|F||3||Johnathan Williams III||6-9||Fr.||7.4|
9:30 p.m. Thursday at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas
• TV/RADI O:
ESPNU; KMBZ (980 AM, 98.1 FM)
• ABOUT MISSOURI (5-0) :
As the Las Vegas Invitational moves to the desert, Frank Haith returns to the bench after serving a five-game NCAA suspension, so expect a few tweaks to Missouri’s rotation. Haith said Tuesday he wants to limit heavy minutes on his talented backcourt, specifically juniors Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson. Along with senior Earnest Ross, the Tigers’ starting guards all average at least 30 minutes per game. Also, expect to see senior forward Tony Criswell and junior center Keanau Post on the floor a bit more as Haith searches for the right mix inside.
• ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (4-2):
The Wildcats have a 7-foot Romanian sophomore, Alex Olah, who averages 2.1 blocks per game. Missouri’s guards will have to be aware of his presence on drives to the basket, but Northwestern’s strength on offense is in its backcourt. Like the Tigers, the Wildcats have three guards averaging in double figures led by senior Drew Crawford. Northwestern has won three straight games after suffering back-to-back losses against Stanford and Illinois State.
• BOTTOM LINE: Defensively, Missouri has allowed 64 points or fewer in four of its five games. Of course, the Tigers also average 14.8 turnovers per game in the last four contests, so there are plenty of areas for improvement as Haith resumes command. Missouri should be favored against a Northwestern team that needed a basket with 2.3 seconds remaining to top IUPUI, but the contest shapes up as the toughest test of the young season. The Wildcats are a solid three-point shooting team and connect on more than seven threes per game.