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February 20, 2009
Tigers look to run it up in Boulder
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Missouri looks to stretch its winning streak to six as the Tigers hit the road for Colorado. Missouri is 22-and-4 and 9-and-2 in Big 12 play. Colorado is 9-and-15 and 1-and-9. Missouri leads the series 122-91, including 67-25 in Columbia. PowerMizzou.com has the preview:
Higgins gets High Marks: Players on bad teams don't get a lot of attention. But Colorado guard Cory Higgins probably should. Higgins is one of the Big 12's top scorers at 17.9 points per game. He put up 35 in Colorado's overtime loss to Texas and is capable of keeping his team in the game by himself. Higgins rarely leaves the court, averaging 37.3 minutes a game.
Short Bench: The Buffs have five starters who all play more than 20 minutes per game. In fact, four of the five average more than 31 minutes per game. Only three reserves play more than ten minutes a night as it is a stretch to even say Jeff Bzdelik uses an eight-man rotation. The depth, or lack thereof, could be a major factor as Missouri comes to town looking to run-and-gun and wear down CU's starting five.
Turning it Over: Missouri brings one of the nation's top teams in thievery to town, and that's a bad sign for the Buffs. Of the nine players who log the most minutes on the Colorado roster, only two have more assists than turnovers this season. Nate Tomlinson has 67 assists to 57 turnovers and Levi Knutson has 22 helpers and 19 turnovers. Every other Buffalo has given it up at least as many times as he has set up a teammate to score.
Nation Takes Notice: In two weeks, Missouri has gone from unranked to the top ten. The Tigers stand No. 10 in the AP poll and No. 11 according to the coaches. In the last week, Missouri moved up at least six spots in each poll. It is the highest ranking the Tigers have held since....
Eyeing a Bye: The Big 12 championship is still within reach for Missouri. But much closer is locking up a bye on the first day of the Big 12 tournament. With just five games to play, Missouri has a three-game lead over both Kansas State and Texas for third place. Any combination of three wins by Missouri or losses by the Longhorns and Wildcats would clinch the three seed for Mizzou in the Big 12 tournament. The Tigers need to finish ahead of just one of those teams to ensure themselves of a bye on Wednesday. Missouri can lock that up by winning its next two games.
A Slow(er) Road: Mizzou is averaging more than 83 points per game. But on the road in the Big 12, that number dips significantly. The Tigers have averaged just 74.2 points per game in five league roadies. Three times in five games on the road, Mizzou has been held under 75 points. They are just 1-and-2 in those instances. Still, the Tigers have won their last two Big 12 road games and three out of four since a 56-51 clunker at Nebraska to open the Big 12 schedule.
Don't Look Ahead: This is, without a doubt, the number one thing. Missouri is a better team. If the season records don't prove it, Mizzou's 45-point win over the Buffs should. But Missouri is also capable of falling to a team with less talent. The players have admitted they were looking past Kansas State and Nebraska. Do it again and Mizzou could be in for a battle.
Run it Up: Colorado wants to force Missouri to slow things down. The Buffs scored 76 points in their last game...in overtime. Missouri averages better than 83 in regulation. If the Tigers can speed Colorado up and get the game going at their pace, Mizzou's talent should win out. Missouri likes to pressure teams throughout the game until fatigue hits in the final five minutes. With Colorado's short bench, it may not even take that long.
Get a Second Chance: The Tigers may not have the edge against many teams on the glass, but Colorado is one of them. The Buffs average a Big 12-worst 28 rebounds per game. Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll should have opportunities to get offensive rebounds and easy points against the Colorado front court. Mizzou needs to take advantage of those chances by either making layups or getting to the free throw line. Carroll and Lyons weren't forced to do much the first time these two teams played. Missouri will probably need more from them on Saturday.
Official Prediction: The worry from Missouri fans that the Tigers are going to stumble on the road should have subsided of late. Mizzou has passed recent tests in Austin and Ames and has a 3-and-2 league record away from home. Colorado, plainly, doesn't have the horses to keep up with the Tigers. Missouri cruises 80-68.
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