To win big in Nashville, Missouri is going to have to play small.
The Tigers’ Southeastern Conference tournament hopes ride on the play of their exceptionally strong backcourt. If the Mizzou guards play to the level they have all season, expect the Tigers to make a deep run at the SEC tournament.
The Tigers kick off tournament play Thursday, playing the winner of Wednesday’s contest between Texas A&M and Auburn. While Missouri is just 11-7 in conference play, the rest of the SEC better be on alert.
Missouri ranks 15th in the nation in points per game, scoring 77.2 points per contest. Led by their strong guard play, the high-flying Tigers offense should put Mizzou over the edge in the conference tournament.
The Tigers have a deep backcourt, with four guards who score in double digits.
Sophomore guard Jabari Brown ranks second on the team in scoring at 14.0 points per game. The 6’5” Oakland, Calif., native also averages 1.4 assists per contest.
Brown is capable of big offensive outbursts against SEC foes. He dropped 23 points against South Carolina on Feb. 28 and 23 points again on Arkansas on March 5.
Junior guard Phil Pressey is the motor to the Tigers’ offense. He leads the team in assists, averaging 7.1 per game, and ranks third in scoring, averaging 11.9 points per game.
Pressey is also a defensive threat, averaging 1.8 steals per game.
He also has had some of his best performances of the season in conference play. He scored 25 points and had four steals against LSU on Jan. 30 and scored 27 points with 10 assists and four steals against Kentucky on Feb. 23.
Senior guard Keion Bell ranks fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 11.6 points per game. He is also a strong defender, with 1.2 steals per game.
Bell has been playing hot recently, scoring at least 20 points in five games in the month of February. He scored 24 against Mississippi St. on Feb. 13 and then dropped 25 on Arkansas in Missouri’s next game on Feb. 16.
The final Missouri backcourt player scoring in double digits is junior guard Earnest Ross. The 6’5” guard averages 10.3 points per game and 4.9 assists per contest.
While Ross isn’t as prolific a scorer as the other guards on this list, he did score 23 points against Auburn on Feb. 2. Expect him, along with the rest of the Mizzou backcourt, to push the Tigers through the SEC tournament.
All statistics via ESPN.
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