#4 Missouri vs. #8 Kansas: Saturday's Preview

    
February 4th, 2012

One of the consequences of conference realignment has been the ending of some of the best rivalries in college sports. With #4 Missouri (20-2, 7-2) headed to the SEC after this season Saturday night's game with #8 Kansas (18-4, 8-1) could be the last time for a while these two teams meet in Columbia. But that's a mere subplot in this one as the Tigers are looking to move into a tie for first in the Big 12 while Kansas can strengthen their grip on the top spot with a win. The Jayhawks have won ten of the last eleven games in this series, a streak that includes the last two games at Mizzou Arena. That alone should be enough motivation for the Tigers, who have been one of the country's pleasant surprises.

Guard play is a big reason why, as Missouri's depth in this area has helped them make up for the loss of forward Laurence Bowers. Point guard Phil Pressey has run the show at a level that has many considering the sophomore to be one of the country's best point guards, despite the fact that he wasn't named a finalist for the Cousy Award. Pressey's averaging 6.0 assists per game and his assist-to-turnover ratio (2.6) is the best on the team. The sophomore can score as well, but that's not as necessary given the other options at his disposal.

Marcus Denmon (17.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Michael Dixon Jr. (12.1 ppg, 2.7 apg) and Matt Pressey (7.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg) are all reliable perimeter options with all three shooting at least 43% from the field. Kansas isn't as deep on the perimeter when it comes to scoring but they've got some talent as well, led by senior point guard Tyshawn Taylor. Taylor (16.7 ppg, 5.3 apg) has struggled with turnovers at times but the New Jersey native has reached double figures in scoring seven straight games (20+ points in four of those seven). Elijah Robinson (9.1 ppg, 3.6 apg) is also capable of making plays offensively and he's a good defender to boot, while Travis Releford (9.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg) has reached double figures in two straight games after being quiet in wins over Texas and Texas A&M. 

The play in the front court is what many will keep an eye on due to Missouri's lack of size and Kansas having one of the early favorites for National Player of the Year. Junior forward Thomas Robinson (17.6 ppg, 12.0 rpg) is a grown man inside for the Jayhawks, and his power can make him a man among boys if teams don't do a good enough job defending him. Missouri doesn't have depth inside but they do have the nation's leader in field goal percentage in Ricardo Ratliffe. Ratliffe (14.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg) is shooting a staggering 75.1% from the floor, due in large part to his understanding that he's most effective within five feet of the rim. Kansas has to be successful in pushing him away from the hoop if they're to limit his scoring opportunities. 

Missouri goes small at the four with senior Kim English (14.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg), whose ability to step out on the perimeter can prove problematic for opponents. Kansas' Jeff Withey (8.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 3.1 bpg) is better equipped to remain inside defensively, which likely means that Robinson gets the matchup with English to start. Foul trouble for both Robinson and Ratliffe will be something to watch early on, especially if the Jayhawks decide not to go small with their five. Justin Wesley and Kevin Young combine to play 21 minutes per game so it's difficult to expect either one to be the recipient of major minutes without foul trouble for one of the key contributors being a reason why. 

Both teams are forcing at least 15 turnovers per game but Kansas averages three more miscues per game, something that can't happen in front of what should be a raucous crowd in Columbia. Take care of the basketball and the Jayhawks have the tools needed to take advantage of a Missouri defense that's allowed teams to shoot 43% from the field this season, and Kansas would likely be able to take advantage of their superior rebounding ability as well. Baylor remains a contender in the Big 12 race (and they still host Kansas) but the matchup between the Jayhawks and Tigers will go a long way in setting the tone for the second half of the Big 12 campaign. 

There are two other games on the schedule matching ranked teams, and in both cases it's the higher ranked team that's on the road. Ohio State visits Wisconsin in a key Big Ten contest with the hot Badgers, who have won six straight games, looking to move into first place with a win. Jordan Taylor and company were able to knock off the Buckeyes in last season's meeting at the Kohl Center, an experience that should have stuck with the returning Ohio State players. Keep an eye on Deshaun Thomas and Lenzelle Smith Jr. for Ohio State, because if they're both on it's extremely difficult to beat Thad Matta's squad. 

Virginia visits a hot Florida State team with the Seminoles looking to at the very least remain tied for first in the ACC, and with wins over North Carolina and Duke already to their credit Leonard Hamilton's team is every bit the threat to win the league. Michael Snaer's been playing well for FSU of late, and Virginia boasts a forward in Mike Scott who is one of the league's best players. If Joe Harris and Sammy Zeglinski play well Tony Bennett's team can leave Tallahassee with a win, and it should be fun to see how FSU attacks Virginia's pack line defense. 

Xavier visits Memphis in a non-conference game that's gone from being one of the top matchups when looking at the schedules in October to one that both teams truly need for their respective resumes due to struggles before the calendar flipped to 2012. Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons need to get back to consistently being one of the nation's best backcourts for Xavier to be at their best, and Memphis needs consistent play from Joe Jackson. Will Barton has played well enough to merit All-America consideration for the Tigers, and a win for them would go a long way towards making sure Conference USA gets multiple NCAA tournament bids. 

If college hoops had bowl games the Seton Hall/Connecticut game would be dubbed the "Desperation Bowl" as both teams are in serious need of some positive momentum. The Pirates have lost five straight as seniors Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope (who is out today due to bruised ribs) haven't always played their best and youngsters who were doing the little things before the skid have slipped as well. UConn has dropped four in a row and with Jim Calhoun taking an indefinite leave of absence to deal with spinal stenosis (get well soon, Coach) it's on a group that hasn't shown much in the way of leadership or resolve to figure things out before things get even worse.

Vanderbilt visiting Florida should be a fun game especially when considering the offensive end of the floor, with the Commodores boasting Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins while the Gators have a three-headed attack on the perimeter consisting of Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton and Bradley Beal. Notre Dame (hosting Marquette) and Wyoming (hosting UNLV) get ranked teams at home, which could be a good boost for resumes that need some sprucing up in the final month before Selection Sunday, and in the MAAC two of the three teams tied for first meet in Riverdale as Manhattan hosts Iona. Emmy Andujar's banked-in three as time expired won the first meeting, a game that Iona led by 18 with less than eight minutes remaining.   

Top 25 Games?
6:00 PM (1) Kentucky at South Carolina (ESPN)?
12:00 PM (2) Syracuse at St. John's (ESPN)
?2:00 PM (3) Ohio State at (20) Wisconsin (ESPN)
?9:00 PM (8) Kansas at (4) Missouri (ESPN)
?1:45 PM (6) Baylor at Oklahoma State (ESPN3) ?
4:00 PM (6) North Carolina at Maryland (ESPN)?
7:00 PM (9) Murray State at Tennessee-Martin (ESPN3) ?
1:00 PM Vanderbilt at (11) Florida (CBS) ?
5:00 PM (12) Creighton at Northern Iowa (ESPN3)
?4:00 PM (13) UNLV at Wyoming (The Mtn.)?
11:00 AM South Florida at (14) Georgetown (ESPNU) ?
1:00 PM (15) Marquette at Notre Dame (CBS) ?
10:00 PM TCU at (17) San Diego State (The Mtn.)
?1:00 PM (18) Virginia at (24) Florida State (ESPN3) ?
4:00 PM Auburn at (19) Mississippi State (ESPN3) ?
7:00 PM (20) Indiana at Purdue (BTN)
?7:00 PM Columbia at (23) Harvard ?
4:00 PM Rutgers at (25) Louisville (ESPN3)

NCAA Division I Games
?12:00 PM Seton Hall at Connecticut (ESPN3) ?
12:00 PM Detroit at Butler (ESPN2)?
12:00 PM La Salle at Saint Joseph's (CBS SN Regional)
?1:00 PM Boston College at Georgia Tech (ESPNU)?
1:00 PM IPFW at IUPUI ?
1:00 PM Wake Forest at NC State (ESPN3) ?
1:00 PM Xavier at Memphis (FSN) ?
1:00 PM Hartford at Vermont ?
1:00 PM Navy at Lafayette ?
1:00 PM Charlotte at Fordham (YES)
?1:00 PM Winthrop at VMI
?1:45 PM Arkansas at LSU (ESPN3) ?
2:00 PM Sacred Heart at Fairleigh Dickinson ?
2:00 PM Central Michigan at Ohio ?
2:00 PM Temple at Rhode Island (ESPN2)?
2:00 PM Delaware at James Madison (TCN) ?
2:00 PM Charleston Southern at Coastal Carolina (MASN)?
2:00 PM Charleston at Appalachian State
?2:00 PM American at Colgate ?
2:00 PM Holy Cross at Lehigh ?
2:00 PM Georgia Southern at Western Carolina ?
2:00 PM Milwaukee at Green Bay (ESPN3)
?2:00 PM Samford at Wofford ?
3:00 PM Arizona at Stanford (FSN)?
3:00 PM UNC Greensboro at Furman ?
3:00 PM East Tennessee State at Kennesaw State ?
3:00 PM Penn State at Iowa (ESPNU) ?
3:00 PM UTSA at Lamar ?
3:00 PM Texas A&M-CC at Northwestern State ?
3:00 PM UCF at SMU ?
3:05 PM Evansville at Southern Illinois ?
3:15 PM Florida Gulf Coast at Jacksonville ?
3:30 PM Presbyterian at Campbell ?
3:30 PM Maine at UMBC ?
4:00 PM New Mexico at Boise State (NBC SN) ?
4:00 PM Robert Morris at Mount St. Mary's ?
4:00 PM Clemson at Virginia Tech (ESPN3) ?
4:00 PM Miami (OH) at Ball State ?
4:00 PM North Carolina A&T at Bethune-Cookman ?
4:00 PM Chattanooga at Davidson ?
4:00 PM Middle Tennessee at Denver (ESPN2)?
4:00 PM Georgia State at Hofstra (FiOS1)
?4:00 PM Texas A&M at Kansas State (ESPN3)
?4:00 PM Howard at Maryland-Eastern Shore
?4:00 PM Coppin State at Morgan State ?
4:00 PM Savannah State at South Carolina State ?
4:30 PM Central Connecticut State at LIU Brooklyn ?
4:30 PM USC Upstate at Mercer ?
4:30 PM Texas State at Nicholls State
?4:30 PM Bryant at St. Francis (NY) ?
5:00 PM Arizona State at California (CSN CA)
?5:00 PM Air Force at Colorado State (CBS SN) ?
5:00 PM Dayton at Saint Louis (FCS)
?5:00 PM Rice at East Carolina ?
5:00 PM Oregon State at Utah
?5:00 PM UCLA at Washington State (ROOT) ?
5:00 PM Texas-Arlington at Central Arkansas ?
5:00 PM Old Dominion at George Mason (ESPNU)
?5:30 PM Tennessee Tech at Jacksonville State ?
5:30 PM Alabama State at Mississippi Valley State ?
5:30 PM N.J.I.T. at Chicago State ?
6:00 PM North Carolina Central at Florida A&M ?
6:00 PM Northern Illinois at Bowling Green (ESPN3)
?6:00 PM Iowa State at Oklahoma (ESPN2)
?6:00 PM Pennsylvania at Brown ?
6:00 PM Southern University at Grambling State
?6:30 PM Alcorn State at Jackson State ?
7:00 PM Princeton at Yale
?7:00 PM Massachusetts at George Washington (CSN+) ?
7:00 PM Drexel at Towson (ESPN3) ?
7:00 PM Cornell at Dartmouth
?7:00 PM Texas Tech at Texas (LHN)
?7:00 PM Santa Clara at San Diego (CSN BAY)?
7:00 PM William & Mary at UNC Wilmington ?
7:00 PM Stony Brook at Albany ?
7:00 PM Boston University at Binghamton
?7:00 PM Army at Bucknell ?
7:00 PM DePaul at Cincinnati (ESPN3) ?
7:00 PM Norfolk State at Delaware State ?
7:00 PM Richmond at Duquesne (ESPNU)?
7:00 PM Morehead State at Eastern Illinois ?
7:00 PM Citadel at Elon ?
7:00 PM Florida International at Florida Atlantic ?
7:00 PM Gardner-Webb at High Point
?7:00 PM Western Michigan at Kent State ?
7:00 PM UNC-Asheville at Liberty (ESPN3) ?
7:00 PM Iona at Manhattan (ESPN3)
?7:00 PM Canisius at Marist ?
7:00 PM Quinnipiac at Monmouth
?7:00 PM Stetson at North Florida
?7:00 PM Sam Houston State at Southeastern Louisiana ?
7:00 PM Buffalo at Toledo ?
7:00 PM Northeastern at VCU (TCN) ?
7:00 PM Saint Francis (PA) at Wagner (Time Warner)
?7:00 PM Northern Colorado at Weber State (Altitude) ?
7:30 PM Eastern Michigan at Akron
?8:00 PM South Alabama at Western Kentucky (FCS) ?
8:00 PM Marshall at Tulsa ?
8:00 PM North Dakota at Texas-Pan American
?8:00 PM Ole Miss at Alabama (ESPN2)
?8:00 PM Alabama A&M at Arkansas-Pine Bluff ?
8:00 PM Louisiana-Monroe at Arkansas-Little Rock ?
8:00 PM Texas Southern at Prairie View A&M
?8:00 PM Eastern Kentucky at SIU-Edwardsville ?
8:00 PM Georgia at Tennessee (ESPN3) ?
8:00 PM Houston at Tulane ?
8:00 PM Wright State at Valparaiso
?8:00 PM Oakland at Western Illinois
?8:05 PM Missouri State at Drake (ESPN3)
?8:05 PM Utah Valley at Houston Baptist
?8:05 PM Bradley at Illinois State (ESPN3) ?
8:30 PM UMKC at South Dakota ?
8:30 PM Oral Roberts at North Dakota State
?8:30 PM Tennessee State at Southeast Missouri State ?
8:30 PM Southern Utah at South Dakota State ?
8:30 PM Louisiana-Lafayette at Troy
?8:35 PM Portland State at Northern Arizona (FCS)
?9:00 PM Hawaii at San Jose State ?
9:00 PM Oregon at Colorado (ROOT) ?
9:00 PM Montana at Montana State
?9:00 PM Louisiana Tech at New Mexico State (ESPN3) ?
9:00 PM UC Santa Barbara at Cal State Fullerton (ESPNU) ?
9:00 PM UAB at UTEP (CSS)
?9:05 PM Sacramento State at Eastern Washington ?
10:00 PM UC Davis at UC Riverside
?10:00 PM Pacific at UC Irvine ?
10:00 PM San Francisco at Loyola Marymount ?
10:00 PM Idaho at Nevada ?
10:00 PM Gonzaga at Pepperdine (ROOT)
?10:00 PM BYU at Portland (BYU TV)
?10:00 PM Indiana State at Wichita State (ESPN2) ?
10:00 PM Cal Poly at Cal State Bakersfield
?10:05 PM Utah State at Fresno State
?10:10 PM Arkansas State at Seattle ?
10:30 PM Cal State Northridge at Long Beach State (FSN West) ?
11:00 PM USC at Washington (FSN)