posted on December 28, 2012 07:27
Missouri's win over Illinois established the Tigers as a legitimate top-ten team. Now, seventh-ranked Missouri travels to Los Angeles to face UCLA at Pauley Pavilion. Before tip at 9 PM tonight, we're taking a look at the three keys for a Missouri win.
1. Shutdown Shabazz. UCLA's most dynamic player is freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad, who has scored double-digit points in all of his nine career games. He's been even better over his last three games, averaging 24.3 points in those contests. At 6-foot-6, Muhammad's skillset provides a mismatch for Missouri, but the Tigers' physical presence down low should help in keeping him out of the paint. For Missouri to win at Pauley Pavilion, stopping Muhammad is the biggest task.
2. Focus on the glass. Missouri is the nation's best rebounding team, averaging 47 per game. That number took a big hit with the news that Tony Criswell is out for the next few games with a broken finger. Sure, he only average five rebounds per game, but that was in limited duty. Now, Stefan Jankovic and Ryan Rosburg will likely be forced into more duty, and their biggest focus will be on the glass. Missouri is the better team, but making up those five last rebounds will be huge.
3. Find an option beyond Pressey. Phil Pressey averages the most minutes on Missouri's team, which is fine. He can handle it. But he can't be expected to play 40 minutes every game. Negus Webster-Chan came unraveled in limited duty against Illinois, but he's likely the best option going forward. The best-case scenario is for NWC to get some low-pressure minutes early on Friday, and then go from there. But, if Missouri is going to continue its ascent as one of the nation's best teams, it needs to find another point guard beyond Pressey.