#5 Kansas vs. #3 Missouri: Saturday's Preview

    
February 25th, 2012

Late offensive fouls and the foul line made the difference in the first meeting between #5 Kansas (23-5, 13-2) and #3 Missouri (25-3, 12-3), with the Tigers gaining the edge in both categories and ultimately winning 74-71. There's a lot more on the line in the rematch as the Jayhawks can clinch at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title with a win, but a Missouri win would not only move the Tigers into a tie for first but also give them the all-important head-to-head tiebreaker. Two of the central figures in Saturday's contest will have an impact in different areas: one on the perimeter and one in the paint.

Missouri guard Marcus Denmon is the leading scorer for Frank Haith's team, and his performance in the first meeting was a clear signal that the senior had snapped out of the slump he was mired in at the start of league play. Denmon scored 29 points and grabbed nine rebounds, knocking down ten of his sixteen field goal attempts. To say the least the Jayhawks will keep tabs on Denmon at all times, meaning that Michael Dixon Jr. could enjoy a little more freedom to roam the floor when he's in the game (Dixon Jr. attempted just five shots in Columbia).

Point guard Phil Pressey has been one of the best in the country, with his being to set up the Tigers' capable scorers holding more importance than scoring (he does average 9.9 ppg, however). The matchup between he and Kansas senior Tyshawn Taylor will be interesting to watch given the fact that the Jayhawks are more reliant on Taylor to score than the Tigers are Pressey.

Taylor scored 21 points and dished out three assists in the first meeting but he also turned the ball over six times, most notably a charge with just over ten seconds remaining and the Jayhawks down a point (72-71). If Taylor's making sound decisions the Jayhawks are a tough team to beat. But even if he is struggling Kansas still has a shot due to the presence of one of the frontrunners for national Player of the Year.  

Junior forward Thomas Robinson scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the first meeting, and his skill set makes Robinson a guaranteed double-double on the block. The key for Robinson in the return match is to take better care of the basketball, as he accounted for five turnovers in Columbia. It should help matters that Jeff Withey is playing excellent basketball, meaning that Ricardo Ratliffe (who leads the nation in field goal percentage) and Steve Moore when he gets into the game can't focus solely on Robinson.

Two players (in addition to Denmon and Robinson) to keep an eye on are Missouri's Kim English and Kansas' Elijah Johnson. English is a tough matchup for most teams given the fact that Frank Haith uses him at the four, as his perimeter skills can expose the traditional four-man on the perimeter. The senior from Baltimore made just two of seven three-pointers in the first meeting but he still finished with 18 points.

As for Johnson, he's a very good athlete who has shown flashes of the skills needed to be a guy Kansas can rely on offensively to help out Robinson and Taylor. But he's still a work in progress, meaning that there would be no better time for Johnson to put together a performance on par with his 21-points outing against Texas A&M earlier this week. Missouri outscored Kansas by 12 from three (30-18) and by nine at the foul line (14-5) in the first meeting. Kansas can afford to lose one category but not both if they're to settle the score, so keep an eye on those areas as well. 

Saturday's action has a number of critical matchups in regards to the NCAA tournament bubble, most notably UConn hosting #2 Syracuse at Gampel Pavilion. The Huskies hung around for 35 minutes or so in the first meeting before the wheels fell off in an 18-point Syracuse win. UConn needs consistent play from Jeremy Lamb and Alex Oriakhi throughout; drifting in and out of the action won't cut it against one of the nation's best teams. And keep an eye on Colorado State as they look to back up their win over New Mexico with a victory at #24 San Diego State. Tim Miles' Rams beat SDSU by 17 in Fort Collins, and if Pierce Hornung can play as he did in the win over New Mexico on Tuesday night they can sweep the season series.  

Vanderbilt and Virginia are going to be in the NCAA tournament, but games against #1 Kentucky and #7 North Carolina would give their resumes a serious boost when considering seeding possibilities. John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor have to shoot well if the Commodores are to win in Lexington, as the Wildcats are playing better than any team in America. Marquis Teague has taken better care of the basketball and Anthony Davis has a bigger impact defensively than any player in America. Virginia was able to slow down the tempo in their first meeting with UNC but that didn't matter as the Tar Heels pulled away in the second half. Sammy Zeglinski has to get going if the Cavaliers are to have a shot at knocking off Kendall Marshall and company. 

Other bubble teams looking to improve their resumes include Purdue (at #13 Michigan), and there are also games matching bubble teams to keep track of. George Mason at VCU may not net an at-large bid at this point but if one of these two (or Drexel) were to grab the CAA's automatic bid the others may need to win out until the title game in order to impress the selection committee.

UMass and Dayton play each other with the loser being in serious trouble with just a week left in their regular seasons, and Saint Joseph's has a great opportunity to boost their profile with Big 5 rival #22 Temple making the short trek across town. There are many important games on the slate as Championship Week is right around the corner, be it with bubble implications or teams in one-bid leagues jockeying for seeding in their conference tournaments. Enjoy. 

Top 25 Games
12:00 PM Vanderbilt at (1) Kentucky (CBS)
9:00 PM (2) Syracuse at Connecticut (ESPN)
4:00 PM (3) Missouri at (5) Kansas (CBS)
12:00 PM Virginia Tech at (4) Duke (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Nebraska at (6) Michigan State (BTN)
4:00 PM (7) North Carolina at Virginia (ESPN)
2:00 PM Villanova at (8) Georgetown (CBS)
4:00 PM (11) Florida at Georgia (ESPN3)
8:30 PM (12) Murray State at Tennessee Tech (ESPN3)
6:00 PM Purdue at (13) Michigan (BTN)
1:45 PM Oklahoma at (14) Baylor (ESPN3)
12:00 PM (18) Notre Dame at St. John's (ESPN)
1:30 PM Drake at (19) Wichita State
4:00 PM Air Force at (20) UNLV (NBC SN)
7:00 PM (21) New Mexico at TCU (The Mtn.)
7:00 PM (22) Temple at Saint Joseph's (ESPNU)
11:00 PM (23) Saint Mary's at San Francisco (CSN CA)
10:00 PM Colorado State at (25) San Diego State (The Mtn.)

NCAA Division I Games
11:00 AM Robert Morris at Quinnipiac (ESPNU)
12:00 PM Northeastern at Delaware (CSN NE)
12:00 PM Saint Francis (PA) at Sacred Heart (MSG+)
1:00 PM Boston College at Wake Forest (ESPN3)
1:00 PM UMBC at Vermont
1:00 PM La Salle at Fordham (YES)
1:00 PM Coastal Carolina at VMI
1:30 PM Iowa State at Kansas State (ESPN3)
1:45 PM LSU at Ole Miss (ESPN3)
2:00 PM UCLA at Arizona (CBS)
2:00 PM Duquesne at George Washington
2:00 PM Illinois State at Bradley
2:00 PM Green Bay at Illinois-Chicago (CSN CHI)
2:00 PM St. Francis (NY) at Fairleigh Dickinson
2:00 PM Texas A&M at Oklahoma State (ESPN2)
2:00 PM Saint Louis at Rhode Island (CBS SN Regional)
2:00 PM Providence at DePaul (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Wright State at Cleveland State
2:00 PM Winthrop at UNC-Asheville
2:00 PM Appalachian State at Western Carolina
2:00 PM Georgia State at William & Mary
2:00 PM Longwood at NJIT
2:00 PM Stetson at USC Upstate
2:05 PM Missouri State at Evansville
2:05 PM Detroit at Youngstown State (ESPN3)
2:30 PM Maryland at Georgia Tech (ESPN3)
2:30 PM North Carolina State at Clemson (ESPN3)
3:00 PM Hartford at Boston University
3:00 PM Miami (OH) at Buffalo
3:00 PM Charleston at Citadel (SoCon TV)
3:05 PM Northern Iowa at Southern Illinois
3:05 PM Urbana at Chicago State
3:30 PM Wagner at Central Connecticut State
4:00 PM Arkansas at Auburn (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Lafayette at American
4:00 PM Towson at James Madison
4:00 PM Memphis at Marshall (FSN)
4:00 PM Creighton at Indiana State (ESPN2)
4:00 PM Drexel at Old Dominion (CSN)
4:00 PM Lehigh at Army
4:00 PM Norfolk State at Bethune-Cookman
4:00 PM Navy at Bucknell
4:00 PM Holy Cross at Colgate
4:00 PM Florida Gulf Coast at East Tennessee State (ESPN3)
4:00 PM UNC Wilmington at Hofstra
4:00 PM Hawaii at Louisiana Tech (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Milwaukee at Loyola (IL) (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Nicholls State at McNeese State
4:00 PM Morgan State at Maryland-Eastern Shore
4:00 PM North Carolina Central at Savannah State
4:00 PM North Carolina A&T at South Carolina State
4:00 PM Texas at Texas Tech (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Boise State at Wyoming (The Mtn.)
4:00 PM Mount St. Mary's at Bryant
4:30 PM Ball State at Eastern Michigan
4:30 PM Presbyterian at Gardner-Webb
4:30 PM Belmont at Mercer
4:30 PM Charleston Southern at Radford
5:00 PM UAB at East Carolina
5:00 PM Houston Baptist at North Dakota (FCS)
5:00 PM Lipscomb at Kennesaw State
5:00 PM Southern University at Alcorn State
5:00 PM Southeastern Louisiana at Central Arkansas
5:00 PM Rutgers at Seton Hall (ESPNU)
5:00 PM Texas State at UTSA
5:30 PM Alabama State at Texas Southern
6:00 PM Hampton at Florida A&M
6:00 PM Middle Tennessee at Western Kentucky (ESPN3)
6:00 PM Kent State at Bowling Green (ESPN3)
6:00 PM Columbia at Brown
6:00 PM Portland at BYU (BYUtv)
6:00 PM Mississippi State at Alabama (ESPN)
6:00 PM Massachusetts at Dayton (CBS SN)
6:00 PM George Mason at VCU (ESPN2)
6:00 PM Mississippi Valley State at Grambling State
6:30 PM Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Jackson State
7:00 PM Cornell at Yale
7:00 PM Pennsylvania at Harvard (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Princeton at Dartmouth
7:00 PM Davidson at Georgia Southern
7:00 PM Gonzaga at San Diego (ROOT)
7:00 PM Howard at Delaware State
7:00 PM Eastern Illinois at Eastern Kentucky
7:00 PM UNC Greensboro at Elon
7:00 PM Troy at Florida Atlantic
7:00 PM Campbell at Liberty (MASN)
7:00 PM LIU Brooklyn at Monmouth
7:00 PM St. Bonaventure at Charlotte
7:00 PM Texas A&M-CC at Stephen F. Austin
7:00 PM Western Michigan at Toledo
7:00 PM Furman at Wofford
7:05 PM UC Riverside at Long Beach State
7:30 PM Samford at Chattanooga
7:30 PM South Alabama at Florida International
7:30 PM SIU-Edwardsville at Morehead State
8:00 PM USC at Arizona State (FSN AZ)
8:00 PM SMU at Houston
8:00 PM Northwestern State at UT-Arlington
8:00 PM Washington at Washington State (ROOT)
8:00 PM Arkansas State at Arkansas-Little Rock
8:00 PM UTEP at UCF (CBS SN)
8:00 PM Lamar at Sam Houston State
8:00 PM Rice at Southern Miss (CSS)
8:00 PM Tennessee at South Carolina (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Tulsa at Tulane
8:00 PM Richmond at Xavier (ESPN2)
8:05 PM IPFW at UMKC
8:15 PM Louisiana-Monroe at Louisiana-Lafayette
8:30 PM Oakland at South Dakota
8:30 PM Stanford at Utah (CSN Bay)
8:30 PM Southeast Missouri State at Austin Peay
8:30 PM Western Illinois at North Dakota State
8:30 PM Alabama A&M at Prairie View A&M
8:30 PM IUPUI at South Dakota State
8:45 PM Tennessee-Martin at Jacksonville State
9:00 PM Montana State at Montana
9:00 PM San Jose State at New Mexico State (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Northwestern at Penn State (ESPNU)
9:05 PM Sacramento State at Idaho State
9:05 PM Texas-Pan American at Utah Valley
9:30 PM Oral Roberts at Southern Utah
10:00 PM Nevada at Fresno State (ESPN3)
10:00 PM Cal State Fullerton at UC Davis
10:00 PM Nebraska Omaha at Cal State Bakersfield
10:05 PM Eastern Washington at Portland State
10:30 PM Cal State Northridge at UC Irvine
11:00 PM Santa Clara at Loyola Marymount (CSN Bay)
11:00 PM Cal Poly at UC Santa Barbara (ESPNU)