College Hoops Monday: Your Commentary

February 7th, 2011
"Rivalry Week" tips off on Monday night, featuring an important Big 12 battle between Missouri (18-5, 4-4) and border rival Kansas (22-1, 7-1). While the Jayhawks have lost just one game the entire season (Texas at home), Mike Anderson's Tigers are stuck in the middle of the Big 12 standings (3rd-10th are separated by one game in the loss column) and could use a win like this one to further boost their standing in regards to NCAA Tournament seeding. But for Missouri to pull off the win in Lawrence they're going to have to rebound, something that cost them dearly in a loss at Texas two weeks ago. Laurence Bowers (10.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and Ricardo Ratliffe (11.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg) are the two players Missouri leans on inside, but the Tigers don't have the overall size or depth that Kansas brings to the table.

Twins Marcus (16.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Markieff (13.1 ppg, 8.5 rpg) Morris have been outstanding for much of the season, and when you can bring off the bench players such as Thomas Robinson and Mario Little you're afforded a luxury that few teams in America can match. Kansas boasts a rebounding margin of plus- 6.9. and while there are teams with better stats Missouri essentially breaks even on the glass. A performance of that caliber or worse will not only get the Tigers beat in Lawrence but could result in a double-digit whipping. The factor the Tigers will need in order to nullify that disadvantage: turnovers. The "Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball" forces an average of 18.6 turnovers per game, and while Kansas averages 13.6 per game they've got some guards who can succumb to pressure on occasion.

Marcus Denmon has been one of the most improved players in the Big 12, averaging 16.7 points per game while shooting 49% from the field and 45% from three. Add in Michael Dixon Jr., Kim English and Pressey brothers Matt and Phil and you've got a solid set of perimeter players who can make the game a living hell for opposing guards who fail to control tempo. That's the challenge for Tyshawn Taylor in addition to solid contributors Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed. If they can take care of the basketball and properly navigate the Missouri pressure there will be opportunities for the Jayhawks to score some quick baskets. Turnovers and rebounding margin will determine the outcome in Lawrence, with the latter being of the utmost importance for the visitors.

Also of note on Monday night is the first installment of the hoops version of the "Backyard Brawl", and two personnel notes have made the battle between Pittsburgh and West Virginia all the more intriguing. WVU guard Casey Mitchell returned to the team on Saturday following a suspension, playing 13 minutes off the bench. The Mountaineers have looked to be a more cohesive unit in his absence, meaning that the senior will need to avoid disrupting the chemistry. And Pittsburgh will be without guard Ashton Gibbs for the next two weeks due to an MCL injury suffered in their win over Cincinnati on Saturday night. That means redshirt sophomore Travon Woodall will need to step up in an expanded role and he may very well be ready to do so. Always a spirited game, the Panthers and Mountaineers will not disappoint in Morgantown.

Top 25
9:00 PM (15) Missouri at (2) Kansas (ESPN)
7:00 PM (4) Pittsburgh at West Virginia (ESPN)

NCAA Division I Games
5:00 PM Central Arkansas at Texas-Arlington
6:30 PM New Orleans at St. Thomas (TX)
7:00 PM Mississippi Valley State at Alabama State (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Illinois-Chicago at Butler
7:00 PM Cleveland State at Detroit
7:00 PM North Carolina Central at High Point
7:00 PM Citadel at UNC Greensboro
7:00 PM Loyola (MD) at Siena
7:00 PM Youngstown State at Wright State
7:30 PM Manhattan at Iona (ESPN3)
7:30 PM Campbell at Kennesaw State
8:00 PM Coppin State at Florida A&M
8:00 PM Tennessee State at Jacksonville State (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Savannah State at Texas A&M-CC
8:00 PM Morgan State at Bethune-Cookman
8:00 PM Murray State at Eastern Illinois
8:00 PM North Carolina A&T at Maryland-Eastern Shore
8:00 PM Southeast Missouri State at SIU-Edwardsville
8:00 PM Austin Peay at Tennessee Tech
8:30 PM South Carolina State at Howard
9:00 PM Louisiana Tech at New Mexico State (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Alabama A&M
9:00 PM Grambling State at Alcorn State
9:00 PM Norfolk State at Delaware State (ESPNU)
9:00 PM Jackson State at Southern University
10:00 PM Cal State Bakersfield at Fresno State