The Missouri Tigers have only lost one game this season and that loss came to the No. 4 (then No. 2) Louisville Cardinals. The Tigers absolutely destroyed the undefeated Illinois Illini proving that Missouri looks like one of the top contenders for the national championship. With the Florida Gators recent slip of form, Missouri also looks like the top team in the SEC. The Tigers have one more real threatening game before SEC play begins – the UCLA Bruins Friday night.
Missouri cannot afford to lose this game, and UCLA will not shy away from the primetime match-up. UCLA has had a tough start to the season, but luckily the Bruins are young. Missouri is riding high after defeating a few top teams and Florida falling short in a few key match-ups to put Missouri as the team to watch in the SEC, and the only SEC team in the top 10. This game could be the game that the Bruins finally show their full potential. Missouri is fast and agile, and UCLA is big and tough. The Bruins can win this game if players like Shabazz Muhammad play at their best. Phil Pressey and the Tigers will not go down without a fight, but this team is no last-year Kentucky and is vulnerable against physical teams.
Missouri is practically already in the tournament, but UCLA is young and is a team that will continue to improve as the season goes along. A win for the Tigers could be the difference between a top two seed and a fourth or fifth seed in the tournament. Missouri will not think this game is a must-win, but it’s closer to a tournament level game than either team thinks.