GAMETHREAD: Missouri at LSU; 6 pm, ESPNU

Stacy Revere

It should be quite the cat fight in the PMAC, as LSU and Missouri jockey for position in a muddled SEC.

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Rivalries aren't exactly the first thing one thinks of when SEC basketball comes to mind.

Outside of Florida-Kentucky, there aren't really any in-conference matchups that get the blood boiling. While there may not be any bad blood between two of the SEC's three Tigers yet, the foundation is there for LSU-Missouri to become a solid hoops rivalry.

The two matchups last season were outstanding, with Phil Pressey and Anthony Hickey going head-to-head as LSU eked out a home win and Missouri pulled away late in Columbia. We only get one incarnation of the game this year, barring a meeting in the SEC Tournament, and it's a big one.

Both squads are .500 in league play and could take a firm step toward establishing its place on the NCAA bubble and among the conference's handful of power players. With stakes like this, tonight's showdown should not be lacking in intensity.

On the floor, this is a classic matchup of weakness vs. strength for each side. Missouri is so guard-oriented, it's almost comical. Three 6-foot-5 combo guards combine to average 51.3 points a game.

Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross all shoot better than 76 percent from the foul line and know how to get there. With the smaller, but quick guards in Anthony Hickey, Andre Stringer and Tim Quarterman, keeping Mizzou in front and out of the lane will be crucial. Otherwise, the visiting Tigers will get some free points and likely get the LSU bigs in foul trouble.

And that would be a problem, because LSU has the advantage inside. Mizzou doesn't lack height inside, just production. Five guys at 6-foot-8 or taller average a combined 19 points. Johnny O'Bryant III will have to play with the same fire he showed against Vanderbilt on Saturday.

He just might have to funnel it toward a different cause. I'm not sure how much Missouri will zone LSU. Instead, they could opt to double team JOB. His passing and poise might need to be at his best against the lengthy Mizzou lineup.

If he makes the right plays, it's crucial that Shavon Coleman, Stringer and Hickey knock down at least a few 3-pointers to keep Missouri honest. If that happens, it should loosen up a lot of mid-range jumpers and offensive rebounding opportunities for Jordan Mickey.

Almost any game not involving Kentucky or Florida in the SEC this year will be hard to call. Tonight is no different. Missouri looked great in the non-conference but struggled mightily on the road at Georgia and Vanderbilt. The talent and experience are there, but they haven't translated to consistency.

As long as LSU can build on its impressive win against Vanderbilt, then it should be advantage home Tigers. Though given both teams' recent track record, I wouldn't bet a cent on it.

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