Not much went right for Missouri on Tuesday.
Before the Tigers' 69-59 loss to Tennessee at Mizzou Arena, it was announced that Jeremiah Tilmon would be out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his left foot.
MU was outscored 19-6 by the Vols over the final few minutes to fall to 0-2 in Southeastern Conference play.
The show must go on, however, as the Tigers have 17 games left in the regular season, the first of which is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at home against Florida.
Here’s a closer look at the Tigers vs. Gators matchup. Below are projected lineups, players to watch, keys to the game and a score prediction.
The game will air on SEC Network and will be radio broadcast on KTGR (105.1 FM).
Projected Missouri starters: Dru Smith, Mark Smith, Mitchell Smith, Kobe Brown, Reed Nikko
Projected Florida starters: Kerry Blackshear Jr., Keyontae Johnson, Andrew Nembhard, Scottie Lewis, Noah Locke
Missouri player to watch
The game against Florida likely will be Reed Nikko’s fourth straight start, all since the beginning of Tilmon’s injury woes.
While Nikko is not the only Tiger who will be responsible for picking up the load left by Tilmon, the majority of it falls on the senior.
This season, Nikko has appeared in 13 of 14 games but is only averaging 9 1/2 minutes, a number that should skyrocket in SEC play.
Against Tennessee, he played for more than 20 minutes and collected six points and three rebounds.
Nikko would’ve played more Tuesday had he not suffered a thigh bruise during the first half.
Missouri’s frontcourt has a completely different dynamic without Tilmon’s presence, and Nikko has the biggest say in stabilizing that unit.
Florida player to watch
Kerry Blackshear Jr. was picked as SEC preseason player of the year and has lived up to that moniker thus far for the Gators.
The Virginia Tech transfer is fifth on Florida in minutes played per game, but that only adds to how impactful he is when he steps on the court.
Blackshear leads Florida with 14.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, a double-double threat.
Nikko and Missouri junior Mitchell Smith will have their hands full guarding Blackshear. If that Tiger duo can’t contain him, Florida’s chances of winning become much greater than the nearly six-point advantage KenPom already gives the Gators coming to Columbia.
Missouri’s key to the game
Missouri head coach Cuonzo Martin has spent plenty of time talking about his vision for the Tigers and how it all starts on defense.
Through two SEC games, MU has scored 59 points twice, while allowing Kentucky and Tennessee an average of 70 points.
That’s not only astray from Martin's defensive vision, but the Missouri offense hasn't shown the prowess to close that gap.
Florida presents another challenge in that vein, where if Missouri doesn’t show some sort of spark consistently on the offensive end, it could be another long conference season with trips to Starkville, Mississippi, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on the horizon next week.
Florida’s key to the game
The Gators are one of four SEC teams yet to lose a league game, along with Auburn, Kentucky and LSU.
Wins over Alabama and South Carolina have come in convincing fashion, and not just from the score.
Against the Gamecocks, Blackshear made only two field goals and played for 20 minutes, yet the Gators found a way to distance themselves.
Florida won’t rely heavily on major production from its bench, while Missouri needs production from the likes of Javon Pickett and Xavier Pinson to be successful.
If the Gators can control the boards and stay out of foul trouble, they should get their third win in as many conference games.
That would also mean three losses in as many attempts for Missouri.
Final score prediction
Florida 72, Missouri 65.