NO. 8 KANSAS (18-4, 8-1 Big 12) AT NO. 4 MISSOURI (20-2, 7-2 Big 12)
Time/TV: 9 p.m./ESPN
Location: Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Mo.
Kansas 8 (No. 2 Big 12)
Missouri 12 (No. 3 Big 12)
Line: Missouri -2 (o/u 144)
Kansas Players to Watch: F Thomas Robinson, 6-10 Jr. (17.5 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 53.2% FG); G Tyshawn Taylor, 6-3 Sr. (16.5 ppg, 5.2 apg, 1.2 spg); C Jeff Withey, 7-0 Jr. (8.2 ppg, 6 rpg, 3.2 bpg). With 15 points in Wednesday’s 84-62 win over Oklahoma, Withey – and the Big 12’s leading shot blocker – has now scored in double-figures in six straight games.
Missouri Players to Watch: G Marcus Denmon, 6-3 Sr. (17.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.3 apg); F Ricardo Ratliffe, 6-8 Sr. (14.7 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 75.1% FG); G Michael Dixon, 6-1 Jr. (12.1 ppg, 2.7 apg, 1.4 spg). Dixon carried the Tigers to a 67-66 win at Texas on Monday. He came off the bench to make 9-of-10 shots, including both of his 3s, hand out four assists and hit the game-winning runner with 31 seconds left.
Storylines: Kansas (8-1) leads the Tigers and Baylor (7-2 each) by one game in the Big Ten standings. The two teams will meet again on Feb. 25 in Lawrence.
Keys: This is the first time since 2009 that the Jayhawks and Tigers are meeting with first place in the Big 12 on the line. It is the 14th time that the two sides have met while both were in the top 10. This could be the final Kansas-Missouri showdown in Columbia for a while with Missouri moving to the SEC following this season.
Missouri leads the Big 12 and is sixth in the nation at 81.2 points per game. Kansas is third in the Big 12 at 75.6 and is second in scoring defense, allowing just 60.7 points per game. The Tigers and Jayhawks are first and second, respectively, in scoring margin in the Big 12. The Tigers’ plus-17.4 is third-best in college basketball. Kansas is plus-14.9, which is 14th-best. Missouri 377 free throws made is more than its opponents have shot (322). The Tigers shoot 77.7 percent from the foul line, which leads the league. Kansas is seventh in the Big 12 at 69 percent. After shooting over 40 percent from 3-point range in the non-conference, the Tigers have shot just 33 percent in Big 12 play. The Jayhawks got just five points from their bench in Saturday’s 72-64 loss at Iowa State. It was the fourth-straight game in which the Jayhawk bench has produced eight points or fewer. Kansas leads the conference in field goal defense at 37.7 percent but is last in 3-point defense, allowing opponents to shoot 34.7 percent from beyond the 3-point line. The Jayhawks are second – behind Kansas State – in the Big 12 with a plus-6.1 rebounding margin. Missouri is eighth at plus-2. Mizzou easily has the best turnover margin in the conference. The Tigers turn the ball over just 10.5 times per game, while forcing 15.9 errors. Their plus-5.36 margin ranks fifth in the country. Kansas turns the ball over 13.6 times per game while forcing 15.3 turnovers. The Tigers also lead the Big 12 with a 1.52-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. The Jayhawks are second at 1.17-to-1. Monday’s win over Texas gave Missouri 20 wins for the fourth-straight season. Kansas has a 171-94 advantage in the all-time series and has won the last five and 10 of the last 11 over the Tigers. Missouri’s last win over Kansas came in 2009, 62-60 at Columbia. The Jayhawks are 4-1 in true road games this season. Their only loss came a week ago at Iowa State, 72-64. The Tigers are still unblemished at home (12) and they have outscored their opponents by an average of 91-64 at Mizzou Arena.
The Bottom Line: Expect Missouri to shoot the lights out. If Ratliffe can offset Robinson, it will be an easy win for the Tigers.
The Pick: Missouri 85, Kansas 74
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 55-29