Hardcourt Happenings

by Matt Fargo - Date: 2006-12-09 - Word Count: 772 Share This!

Throughout the college basketball season, Matt Fargo will be taking a look at teams that should pique your betting appetite, whether they are good or bad. We all know about Florida, North Carolina and UCLA but with 336 teams in division I college hoops, there are plenty of teams flying under the radar. Today's session:

Missouri Tigers

The new look Tigers have gotten off to a flying start at 9-0 but how seriously can we take this record? All nine of those games have taken place at Mizzou Arena and the quality of competition has been suspect at best. Missouri did defeat a very good Arkansas team and beat it rather handily but the next best win after that came against Davidson. Playing its first nine games at home against the 306th ranked schedule in the country certainly raises some questions.

The Tigers are shooting 49.3 percent on the season including 43.6 percent from behind the arc after hitting 42.8 percent and 33.7 percent respectively last season. The high percentages are a little surprising but considering the competition and what has been brought to the table, it does make more sense. The fact that they are averaging 82.9 ppg after averaging 66.2 ppg last season is not a surprise at all as new head coach Mike Anderson stresses running and pressing the entire game.

Using a half-court offense under former head coach Quinn Snyder did not work for this team since there simply were no shooters which there really aren't now either. The Tigers have a lot of new faces this season as their best shooter and leading scorer has departed with 9.6 ppg being the best returning output. Through nine games, Missouri has three players averaging double figures, no one over 13.8 ppg. What that shows is scoring distribution but also shows lack of a proven go to guy.

A lot of the scoring that has taken place might not come about when the competition gets tougher as those players won't be seeing the floor as much. Point guard Jason Horton is the leader of this team and he has been asked to distribute more and score less which is exactly what he is doing. He is averaging 5.3 ppg and 4.6 apg while his turnovers are down. As a team, the Tigers are averaging 18.7 apg which is 10th most in the nation and that is how this offense is supposed to work.

Missouri is turning the ball over 15.9 times per game which is middle of the pack in the country but that has a lot to do with the new offense and new players adjusting. On the flip side, turning the ball over that many times against so much lesser competition is concerning. The Tigers are making up for it on defense as they are allowing 39.6 percent shooting from the floor and that doesn't even include the 11.6 times they are taking it away per game, which is 9th in the country.

On the down side, the Tigers are shooting only 65.3 percent from the free throw line which is almost identical to what they hit from the stripe a season ago. That needs to improve if Missouri is going to make any run toward the top of the Big XII. Teams tend to shoot worse from the line on the road than at home so seeing that the Tigers have yet to travel, it will be hard to get that percentage up. Missouri has shot 70 percent or better the last two games so at least it is going in the right direction.

Fading teams in their first road game is always something to look at when betting college hoops but the one difference here is that the Tigers don't have a loss yet. This is obviously a confident team and it is impossible to detect how they are going to react on the road. We get to find out right away as the Tigers are at Purdue on Saturday. The Boilermakers are 5-0 at home and will certainly be a test for Missouri. The Tigers then return home for four more games before traveling again.

The best bet is to just sit back and watch how the Tigers perform in its first road game and then take that information into their next one, which is at Texas on January 10th. My early estimate is that Missouri will not be able to compete very often in the loaded Big XII despite the solid start. Records can be very deceiving early on and this is a prime example of that. Once the competition gets better, the turnovers will go up and things could go downhill quickly.

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Matt Fargo is a documented member of the Professional Handicappers League. Read all of his articles at http://www.procappers.com/Matt_Fargo.htm

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