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Kansas Vs. Missouri: Previewing The Tigers

The "Border War" tips off tonight in the first of two guaranteed matchups this season as the Missouri Tigers come to Lawrence to take on our own Kansas Jayhawks in a Big Monday matchup between two ranked teams. 

Missouri at the moment has a #14 ranking although that is likely to drop after the Tigers lost a road contest in Stillwater last week.  The Jayhawks on the other hand should maintain their #2 ranking which means at the end of the day we most likely have a matchup of two top 20 teams.

This is a game that always ignites a tremendous amount of passion from both sides and a game that should have Allen Fieldhouse at a fever pitch.  Kansas leads the overall series 169-94 and the Jayhawks are on an 11 game winning streak in Allen Fieldhouse dating back to 2000.


AP Poll
SOS Projected

The Players

Missouri goes 10 deep with Mike Anderson's 40 minutes of hell system that thrives on pressure and fast paced play.  The leader of the team in the backcourt this season has been junior guard and Kansas City native Marcus Denmon.  Denmon put together a non-conference season that had him in the discussion for Big 12 player of the year headed into conference play.  The junior averages 16.7 points per game, a team best 2.1 steals per game and Denmon leads the Tigers in three point field goals while connecting on 46% of his attempts from beyond the arc.

On the interior the Tigers have received a big boost from a junior college transfer in 6'8" junior Ricardo Ratliffe.  Ratliffe was the junior college player of the year a season ago and while he isn't an explosive athlete necessarily, he does provide a solid more traditional interior presence which Missouri has been lacking over the past few seasons.  Ratliffe averages 11.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game for the Tigers.

Kim English is the third consistent starter for the Tigers.  The 6'6" junior out of Baltimore averages 10.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists for the Tigers.  English is an athletic wing type player who does have the ability to knock down the outside shot, but he can be prone to a long cold snap at times.

The other two starters have varied at times between five other players in Michael Dixon, Matt Pressey, Phil "Flip" Pressey, Laurence Bowers and Justin Safford

Bowers has been the most productive of the four and might be the most athletic and explosive big man for the Tigers.  The 6'8" junior averages 10.7 points, 5.7 boards and has the athleticism to create pressure and attack the basket.

Michael Dixon has been the more productive guard although Phil Pressey was hampered by an injury and look like the player of the two with a higher ceiling.  Dixon currently averages 10.4 points and 4.1 assists per game while Pressey 6.3 points and 3.9 assists. 

The older Pressey, Matt, is a junior college transfer and averages 7 points per contest. 

The other interior player that has seen starter minutes is the lone senior seeing major time for the Tigers and that is Justin Safford.  Safford averages 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per contest.

The lineup has changed quite regularly for the Tigers depending on matchups and how Mike Anderson feels he can best manipulate the minutes but if we're simply going based on the previous game it looks like the Tigers started the Pressey brothers, Marcus Denmon, Ricardo Ratliffe and Laurence Bowers. 

The 10th man off the bench and really the only one that hasn't been a viable starter at any time for the Tigers is a 6'9" junior in Steven Moore.  Moore is a 270 pound big man that quite simply looks out of place in Anderson's style of play.  Then again, Oliver Miller ran with the group down at Arkansas so maybe Moore can find a home. 


Tiger Trends

It's no secret what the Tigers like to do.  They want to pressure; they want to run and the want the pace of the game to be fast.  With that in mind it's not surprising that the Tigers lead the Big 12 in scoring at 83 points per game.  83.3 points per game to be exact which is .4 points is more than the next highest scoring team in the conference which is Kansas. Sounds like a potential up and down game.

When comparing this years Missouri to last years or even the 2009 group it isn't a team that is causing as many problems on the defensive end.  They're certainly still a good team on defense, but the loss of guards JT Tiller and Zaire Taylor changed the makeup a bit. 

At the same time those departure likely also opened the door for an uptick on the offensive end where the Tigers are slightly better than they were a year ago. 

But if you're picking THE story for the Tigers in 2010-2011 it's the inability to be effective on the road.  The Tigers are a bear in Columbia and they beat teams down while feeding off the home crowd.  All five losses, come on the road.  Texas A&M and Texas were ranked opponents at the time but road losses to Colorado and Oklahoma State are certainly games you have to win in order to consider yourself a contender. 

Now the Tigers have lost two of their last three but are coming off a strong win at home over Colorado on Saturday night.  The question is how they respond with another road trip and a road trip to Lawrence at that.  Some teams fuel off of the Allen Fieldhouse atmosphere and others fall apart. 

Offensive Averages:

6th / 1st
10th / 2nd
60th / 6th
FG Pct
44th / 5th
Defensive Averages:
212th / 1st
134th / 2nd
292nd / 6th
FG Pct
100th / 5th

Prediction Time

It's been discussed at length how well the Jayhawks have played since the loss to Texas.  It seems like an organized, controlled, methodical style of play that is going to win games by slowly putting you away over 40 minutes. 

Now the Tigers aren't going to sit back and wait.  They'll attempt to force the issue and the Jayhawks will need to handle the pressure.  If Kansas can accomplish that, they should come out ahead with the home crowd behind them.  If they get rattled, Missouri can score in a hurry and make you pay.

Two things to watch for, the first is Tryady Morningreed.  The combination of the Kansans has been a good one over the last four games for Kansas and if they are on, the Jayhawks are tough to stop. 

Second, how will the Tigers handle the Kansas bigs.  It's been a problem in recent years for Missouri and while they have added Ricardo Ratliffe, he's only one man and the brothers Morris and Thomas Robinson can be a load inside if they get going. 

Kansas can't keep winning this one at home forever, but this season certainly doesn't give much indication that Missouri is ready to end the streak at Allen Fieldhouse.  Now the return trip to Columbia could be a very different story.

Missouri Mizzou 83.3 46.6 72.0 37.6 37.6 13.1 24.5 17.1 13.1 10.0 5.6 20.2
Kansas KU 82.9 52.0 66.7 38.6 38.9 11.2 27.7 18.2 13.6 8.6 4.4 17.7
Missouri Mizzou Opponents 69.2 41.5 68.4 31.6 37.3 12.9 24.4 12.4 18.6 6.2 2.8 19.3
Kansas KU Opponents 63.0 38.3 70.1 28.4 32.0 11.3 20.7 10.5 15.6 6.0 2.7 19.7