Published on February 20th, 2012 | by Bryant West, Columnist0
Game of the Week: #3 Missouri Tigers @ #5 Kansas
Who: #3 Missouri Tigers (25-2, 12-2 Big 12) @ #5 Kansas Jayhawks (22-5, 12-2 Big 12)
Where: Phog Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, KS
When: Saturday, 4:00 p.m. Eastern, 1:00 p.m. Pacific
Why: The top two teams in the Big 12 clash again after the Tigers pulled out a victory in their first matchup in Missouri. With tied records in conference, the Big 12 title hangs on the line.
Game one of the series was an excellent matchup, with the Tigers eking out a 74-71 win at home on February 8th. Now the Jayhawks will get a chance to play with homecourt advantage, and has won 89 of their past 90 victories in the Phog.
Thomas Robinson, my vote for the NCAA Player of the year, had 25 points and 13 boards against the Tigers in Missouri and should be heavily featured in this contest. He’s a top 5 selection should he enter the NBA Draft this season (see my breakdown on his draft stock) and he’s going against a fairly weak Missouri big man core.
But every time Missouri faces a big time challenge, they’ve nearly always prevailed (see my Team of the Week article for more on the Tigers). They beat Kansas already this season, blasted Baylor twice, and overcame a big time injury to Senior big man Laurence Bowers that could have crippled their season. Missouri has a mini team-of-destiny thing going on.
A underheariled tidbit going into the game – with Missouri leaving the Big 12 at the end of the season and joining the SEC next year,
Projected Starting Lineups:
For Missouri -
Ricardo Ratliffe (13.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, .9 BPG, 72.9% FG, 66.2% FT)
Kim English (14.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 50.4% FG, 73.7% FT, 46.2% 3P)
Marcus Denmon (17.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.4 SPG, 46.1% FG, 89.9% FT, 40.6% 3P)
Matt Pressey (6.7 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 40.5% FG, 34.6% 3P)
Phil Pressey (10.0 PPG, 3,4 RPG, 5.9 APG, 2.1 SPG, 41.8% FG, 30.7% 3P)
For Kansas -
Jeff Withey (9.5 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 3.4 BPG, 56.7% FG, 83.7% FT)
Thomas Robinson (17.7 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.1 BPG, 54.8% FG)
Travis Releford (9.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 52.3% FG, 66.2% FT)
Elijah Johnson (8.6 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 3.6 APG, 39.1% FG, 29.2% 3P)
Tyshawn Taylor (16.6 PPG, 5.1 APG, 1.7 RPG, 3.7 TPG, 46.7% FG, 66.2% FT)
Matchup to Watch For: Ricardo Ratliffe vs. Thomas Robinson
Robinson has a huge advantage the last time these two teams met when he scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds while shooting 11-17 from the field. While Ratliffe is a good scorer (he’s shooting an absurd 72.9% from the field) he’s not a great defender and Robinson should have a field day.
Keys for Missouri:
1. Guard play: This one is obvious as the Tiger start four and have five very dangerous guards on their roster. There is no doubt that they have the firepower to best the Kansas defense, and while it was Marcus Denmon who lit the Jayhawks up last time Kim English is just as likely to erupt. But they’ll need someone to come up big and the rest of the guards to continue running their excellent passing offense.
2. Force Turnovers: Last time these teams met, the Tigers forced 16 turnovers, five of which came from Robinson and six of which came from Tyshawn Taylor.
3. Get the Crowd out Early: Kansas’ homecourt advantage is legendary. If Missouri has any chance, they need to quiet the Jayhawks faithful quickly.
Keys for Kansas:
1. Size Advantage: Aside from Robinson, I expect Jeff Withey to fare better in this contest than in the last matchup when he had no points and only four rebounds. The Tigers start four guards and only one forward, so while they have the advantage of speed, the Jayhawks have a huge advantage of size.
2. Stop the Tigers Passing Game: The Tigers are the top offense in the NCAA and have one of the best passing games in recent years. Their unselfish play makes them very, very dangerous. Kansas is 30th in scoring defense, giving up 60.4 a contest, but the Tigers score over 79.9 points a contest. Something has to give.
3. Tyshawn Taylor: Taylor is having a break out season scoring wise, and his efficiency has skyrocketed over the past few weeks. Now he’ll need to focus mainly on defense—in the Tigers win last month, Marcus Denmon had 29 points and nine rebounds. Taylor and the Jayhawks guards MUST slow him down.
Prediction: Robinson feasts on the homecourt energy and the Tigers lack of size inside, and Kansas secures the Big 12 regular season crown with the win.
Kansas 66, Missouri 63