Missouri vs. NC State preview: They got a lot of guards to guard

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Missouri Offense 13-14
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 55.6 18
Turnover Rate 19.8 234
Off Reb Rate 35.2 87
FTA/FGA 51.5 30

Frank Haith wasn't exactly adept at building strong defensive units while he was in the ACC; his Miami teams were routinely mediocre-or-worse, and their perimeter defense in particular could be rough, which is why Herb Sendek could be seen giggling maniacally in anticipation of State's games against the Hurricanes.

Haith's offenses, on the other hand, were fine. I'm convinced that had we gone with Haith over, say, Sidney Lowe, we'd have had essentially a Mark Gottfried equivalent, sparing us the agony of a half decade of incompetence and instead giving us a half decade of mostly enjoyable basketball. I digress.

This year, Haith needed a transfer from Tulsa and a pair of well-regarded freshmen to contribute efficient minutes right away (or at least avoid being outright disasters), and so far, that's exactly what he's gotten. The team is led by Jordan Clarkson--the gentleman from Tulsa--and fellow guards Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross. That trio accounts for the vast majority of Missouri's shots when they're on the floor together, leaving everybody else to fill secondary roles.

This is going to be one of the toughest challenges for NC State's perimeter defense all season, and considering that those three are all 6-5, it's hard to figure where Tyler Lewis fits into this game. He's almost certainly going to have to spell Cat Barber at times, but those are gonna be some tenuous minutes defensively. Gottfried might be well advised to find some stretches where 6-0 frosh Wes Clark is in the game and just kinda try to hide Lewis there.

The Tigers are shooting 36.9% from deep this season. Clarkson, Brown, and Ross average about 14 or 15 three-point attempts per game between them, and Clark is off to an 8-of-17 start. NC State really, really can't afford to come out defending the way it did against East Carolina.

There are other worrisome factors, like the ability of Mizzou's Big 3 to draw fouls, or the Tigers' solid offensive rebounding. We have a whole lot of things to account for here.

Starters

Jordan Clarkson (6-5, 193) -- Clarkson has a T.J. Warren-esque workload, which is one reason why he leads the Tigers in scoring. Another reason is that he is quite good--he's hitting 57.6% of his twos and 86.2% of his free throws while drawing about five fouls per 40 minutes. I do wonder how the two-point shooting will hold up as things get tougher, not just because of the workload, but because he's never shot better than 48.7% inside the arc in a single season.

Jabari Brown (6-5, 214) -- This guy here scares me. I mean, all three of them scare me, but Brown has attempted 71 threes in 11 games has hit 42.3% of them. And he does not have a shaky track record from three-point range. That is 100% do not want. He is a bit turnover prone, at least.

Earnest Ross (6-5, 228) -- Granted, this may be a question with no right answer ... which of the three would you prefer take more shots? I think it's Ross, who has a history of being pretty bad inside the arc and is just a passable three-point shooter, with a career percentage of 32.7. Then again, it's only one game; he could end up going 10-of-15 from the field or some crap like that. His 53.8 2FG% this year could represent a Brand New Earnest Ross. You never know. If we're gonna gamble, though, I think this is the way to go.

Johnathan Williams (6-9, 223) -- Oh right, the tall people. Williams doesn't figure to take a ton of shots, and while he does draw plenty of fouls, he's been a liability at the line. His biggest value lies elsewhere--he is a fantastic offensive rebounder and Mizzou's chief shot dissuader. Dude is averaging 5.2 offensive boards per 40 minutes.

Ryan Rosburg (6-10, 252) -- Also a good offensive rebounder, though he needs to be stronger on the defensive glass. Call him Mr. Opportunistic--he takes a mere 10.7% of the shots while on the floor but is shooting 74.2% from two.

Bench

Wes Clark (6-0, 171), Tony Criswell (6-9, 240). Haith would like to play more than two guys off the bench, but will be be able or inclined to do so on Saturday night? Clark and Criswell we can count on seeing; as for the rest of the roster, it's difficult to say.

Criswell gives the Tigers another talented rebounder off the bench, while Clark, as I mentioned, is off to a nice start from three-point range. Again, if they aren't one of the Big 3, they probably aren't going to be shooting a lot, but these guys can be effective enough in spurts to hurt State.

Missouri Defense 13-14
Four Factors Percent Nat'l Rank
eFG% 43.3 17
Turnover Rate 16.2 291
Off Reb Rate 26.5 22
FTA/FGA 32.0 42

Turnovers shouldn't be much of an issue for the Wolfpack, which is good since it appears second-chance opportunities will be scarce. I'm inclined not to buy into a Frank Haith defense, but finding space to shoot over 6-5 guards is no fun, and the Tigers have forced opponents into a relatively high number of three-point attempts. Opponents have hit 28% of those shots. While good fortune factors into that figure, it's also a sign of pretty good defense.

The Pomeroy Predictor likes NC State by two, so toss your lucky coins if you got 'em.

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