5 Things Missouri Basketball Must Do To Make the NCAA Tournament
5 Things Missouri Basketball Must Do To Make the 2014 NCAA Tournament
It has been a very up-and-down year for Missouri so far this season. They started non-conference play extremely well by going 12-1, but their conference schedule hasn’t been as kind to them. Dropping games to teams like Georgia, Ole Miss and Auburn isn’t what gets you into the NCAA tournament.
Their guard play has been about as good as anyone in the nation with Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross leading the team. That guard play has this team sitting at 18-7 overall. In fact, with a win today, the Tigers will be back above .500 in SEC play.
Most 18-7 teams are pretty sure bets for the tournament, but the Tigers aren't for one distinct reason: they haven't beaten many good teams. Their win against UCLA earlier in the season is by far their most impressive win. After that, wins against West Virginia and Tennessee are the only other solid wins.
As the season winds down, the Tigers still don’t have a whole lot of chances to prove themselves to the NCAA selection committee, but there are a number of ways that they can try to at least get on track. With most of the difficult games on the schedule out of the way, the Tigers have their work cut out for them as the SEC tournament approaches.
There are several aspects of the Tigers’ game that need refinement leading into March and there’s so little time. Here are five things that the Tigers must do in order to be playing in the NCAA tournament in March.
5. Get Forwards More Involved in the Offense
The tale of the season for Missouri has been the fact that their guards can get it done at an elite level, but their forwards can't do anything offensively. For most of the season, Clarkson, Brown and Ross have led the team by scoring the bulk of their points. While it's okay for those three to take over games, forwards need to start getting involved in the offense as well.
In the past couple of games, we've seen this happen a little bit more as Ryan Rosburg(who still can't play a lick of defense), Jonathan Williams III, Tony Criswell and Torren Jones have gotten more involved on the offensive end. All of those players will need to sustain that level of play in order to strike the necessary balance on offense that the Tigers need.
4. Have More Consistent Guard Play
While the guards have played great as a whole, it seems like all three of them can't have a good game on the same night. It's always either one or two of them trying to take over a game with a third having an off night. That was the case against Tennessee when Brown and Ross had solid games and Clarkson struggled. If they want to get to the tournament and compete there, all three will have to show up game in and game out.
3. Get Freshmen More Minutes
While the trio of guards that Missouri employs lead the team on offense, they need to start giving meaningful minutes to some freshman as well. Wes Clark slows down the game too much at point guard, but getting him some time at shooting guard wouldn't hurt while Clarkson or Brown is getting a rest.
Jonathan Williams III who is a starter has actually been getting consistent minutes. Coach Frank Haith needs to continue plugging him in there because while his offensive game is raw, he plays good defense and is a very good rebounder. Beyond that, the experience he's gaining now is going to pay dividends down the road.
Once an afterthought this season, Torren Jones showed up against Tennessee and provided an inspired effort. His passion for the game and how he exudes it is infectious, and a hunger for winning like that is what teams need in the NCAA tournament.
2. Beat Tennessee in Knoxville
It isn't essential that the Tigers knock off the Volunteers on the road in the regular season finale, but it's pretty close to it. This is Missouri's last chance at a quality win and it would give them four on the season. In addition, it would be their first quality win away from home, which could be a huge difference between being on the bubble and getting into the tournament.
1. Win At Least Two Games in the SEC Tournament
There's no perfect formula for determining how many wins teams need in order to get into the NCAA tournament, but there's a good chance that Missouri will have to win two games in the SEC Tournament in order to punch their tickets to the big dance. This would mean they beat teams that they should and would likely fall to either Kentucky or Florida if they reached this round of the SEC tournament. The way the rest of their regular season schedule looks, there's a good chance that Missouri will be into the tournament with two wins in their conference tournament.
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