March 1, 2009

Border War, Take Two

LAWRENCE, KS--Missouri looks to stretch its winning streak to eight as the Tigers travel to Lawrence to face Kansas in a nationally televised game for first place in the Big 12 Conference. Missouri is 24-and-4 and 11-and-2 in Big 12 play. Kansas is 23-and-5 and 12-and-1. Kansas leads the series 166-94, including 85-33 in Lawrence. has the preview:

Three Keys to the Game

Contain Collins: Bar none, this was the biggest key to the Tigers' win in Columbia. If he is shooting the way he did against Oklahoma, Kansas is very, very tough to beat because it opens things up much more on the inside. Collins never got in a rhythm against the Tigers and was worn down when Mizzou made its late second-half comeback (see the missed free throws by one of the league's best shooters). It isn't likely the Tigers can force Collins into as poor a game as he had the first time around, but they can't let him go off for 25 either.

Attack Aldrich: Cole Aldrich was dominant defensively in Columbia. He was credited with five blocks, but it seemed he had twice that many. Lyons and Carroll actually seem like the type of players that could cause Aldrich problems. Both are capable of catching the ball outside and either hitting jump shots or driving around the Kansas big man. Mizzou clearly has the quickness advantage in the frontcourt. Lyons and Carroll won't win a game trying to post up against Aldrich, but if they can make a couple of outside shots and draw him out of the paint, they can drive around him or hit an open teammate with a pass. The Tigers didn't make anything for the first 30 minutes in Columbia. They're going to have to on Sunday.

Survive the Emotion: Allen Fieldhouse is always nuts. It will be even more so on Sunday. The Jayhawks will have not only the emotion of the crowd, but also the motivation of revenge on their sides. For proof that this means something, see what the Tigers did to Kansas State and Nebraska in home rematches. Missouri does not have to lead at halftime, but they can't be out of the game. If the Tigers trail by double digits like they did in Columbia, it's tough to envision a comeback. Getting to the break within about six points would have make Mizzou fans happy.

Official Prediction: There is no doubt the Tigers can win this game. They only showed up for about eight minutes in Columbia and they still beat the Jayhawks. Expect both teams to play much better than they did the first time around. Mizzou can still play the "no respect" card to some extent because almost no one is picking them to win this game. Of course, there's a reason for that. The Jayhawks comes into this one with 11 wins in 12 games themselves and haven't lost on their home court in more than two years. We don't see Sunday being the first time. The Tigers play well, but fall short as Kansas comes out on top 76-70.

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