.
So if the Longhorns aren't turning the ball over, it stands to reason that the Tigers will often find their way blocked by the Longhorn halfcourt defense. And that's a major Texas strength against a sizable Missouri weakness. The Tigers struggle to run offense in the halfcourt, while Texas ranks first in the nation in both adjusted defensive efficiency and in effective field goal percentage.
Texas is as comfortable playing at a slow pace as the Longhorns are at a faster pace: the Longhorns' adjusted tempo figure of 67.6 is good for 153rd in the nation (somewhere around the middle), and just slightly faster than the D-I average of 67.4. They're effective at that pace as well, raking 24th in adjusted offensive efficiency.
The other Texas strength is its ability to get on the glass. On the defensive end, that shouldn't be a problem, as Missouri ranks 124th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. But on the other end is where Texas should exhibit a large advantage. The Longhorns rank 35th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, bad news for a Missouri team that ranks 230th in offensive rebound percentage defense.
So let's recap: Missouri creates points and tempo by forcing turnovers, while Texas doesn't turn the ball over. Meanwhile, Missouri struggles in the halfcourt game, a place where Texas thrives. The Tigers will also likely get pounded on the boards on both sides, meaning they won't be able to make up for that disadvantage elsewhere. Oh, and did I mention that Missouri is 273rd in the country in free throw attempts to field goal attempts, displaying an inability to get to the free throw line?
College basketball is often difficult to pretty to predict, but in this one, despite the close rankings, all the indicators seem to point toward the Longhorns.