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Auburn vs. Missouri basketball preview: Two Tigers in need of a win

Auburn dropped one on the road to a mediocre Ole Miss squad. Will the Tigers be able to bounce back at home against a much better Mizzou team?

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

The Auburn Tigers (8-4) come home to face the Missouri Tigers (12-2) after dropping the conference opener on the road in the frenzied final seconds against Ole Miss. A missed three-pointer late would have tied the game, but in a game riddled with 18 Tigers turnovers, OT probably would not have been much of a gift.

Missouri was shocked at home by a 6-6 Georgia squad on Thursday and lost 70-64 in OT. For a team that looked good against a decent UCLA squad in early December, winning 81-70, and strong in a 65-64 loss to Illinois, the Georgia game had to be a bitter pill to swallow. The Georgia big men outrebounded Mizzou 43-34 and were able to pick up an additional four blocks on the night. MIzzou went 16-of-40 inside the perimeter and 6-of-16 outside the perimeter. Expect the other Tigers to be a bit angry when they arrive on the Plains. They should also be better rested since they opened their league play a day earlier than Auburn.

Missouri comes in at 58th in the updated Kenpom.com rankings. Kenpom currently predicts a 21-10 season for the other Tigers, going 9-9 in the league. Auburn falls one spot -- 158 -- after the loss to Ole Miss. Kenpom factors in home-court advantage in its predicted chance of winning and gives Auburn a 37 percent shot, with a final predicted score of 74-71 in favor of the other Tigers.

This is only the second time that Auburn and Missouri have met on the court. Last year, Auburn traveled to Columbia and lost, 91-77. While Auburn held SEC Preseason Player of the Year Phil Pressey to only four points, he came up with 10 assists. Five Missouri players scored in double-digits.

Team Numbers at a Glance

Auburn Missouri
Scoring Average 75.7 75.4
Scoring Defense 70.3 65.4
Scoring Margin +5.3 +9.9
Field Goal % .460 .481
Field Goal % Defense .423 .386
3-Point % .309 .363
3-Point % Defense .391 .281
Free Throw % .694 .710
Rebounding Average 38.2 39.3
Rebounding Margin +4.5 +7.6
Turnover Average 12.5 12.9
Turnover Margin -0.1 -2.1

Personnel

The expected starters for Auburn are guards Tahj Shamsid-Deen (5'10, 163 pounds), Chris Denson (6'2, 181) and K.T. Harrell (6'4, 216), forward Allen Payne (6'6, 225), and center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum (7'0, 226). Malcolm Canada (6'3, 224) generally comes in for TSD and perhaps stayed in longer than usual in the outing at Ole Miss due to the five fouls committed by TSD. Forward Chris Griffin (6'7, 229), center Matthew Atewe (6'9, 250), and forward Dion Wade (6'5, 170) played valuable conference minutes and should remain in the rotation.

The projected lineup for the other Tigers features guards Jordan Clarkson (6'5, 193), Jabari Brown (6'5, 214) and Earnest Ross (6'5, 228), and forwards Johnathan Williams III (6'9, 223) and Ryan Rossburg (6'10, 252). Against Georgia, Brown had 19 points, Ross had 15 and Clarkson had 12. The three lead the team in scoring (18.4, 18.8, and 14.1, respectively). Williams and Ross will both do work against the glass, as well block shots. From the bench, we should see Wes Clark (6'0, 171), Tony Criswell (6'9, 240), Shane Rector (6'1, 171) and Torren Jones (6'8, 234).

Dreaming and Scheming

In spite of a loss to Georgia, I still think Missouri will come to the Plains for a business trip. I didn't get a chance to watch the Georgia-Mizzou game, so I have no thoughts on Georgia being better than expected or the Tigers being overrated. I have watched a few Mizzou games and they are a competent, talented squad. One could argue that there are times near the end of tight games when Frank Haith makes puzzling decisions, but it is nowhere near the lackadaisical approach we too often see from Barbee.

Between the 4:55 mark and the 2:23 mark against Ole Miss, Barbee burned through three timeouts. He took a fourth with 13 seconds left, but one could argue that perhaps he could have utilized those a little differently. I don't know anymore. It just always looks like the guys could use a little more coaching, and that falls on Barbee. The last few seconds of the Ole Miss game were, for lack of better terms, a hot mess.

The Mizzou game brings up mixed feelings for me -- not because I waiver from my Tigers, but because it is insanely bittersweet to watch a talented guy like Ross wear something other than orange and navy. I know based on reports that Ross chose to leave Auburn on his own, but I have to ask why Barbee didn't fight harder to keep him and why Barbee was so sure that he wasn't right for his schemes. Frankly, we get basically a brand new team each season, so I am not confident that Barbee even knows which guys are right for him.

I wish I had answers or even knew some new way to say the things we always discuss. I read each of your comments and think through them. Someone mentioned that Ole Miss is pretty mediocre and if Auburn can't handle that, it may be more of the same from last season. I admit that for me sometimes it is just easiest to place blame on Barbee -- or the administration for hiring Barbee and retaining him -- so I know that maybe that puts me in the wrong, too. I know that Auburn isn't loaded with five-stars, but the Tigers should still be able to steal a few here and there. I may have given up on Barbee but I won't give up on these kids. Even if it means sitting through another season too much like the last one, I won't waver. War Damn. Always.