No. 2 Kansas at No. 22 Missouri – 11 a.m. CBS
The Tigers are unbeaten at home this year, but with few quality wins. KU has won 8 of 9 against MU since Mike Anderson took over in Columbia in 2006. A loss for Mizzou would mean the Tigers’ first three-game losing streak since Jan. 2008. Kansas claims the league title outright with a win.KANSAS: The Jayhawks (28-2, 13-2) sure didn’t look like a league champion in their Big Monday game at K-State, but they have looked the part since then. Four easy wins have made the Jayhawks a likely No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, especially when you consider how well they’ve done in the league tournament in recent years.
The strengths that pushed KU through tough nonconference games early have stayed with the team during league play. They are the best passing team in the league, operating brilliantly in the halfcourt.
It also helps they shoot remarkably well from the outside. Even the Morris twins, who like to trail on the fast break, can both pull up and hit a 2o-footer confidently.
In the first meeting in Lawrence, KU maintained a four-point lead at the half. They stretched it throughout the middle of the second half, rooted largely in a withering segment of about four or five minutes where they scored on almost every possession. As well as Missouri seemed to operate offensively in the first half, there was no way the Tigers could keep up with that kind of output.
Fortunately for the Jayhawks, Bill Self has had Missouri scouted better than any other coach in the league (with a nod to Doc Sadler). Missouri wins at home because they force turnovers, so as long as Kansas can avoid that (as good teams should), I bet they find a lead before too long.
MISSOURI: The Tigers (22-8, 8-7) are not playing well. It would probably take a blowout loss to Kansas AND an inexcusable first-round loss to a conference bottom-dweller to even put Missouri on the bubble.
Still, the Tigers have provided us no indication they will play well enough to advance in the NCAAs.
(Remember, taking a blowout loss to Kansas and an inexcusable first-round loss to last-place Nebraska is exactly how the Tigers limped into the NCAA Tournament last year.)
The Tigers have struggled with foul trouble. Their interior depth is noticeably thin when Ricardo Ratliffe and Laurence Bowers are on the bench. Defensively, they are inconsistent.
Bowers’ jump shot, which looked so good throughout most of conference play, disappeared in road games at Kansas State and Nebraska. Kim English, who has failed to break a habit of bad shot selection all season, had a brutal 1 for 9 shooting night in Lincoln.
Bramlage is the only road venue KU has seen that is as bad as Mizzou Arena will be tomorrow, and that was a disaster. Despite its recent poor play, it’s only reasonable to expect the Tigers will play better tomorrow than they have lately – at least in spurts.
There is much more pressure on Missouri. Kansas can lose and still get a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs with a good performance in Kansas City. But Mizzou has much more improvement to make in the next week and a half.
I would point out a key player for the Tigers, but a better effort is needed across the board. That’s what it will take to beat Kansas and to win the elimination games soon to follow.
Kansas 81, Missouri 66