COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Missouri men's basketball team dropped 10 spots to No. 20 in this week's AP Top 25 poll but stayed in the ranking for a 10th consecutive week after losing back-to-back games for the first time all season.
The Tigers (13-5, 6-5 Southeastern Conference) play at Georgia (12-8, 5-8) at 6 p.m. on SEC Network. The start time was pushed back 30 minutes by the conference Monday afternoon.
Missouri will be without senior center Jeremiah Tilmon, who was not with the team Saturday, and will not travel to Athens for today's game. Tilmon is taking personal leave following a death in his family.
The Tigers check in at No. 37 in this week's NET rankings, sixth in the SEC, while the Bulldogs are No. 98. Missouri is 5-4 in Quadrant 1 games — tied for sixth nationally behind Ohio State (eight), Gonzaga (seven) and Baylor, Illinois and Alabama (six each) — as Oregon's recent success has moved that neutral-site win back into Quad 1 territory. Mississippi State's recent struggles, losing seven of its last nine SEC games, means that loss is currently the Tigers' lone Quad 2 loss of the year.
As of Sunday according to Bracket Matrix, which averages 100 mock brackets, Missouri's seed line has not moved despite last week's two losses. The Tigers still hold the last 4-seed, just ahead of USC and Wisconsin. Missouri appeared as high as No. 2 on some projections and as low as a 10-seed.
The Crimson Tide topped all SEC teams in this week's AP Poll, checking in at No. 8, with Tennessee just ahead of Missouri at No. 19 and the Razorbacks debuting at No. 24. LSU and Florida both received 16 points from voters.
Like the Tigers, the Bulldogs went undefeated in non-conference play following a 16-16 season last year that saw freshman point guard Anthony Edwards drafted No. 1 overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. But Georgia lost four straight games to open SEC play before beating Mississippi and Kentucky, then lost to Florida and South Carolina before a three-game win streak against the Rebels, Auburn and Vanderbilt.
The Bulldogs enter today's matchup on a two-game skid as well, following road losses to the Volunteers and Alabama, the latter a 115-82 beating in which the Crimson Tide shot 18-of-30 on 3s.
Sophomore point guard Sahvir Wheeler (13.6 points per game) is the team's engine this year, dishing out an SEC-best 7.1 assists per game. Wheeler's 142 assists in 20 games is second nationally behind Oakland's Jalen Moore, who has 203 assists in 25 games.
Containing Wheeler off the dribble, while also sticking to 3-point shooters K.D. Johnson (42.5 percent), P.J. Horne (35.4 percent) and Justin Kier (34.1 percent) will be the defensive challenge for Missouri. Johnson, a freshman, is leading the team in scoring, averaging 14.1 points per game off the bench. He missed the team's first 10 games while academically ineligible.
Kier, a grad transfer wing from George Mason, and Horne, a senior transfer power forward from Virginia Tech, have both made five 3s in a game for Georgia and are dangerous shooters. Sophomore Toumani Camara, who had 12 points in last year's game in Columbia, is the team's main inside presence, averaging 12.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and a block per game, and can also stretch the floor as a 3-point shooter.
The Bulldogs don't have a true post-up presence, and Camara, at 6-foot-8, and Horne and forward Andrew Garcia, both 6-6, are the team's tallest players, which means Missouri shouldn't be in dire straits defensively without Tilmon.
As a result of the interior size, Georgia is the SEC's worst team at allowing offensive rebounds, and though the Bulldogs play up-tempo, they have averaged 17 turnovers per game in conference play, with live-ball turnovers, in particular steals, presenting a major challenge for the offense.
Georgia is also the SEC's second-worst team in defensive 3-point percentage, allowing opponents to convert 38.3 percent of deep shots. After a cold start, Missouri has become a much-improved 3-point shooting team, particularly in the last five games, shooting 44-of-115 (38.3 percent), and the Tigers are shooting better than 43 percent as a team subtracting the 3-for-20 performance in their win against Alabama, though still just 31.5 percent overall this season.
Missouri's recent improvement hasn't come at the cost of shooting more 3s, though the team made a season-high 13 3s on a season-high 32 attempts against Arkansas, simply making more of the 20 or so 3s the team averages per game.