Our Behind Enemy Lines feature is returned! Many thanks to Bill C., who runs the fantastic Rock M Nation blog covering the Missouri Tigers. If you didn't know, Mizzou are pretty freaking good. Like, potentially run us off of the Madison Square Garden court, good. This has the potential to not be a very fun game, you guys.
In any case, we're always stoked to talk college hoops with other like-minded souls, and whenever we can go outside the Big East to find those crazies, it's even better. Enjoy the convo. Our answers to Bill's questions will be up on RMN tomorrow morning at 10 am ET.
As a college basketball fan in general, I've heard a lot about Marcus Denmon all year. Break down his game for us.
Marcus is a really interesting player in that he scores a ton of points without actually dominating the ball. He refuses to force a bad shot (unless, of course, the shot clock is running down or something), and he lets the game come to him. As a freshman and sophomore, that meant that he would disappear for lengthy amounts of time (the game never actually came to him), but he's learned the balance in the last 12 months or so, and it's been incredible to watch. He is very fast in transition, and he's got a smooth shot from long-range. I don't know if he's big enough for the NBA, but he's the best guard Mizzou has had in quite a while.
More fun with RMN after The Jump.
At 6'8 240 lbs, Ricardo Ratliffe might be considered a tad undersized (height-wise anyways) by some, but there's no questioning his efficiency on the offensive end (74% FG% this year?!). What does he do to make himself so successful.
He's perfected a little baby hook this year, and it's made a huge difference. He also hasn't encountered a lot of big, strong defenders just yet in 2011-12. I'm curious how he handles Mouphtaou Yarou -- that might be the single biggest advantage Villanova has in this game.
(Editor's note: Give Mouph the f*cking ball!)
How happy are you with the Frank Haith hire? I don't believe he ever had too much success at Miami but Mizzou is in great form right now, regularly running teams off the court.
There was mass outrage when Haith was hired, partially because of his record at Miami and partially because of the Matt Painter tease (rumors swirled that Painter had agreed to a contract with Mizzou, which would have been an absolute coup ... and then he signed an extension at Purdue ... and no, I didn't intend to rhyme there).
(Editor's note: This was a loaded question. We remember that outrage well, and it was phenomenal)
My thought on the hire was pretty straight-forward: it has been over a decade since athletic director Mike Alden has made a bad hire, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. There's still a bit of a cloud overhead with the Nevin Shapiro allegations still unsettled, but there's no question that he has pressed the right buttons so far. A lot of that probably has to do with his coaching staff -- he didn't get a lot of money to spend on assistants at Miami (I think it's telling that he only brought one guy with him from Miami -- the strength & conditioning coach), and he was able to put together a really nice staff here.
If you were gameplanning, how would you stop Missouri?
You better have a great ball-handler, and you better have a great big man.
(Editor's note: Hey, we're good! In theory anyways.)
With Laurence Bowers out for the season with a torn ACL, Mizzou is woefully thin in the front court (SG/SF Kim English is a PF this year), and if you have good size, you can punish them on the glass. But they have been masterful on the perimeter, on both ends of the court, and you have to be able to negate that advantage to take advantage of their lack of size.
Other than Denmon and Ratliffe, who are the others Tigers who Villanova fans should know about?
Kim English made a reputation for himself by almost single-handedly beating Marquette in the NCAA Tournament as a freshman. He had an absolutely awful junior season, but the new staff has improved his fundamentals and he's 25-for-44 from 3-point range (57%) so far this season. He's playing out of position, but it hasn't mattered yet. Meanwhile, Haith has repeatedly compared point guard Phil Pressey to T.J. Ford, and while he isn't THAT good yet, he's averaging nine points and five assists and playing great halfcourt defense. Mizzou (Pressey in particular) wasn't really built to play Mike Anderson's full-court style, but in a more controlled environment, they seem to be thriving defensively.
Give us a prediction for the game on Tuesday night.
I don't know how long Mizzou can keep up their current run of play -- it has been unbelievable -- so I'll split the difference and predict something in the neighborhood of 80-70 Mizzou. No team in the country would have beaten them the nights they played Notre Dame (87-58) and California (92-53), but they almost certainly won't keep up that level of play all season. (I wouldn't object to it, however...)
Many thanks again to Bill for getting this done (and we had a quick turnaround I might add!). Make sure to head over to Rock M Nation for more Missouri coverage. They did a great statistical breakdown of Villanova that you'll want to check out.