The 7-0 Missouri Tigers travel outside of its state borders for the first time tonight to face the 5-2 Villanova Wildcats in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Mizzou has been steamrolling opponents thus far, highlighted by a 39-point victory over the then-18th ranked Cal Bears, the largest margin of victory over a ranked opponent in school history. But despite its two losses, Nova should give Mizzou a good challenge.
First and foremost, the matchup to watch will be in the low post. Mizzou's 6-8, 240 lb center Ricardo Ratliffe will have his hands full all night with Villanova big man, 6-10, 255 lb Mouphtaou Yarou. Cardo has been hitting on all cylinders this season, leading the Big 12 in field goal percentage at 74.1% while shooting an amazing 91.7% (22-24) over his past three games. Yarou, meanwhile, is second on the Wildcats in scoring, averaging 16 ppg and averaging 8.4 rpg, good for fifth best in the Big East.
On the perimeter, Nova is guided by team scoring leader, and potential NBA lottery pick Maalik Wayns and backcourt mate, another potential NBA pick, Dominic Cheek. Wayns and Cheek average 18.7 and 12.9 ppg and will keep the guard-heavy Mizzou defense on its toes.
Mizzou will counter with hot shooting Marcus Denmon, coming off a 7-10 shooting from behind the arc in route to a career-best 31 point performance in Mizzou's victory over NW State on Friday night. The game prior, it was Kim English who scored a career high 29 while also shooting 7-10 from three.
Vegas lists Mizzou as a five point favorite and Jeff Sagrain thinks Mizzou will win in a 13-point route. If Mizzou can even stay half as hot from the field as they have been so far, I feel Mizzou will win the game with a point differential somewhere in the middle of those predictions.
The game tips at 6pm CST on ESPN.