Two teams situated precariously atop the NCAA Tournament bubble square off when Missouri hosts Tennessee in a Southeastern Conference contest Saturday. The Tigers put together a strong non-conference resume but have stumbled in league play, though they're coming off a critical 86-85 home win over Arkansas on Thursday. They need another win to pull even in the SEC standings with the Volunteers, who are coming off a 67-58 loss to No. 4 Florida.
It's an intriguing matchup because both teams boast a trio of tall guards who present tough matchups for most opponents. Missouri's Jabari Brown (20.3 points), Jordan Clarkson (19.2 points) and Earnest Ross (14.2 points, 6.7 rebounds) account for 71.3 percent of the team's scoring. Tennessee's backcourt isn't quite as prolific, but leading scorer Jordan McRae (19.2 points) is a big-time scorer and Josh Richards (9.2 points) is an outstanding 3-point shooter at 43.1 percent.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, ESPN2
ABOUT TENNESSEE (15-9, 6-5 SEC): Although the Volunteers have the size in the backcourt to match up with the Tigers' tall guards, their advantage Saturday will be in the front court. Tennessee is dominant on the offensive glass, averaging 14.42 offensive rebounds - 11th in the nation and second in the SEC - in large part because of big man Jarnell Stokes (14.2 points, 10.3 rebounds), who has an SEC-best 14 double-doubles this season. Stokes and Jeronne Maymon (10.6 points, 8.2 rebounds) need to capitalize on an inexperienced Missouri frontcourt for Tennessee to pick up the tough road win.
ABOUT MISSOURI (17-7, 5-6): The Tigers have grown accustomed to close games - 16 of their last 17 have been decided by 10 points or fewer. They've also experienced their share of heartbreak, but Brown ensured that wasn't the case against the Razorbacks by spinning into the lane and hitting a short fall-away jumper with 12.2 seconds left as Missouri snapped a three-game skid. "It keeps us going in the right direction," Brown told reporters. "We've got seven more games and we're going to try to get all seven of them."
1. The Volunteers have dropped back-to-back contests only once this season, going 7-1 in games immediately following a loss.
2. Both Brown and Clarkson have scored in double figures in each of Missouri's 24 games, the longest streak by a Tiger to start a season since Doug Smith did so in all 30 games in 1990-91.
3. McRae (1,289) has climbed into the top 25 on the school's all-time scoring list and is 15 points behind No. 24 Isiah Victor (1,304) - and 16 behind No. 23 Scotty Hopson (1,305).
PREDICTION: Tennessee 73, Missouri 70