Missouri vs. Georgia
WHEN/WHERE: About 2:25 p.m. Thursday at Scottrade Center in St. Louis
TV: SEC Network
William Jackson III
Keys for Missouri (No. 5 seed):
Get as much as you can out of Michael Porter Jr.: Cuonzo Martin said Wednesday that Porter will play on Thursday, his first game since logging just 2 minutes in the team’s season-opener. Martin said he isn’t sure how long Porter will play and doesn’t know what to expect. With Missouri down to nine available players, counting Porter, the Tigers will take all they can get out of him. If Porter can look close to his former self, then Missouri becomes the team nobody wants to face.
Open up the offense: Porter’s return makes teams key more on him and worry less about Kassius Robertson and Jordan Barnett, who have emerged as heavy scoring threats in his absence. Freshmen Jeremiah Tilmon and Jontay Porter are also on hot streaks, and a team effort on offense can show what Missouri could have been with Porter all along, except better. Every player has had to do more without him, which makes them better equipped to handle an off night from him.
Shut down Yante Maten: Missouri held Maten, who was The Associated Press SEC player of the year, to season lows in points (nine) and field goals (two) on Jan. 10. Jontay Porter was the primary defender on Maten and was a huge reason why Missouri won. If Missouri shuts down Maten again, it forces the rest of the offense to make plays, which is easier said than done.
Keys for Georgia (No. 12 seed):
Be as physical as you can be: The biggest adjustment Porter will have to deal with is contact. After being out so long, his ability to absorb contact won’t be up to speed for a while. Making Porter as uncomfortable as the Bulldogs can without getting the referee’s attention is their best shot at keeping him at bay.
Try and get Missouri into foul trouble: Even with Porter’s return, Missouri only has nine available players after junior guard Cullen VanLeer went down for the rest of the season with an ACL injury. With the Tigers' bench so thin, early foul trouble for Jontay Porter or Tilmon would really hurt Missouri, especially since both players have been hot as of late.
Have someone step up on offense: Maten averages around 20 points per game. After him, the Bulldogs' second-highest scorer averages fewer than nine points per game. If Maten is struggling, Mark Fox’s squad has to have other players turn into threats or else it could be a long night for the Bulldogs.