January 11, 2008

Five questions entering Big 12 basketball

The Missouri Tigers open the Big 12 basketball season on Saturday when the Texas Longhorns come to town. With conference season upon us, PowerMizzou.com takes a look at the most pressing questions facing Mike Anderson and the Tigers.

How many wins does it take to make the postseason?

Well, depends on which postseason we're talking about. At 10-and-5, with only two true "quality" wins on the resume, to be sure of an NCAA tournament bid before the Big 12 tournament, Missouri would probably have to go 11-and-5. The days of over .500 in this league assuring a bid are just flat out gone. Ask Kansas State. If the Tigers went 10-and-6, if they were the right ten, they'd probably be in because they don't have what anyone could consider a really bad loss on their schedule. But to feel comfortable, Missouri has to win 11. Frankly, that's probably not a realistic goal. So the better question right now might be what does it take to make the NIT? Winning half should do that. If the Tigers are 8-and-8 in the league, they are 18-and-13 entering the conference tournament. They'd probably be in a similar situation as last year where a win on the first day of the event would put them in the NIT. But flame out on Thursday again and you're probably missing the postseason all together for a third year in a row. Anything under .500 in league play and the Tigers can forget about postseason play without a big run in Kansas City.

Can DeMarre Carroll stay on the floor?

There isn't much question about Carroll's play. When he is on the court he is capable of being an absolute beast. Just look at the second half of the UMKC game. He came out of the locker room fired up and led the Tigers to a 61-point second half. But the question is whether he can stay on the floor. Injury and fouls have been a major issue this year. Without Carroll, this team is going to have a lot of trouble against most teams in the Big 12. He has to be able to play 25-30 minutes a night for the Tigers because they just don't have the bulk to deal with some of the big men they will see. Carroll has to avoid the silly fouls and back off at times to give the Tigers a consistent effort.

Will the press bother the league's better guards?

Most of the season, decent backcourts have had little trouble getting the ball across midcourt. For this system to work, the Tigers have to force a lot of turnovers. Other than Arkansas, that hasn't happened against the stronger competition for most of the game. They have done it in stretches, but rarely have those stretches lasted more than five or six minutes. It is probably a given that the Longhorns and the Jayhawks--who feature some of the best guards in America--are equipped to handle the press. But what about teams like Oklahoma State and Kansas State? Missouri needs to take care of business against the teams outside of the Big 12's big three this year. The defense and creating turnovers will be a key to doing that.

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