On Saturday, No. 18 Missouri trailed TCU by 12 points with about five minutes to go. After defeating No. 11 Tennessee on the road last weekend, it looked as if they were going to suffer back to back losses for the first time this season. Despite clinging to a losing streak of their own, TCU had just put a scare on their border rival Kansas on Thursday, and it looked like Jamie Dixon’s team was about to beat the Tigers on the road.
A clutch 19-7 run sparked by head coach Cuonzo Martin and a big three from junior guard Xavier Pinson would extend the game. The Tigers would defeat the Horned Frogs, handing them their fifth loss in a row. They will take on Cade Cunningham and the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Wednesday.
After losing in a battle of tigers to Sharife Cooper and Auburn, Mizzou dodged a second upset in a row and now they welcome the Kentucky Wildcats into to town for a mid season SEC battle of two teams headed in different directions, one looking to make the NCAA tournament, and one looking towards next season.
Kentucky Looking to Get Back on Track
Kentucky is in the midst of a lost season as the aura of UK basketball isn’t the same right now. The Wildcats appeared to settle into form as SEC play began, before going on to drop four of their last five. They’ve kept things close in each outing, even leading Alabama late in the second half, they just haven’t been able to close games out.
Freshmen Brandon Boston Jr. leads the team in scoring at 12.1 ppg, and the production drifts off from there. The Wildcats really miss freshman guard Terrence Clarke, who’s been out for a month due to injury.
Wake Forest transfer Olivier Sarr and forward Keion Brooks Jr., who just returned from a calf injury, are the only other players who average double figures. They don’t shoot the ball very well and there isn’t much ball movement, as Creighton transfer Davion Mintz and Devin Askew lead the team in assists and both average less than three per game.
This Kentucky team naturally has talent, but they seem so undermanned, while it seems like the Missouri Tigers are starting to heat up.
Mizzou is Heating Up
This team is much more experienced, their playing at a higher level, and they continue to exceed preseason expectations. After finishing with 27 points in the over Tennessee, Pinson would pour in a career high 36 points in the rally win over TCU. Senior big man Jeremiah Tilmon also finished with a career-high 33 points, while recording his fourth double-double in five contests.
Senior guard Dru Smith has been the team’s most consistent scorer and he leads the team in field goal percentage. Senior guard Mark Smith provides scoring and leadership, while sophomore Kobe Brown is coming off of a career high 13 rebound game.
Kentucky at Missouri Prediction & Pick
The these two teams are headed in opposite directions. Missouri looks like they will be making the field of 64 for the first time since 2018, while Kentucky may just miss the tournament for first time since 2013. After losing four out of there last five, the Wildcats may be looking at another one.
Missouri, winners of four of their last five, are turning the corner and look like they could be in for a lengthy run in March. Impressive non-conference wins over Oregon, Illinois, TCU, and Wichita State on top of good conference wins over Arkansas and Tennessee give us reason to believe in this Tigers team going forward. They could make a surprise run at the SEC title.
Look for Missouri to power through and secure the victory. You never want to count out a Coach Cal led team, but Mizzou is hot right now. Their combination of guard play and size will be too much for Kentucky.