First and foremost, I am mad I spotted a fan in the crowd with a Stanford hoodie on … the nerve. After getting embarrassed by the Cardinal last year in the Big Dance, it’s the last thing I want to see. Then again, it might work to our advantage. Throughout the past couple days, players like Ryan Wittman, Louis Dale and Jeff Foote talked about how bad they felt about after last year’s season-ending loss. They felt that they let not only themselves down, but the entire Ivy League. Maybe that guy sitting right under the basket will be a little reminder and serve as motivation. But motivation won’t do it alone — here are some keys to a Red win.
1. Ball Control
Missouri has one of the best defenses in the nation. Head coach Mike Anderson, who worked under Arkansas’ Nolan Richardson implements a full court pressure defense for the ENTIRE 40 minutes of the game. The Big-12 champions thrive on scoring off of its press. If the Red can keep the turnovers to a minimum, it will be a game.
The Red have had games against Minnesota and Syracuse where they had to face pressure from top notch competition. They didn’t fare too well but they learned. Additionally, they have been practicing the press break for the past two weeks, even using six players on defense to simulate how intense it would get. One more thing, freshman point guard Chris Wroblewski has three, count ’em, three, turnovers in the last 120 minutes of play.
The Tigers press for the entire 40 minutes. I repeat, the Tigers press for the entire 40 minutes.
2. Living and Dying with the 3-Point Shot
The Red is the third best 3-point shooting team in this field of 65. Ryan Wittman, Geoff Reeves, Chris Wroblewski, Adam Gore and Louis Dale are all liable to get hot from behind the arc, which can be big. With the Tigers pressing, opportunities for open jumpers will be available. Whether or not we will hit them is the question.
If we get hot, it just might be the spark we need to make this upset happen. With the possibility for a lot of open looks, head coach Steve Donahue will encourage his team to launch from downtown. Throughout the season, we have struggled shooting the trey when team’s halfcourt defenses stop our offensive flow. But, in transition, we are dangerous, especially Wittman when he decides to pull up from 3.5 ft behind the arc. Missouri will give us those chances.
When we went to Syracuse, we rode Ryan Wittman’s 3-point shooting. He kept us ahead for a long time and keep the Red in the game hitting 9-of-19 from downtown. The negative, when he started to miss a few 3s in the second half, Syracuse grabbed the boards and was gone to the races. If we get to 3 happy and start missing too many, that will be easy transition buckets for Missouri, they’re just too athletic to run with.
3. Don’t Forget the Big Man
Center Jeff Foote was a happy man when he found out that the Red would take on Missouri in the NCAAs. Not only did it mean that he didn’t have to face two NBA big men but it meant he would actually be the biggest man on the court.
Being the biggest man on the court, the Red can use Foote to its advantage. In the halfcourt, you can throw it down to him and I have full confidence he can score, or at least get fouled at a high rate.
When teams get rushed by a press, they tend to forget the big men down low. Don’t forget the big man. He’s 7-0, you can’t miss him.