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College Basketball Pick
Just how good can these teams be? Ole Miss got to as high as the No. 16 team in the country, but are now unranked (AP Polls). Missouri was up to No. 10 and saw that ranking falter a bit without leading scorer Laurence Bowers, so their viability is still in question.
The Rebels got that ranking for being 17-2. That's a great record and all, but when your losses are to Middle Tennessee and Indiana State, you wonder how legitimate they can be. Sure, Ole Miss beat Missouri a month ago, but that was when the Tigers didn't have Bowers at their disposal. Their best win of the season came against a depleted Missouri team, that's not saying a lot. Just last week they finally played some tough teams and couldn't handle Kentucky or Florida.
Missouri has a couple better wins to their name over VCU and Illinois, but you have still have to question what exactly this team can do. Bowers returned to action a week ago at LSU and it wasn't enough as Mizzou fell by three points to a mediocre team. The Tigers play like a completely different team on the road which is something you don't want on your résumé entering the NCAA Tournament. Their winning margin at home is incredible beating teams like Alabama by 16 points, but when they travel it's the other way around.
Bowers may have been out the last time these teams played, but Ole Miss never really had trouble in that game. Their leading scorer Marshall Henderson didn't really need to do much as he only had 11 points. Murphy Holloway had his way down low going for a game-high 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting. That was about all they needed because Missouri -- a team that averages 76 points per game - could only muster 49 points. They shot 2-of-18 from long range which never helps.
The Tigers have plenty of room for improvement as their two best scorers, Bowers and Jabari Brown, have only played six games together. The chemistry between those two still has some work and could prove to be the difference maker for them later in the season. Brown, a transfer from Oregon, has come into this squad and naturally started scoring with ease. He's had double digits in all but one of his appearances. Since that move, Phil Pressey has lightened his shots and become more of a passer which is why he's averaging 7.2 assists per game. The unfortunate part of that is he's still averaging a lot of turnovers, 3.6 per game on the season. Alex Oriakhi is used mainly for his defense and rebounding, but with most opponents focusing on Bowers, he can put in a good game here and there.
Ole Miss didn't have to do much in their last game against Missouri, but that will surely change in Columbia. By now, if you follow college basketball, you probably know who Marshall Henderson is. The kid has come out of nowhere with his only previous playing experience in Division 1 basketball being in the 2009-10 season for Utah. One of his least effective games was the one against Missouri because he wasn't really needed. He finished with 11 points on 2-of-8 shooting in that game. Henderson averages 20 PPG on the season and a ridiculous four three-pointers made per game. If this is a close game, which it probably will be, Henderson will launch as many threes as possible to get the Rebels within distance. He's fearless which is sometimes a good and bad thing. Reginald Buckner is a similar player to Oriakhi down low and those two players will go toe-to-toe for every rebound. Holloway had success against Missouri in the first game and he's averaging 15 PPG and 10 REB, but will find things a little harder with Bowers back in the lineup.
With this game being in Missouri and with Bowers back on the court, the Tigers will be the favorites to win, but if Henderson is hitting his shot, anything can happen.
Predicted Score - Missouri 76 Mississippi 71
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