Missouri barely garnered any attention in the preseason, but things are changing now that Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown are establishing themselves as one of the nation's best scoring duos.
Clarkson and Brown seek to help the No. 21 Tigers extend their home winning streak to 27 games Wednesday night against Georgia in the SEC opener for both teams.
Missouri (12-1) received only three votes in the preseason Top 25 and was picked to finish fifth in the SEC after losing four starters from last season's 23-11 squad. The Tigers, however, will enter league play with the SEC's best record.
There are still questions since Missouri has played only one ranked team - an 80-71 victory over a UCLA club which was 18th at the time but has since dropped out of the poll.
"I feel like we are in a good position," Brown said. "We've been through a lot of close games and been through a lot of tough games. Our non-conference schedule has prepared us and I feel like we are getting better on both sides of the basketball."
Brown is the Tigers' lone returning starter, with the former Oregon transfer averaging 18.4 points. That's second on the team to Clarkson, averaging 19.3 in his first season with the Tigers after transferring from Tulsa.
The duo is one of three in high-major college basketball averaging at least 18.0 points apiece, according to Missouri's sports information.
The Tigers' home winning streak is tied with Stephen F. Austin for the nation's longest and is the program's best since winning 32 in a row from 2007-10.
Georgia (6-6), meanwhile, will try to recover after losing its last two games by an average of 16.0 points. The Bulldogs fell 73-55 at George Washington on Friday.
Coach Mark Fox's club is in the bottom half of the SEC in points allowed per game (69.6) and rebound margin (plus-3.3).
"I think the thing that has been disappointing about our team and has led to inconsistent performances has been the inconsistency of our defense and our rebounding," Fox said. "We have not been really consistently effective in those two areas."
Those are areas in which the Tigers excel. They own a plus-8.9 rebound margin while limiting opponents to 38.2 percent shooting.
Missouri held Long Beach State to 33.3 percent in Saturday's 69-59 home win. Brown scored 22 points.
The Bulldogs are adjusting without Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who left after two years to be a first-round pick by the Detroit Pistons. He led Georgia in scoring a season ago with 18.5 points per game.
Caldwell-Pope also led the team in rebounding each of the previous two seasons. That has been a bigger concern than scoring, with Georgia averaging 71.8 points in 2013-14 - 11.0 more than last season.
"You don't quite replace a No. 8 pick in the draft, but we felt like by committee we'd be a better offensive team, and I think that's proven to be fairly true," Fox said. "Where we have not replaced Kentavious is on the glass, he was our leading rebounder for two years in a row."
Sophomore guard Charles Mann leads three Bulldogs averaging double figures in points at 13.0.
Missouri has taken all four meetings, winning 79-62 at home last season behind 15 points apiece from Brown and Earnest Ross.
The Associated Press News Service
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