No. 20 Missouri at Kansas State – 11 a.m. ESPN
K-State wants to beat Missouri at home for the seventh straight time. Things have gone well for the Wildcats since their Big Monday upset of KU on Valentine’s Day. A 20th win would make most people feel a little better about the Wildcats’ NCAA chances, and Missouri counts as a quality opponent.Missouri: It’s tempting to write this game off as a case where K-State is good at home, Missouri struggles on the road, K-State must win and Missouri doesn’t have to. Thus K-State will win.
But that’s not entirely fair. While Missouri (22-6, 8-5) has yet to play really well on the road this season, the Tigers have improved overall lately. They took away Baylor’s expected rebounding advantage and outrebounded the Bears on Wednesday night in a 77-59 win. (Ricardo Ratliffe had 10 boards in the first half.) Laurence Bowers looks more comfortable than ever with his mid-range baseline jumper, and Phil Pressey can adequately hold the ball and set up Mizzou’s offense.
However, Missouri must still shoot better to get a difficult road win. Marcus Denmon played his first good road game in quite some time against Iowa State, and the Tigers won. While Iowa State is not very good, this was a good sign. Kim English shot very well in Columbia against Baylor, but he hasn’t proven to be reliable on the road, either.
Kansas State: For the first time this year in conference play, the Wildcats (19-9, 7-6) have won three straight games. After cruising past KU and OU, they had to win a different way against Nebraska (no surprise there). They held off the Huskers in Lincoln, 61-57. I wish I could have watched some of this game.
They re-established their superiority over the Huskers, who are also in limbo between qualifying or not qualifying as an NCAA at-large. This was K-State’s first season sweep of the year (and they have a chance for a second one against I-State). They didn’t shoot well but they forced 17 turnovers and limited their own.
K-State wasn’t too competitive in a 75-59 loss at Mizzou earlier in the year, but the team had a ton of issues at that point. Things had already gotten off to a troubling start, and after all no visitor has won at Mizzou Arena yet this season. This game will be different regardless of who ends up winning.
Missouri did a nice job making LaceDarius Dunn ineffective this week, but Jacob Pullen is a better player who makes smarter decisions. He’s feeling very good and capitalizing on the chances he takes.
If Ricardo Ratliffe gets a double-double as he did against Baylor, that would be wonderful for the Tigers. Missouri hasn’t played well at Bramlage Coliseum, and I think Kansas State is more motivated now that things are going well. The Wildcats won’t have a certain at-large spot with a win, but they’ll be a lot closer.
Kansas State 78, Missouri 69