Both of these teams enter this game with 2-0 records but tonight will be the first true test for both. This Big East vs. SEC matchup promises lots of Fireworks. With that being said, let’s look at each of these teams.
The Tigers will expect a lot out of Mark Smith, a 6-5 junior guard who missed the final seven games of last season with a foot injury. Smith failed to score in a season-opening win over Incarnate Word but rebounded strongly with 19 points in Friday’s victory over a solid Northern Kentucky squad. The Tigers, picked in the preseason to finish 13th in the SEC, have added Evansville transfer Dru Smith to the starting lineup after he sat out last season. He had 9 points, 3 assists and 2 steals against Northern Kentucky. Xavier Pinson gives Missouri a boost off the bench, averaging 11.5 points and contributing a team-high 11 assists in the first two games. Missouri looks to be a solid team this year but they lack a big-time scorer and the depth needed to compete in what looks to be a tough SEC this season.
Tyrique Jones and Naji Marshall are each averaging 18.5 points and are also the Musketeers’ top two rebounders at 8.5 and 7 per game. Throw in Freshman Zach Freemantle who is averaging 9 points and 5.5 rebounds off the bench and you have a potent athletic frontcourt that will give the Tigers plenty of issues. Xavier Head Coach prides his teams on defense and it has shown so far as the Musketeers have held it’s first two opponents below 40 percent from the field and 22.5 percent on 3-pointers while forcing an average of 15.5 turnovers. The Musketeers have gotten significant contributions off the bench from Grad transfer Bryce Moore.
The Tigers are a lower rung SEC school taking on maybe the best team in the Big East conference. I look for this to be a close game for much of the first with Xavier pulling away slowly but surely in the second half.
Muskies 85 Tigers 72