Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Missouri Basketball Preview #2

One of the cool things about conference play is the chance to play teams twice.  While this scheduling quirk is only reserved for "divisional" foes in the Big XII, it does create some interesting return trips later in the year.  The first such game for CU this year is against the Missouri Tigers.

Since I've already previewed the Tigers, I feel it'd be pointless to re-hash my not-even month old "insights".  So, in order to preview Saturday's game, I've switched things up a bit.  I'll be taking a quick look back at the previous matchup, discussing Mizzou's path since then, and talk about some things that may have changed over the past 25 days.

To simplify things, CU is coming in fresh off their rebound whupping of lowly ISU.  CU knows their collective Tournament hopes have faded quickly since their impressive 3-0 conference start, and they need an impressive win, like a return beating of ranked Mizzou, to regain the selection committee's favor.  Mizzou enters fresh off a frustrating loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater.  Mizzou now languishes at 3-4 in conference play, being perfect at home and winless on the road.  The Tigers haven't yet lived up to pre-season hype, but they are still dangerous and capable of running up the score on any opponent.  Game time is set for 5:30.  Don't bother looking for TV coverage of the game, just tune into to 760 AM and listen to the stirring voice of Mark Johnson.
Alec looks to beat his native state one last time on Saturday.  From: The BDC

This game will also mark the final regular season meeting between these two teams, and so this is my opportunity to say farewell to the Tigers.  The Tiger fanbase always seems to feel entitled to something more than what they are; as if the sporting world owes them for having fewer conference titles than anyone else.  This entitlement expanded to the point that the Governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, openly called for Mizzou to leave the Big XII for the Big 10, which kick-started conference re-alignment.  That call came irregardless of the point that the Big 10 had no real interest in Mizzou.  (Honestly, Mizzouri wasn't even on their 16-team expansion plan; that's sad)

In addition, Governor Nixon famously blasted CU and Nebraska for having poor basketball programs.  I think someone's just jealous of our lucrative new conference placements while his university is stuck to the doomed husk of the Big XII.  It's not like Mizzou was setting the world on fire in basketball, anyway.  FYI, Colorado has the same number of Big XII titles in the sport of basketball as Missouri does: 1 (Mizzou won the men's tournament 2 years ago, and CU won the women's in '97).  If the Governor of Kansas or Texas had said such a thing I'd understand, but when has Mizzou been anything but second fiddle in the Big XII era?

Anyway, so long Tigers.  I don't know why you're always so angry about something, but I'm sure you'll find peace in whatever version of C-USA you end up in.

Click below for my preview

When last we met - Back on January 8th CU started conference play by beating the top-10 ranked Mizzou Tigers 89-76.  It was surprising then, and its still a little surprising now, how relatively easily CU pulled away from Mizzou that afternoon. CU out rebounded the heavily favored Tigers by 14, and Alec Burks dropped a career-high 36 points en route to the upset.  CU shot the ball well and limited turnovers against the typically fast-break hungry Tigers to keep them at bay.  It was an impressive effort and kick-started the incredible 3-0 conference start that had the whole state buzzing about Colorado basketball for the first time in nearly a decade.
Al was everywhere last month.  He loves playing against his native state, and averages 25 points a game against them.  From: the BDC

What's happened since then - Well, Mizzou still has yet to win a Big XII road game.  They've been able to handle Nebraska, Iowa State and K-State at home, but have failed to take a road game at A&M, Texas and OSU.  You can definitely see the road losses to Texas and A&M because those teams are difficult, and playing them on the road is a tall challenge, but they probably should've beaten the Cowboys last night.  To be fair, however, because of weather the Tigers got to Stillwater barely in time for the game last night.  You may be able to chalk up their close loss to the Cowboys to travel fatigue.
Mizzou hasn't looked their best on the road this season.

Anyway, the game is being played in Columbia.  In their 3 home games since the CU loss, Mizzou is averaging 19 more points than their opponents.  They also have caused more than 19 turnovers a game and shot 44% from the field.  They haven't played the best opponents in Columbia, but they have handled everyone they've played, and have yet to lose at home overall this season.

What's different since the last game - Other than venue, not a whole lot.  Missouri is still not flying as high as a few thought they would.  While they've hung in the top-25 throwout the last month, they've still playing inconsistently.  The road losses, albeit close and to good teams, have exposed the Tigers as vulnerable away from Columbia.  Unfortunately for CU the return game has to be played in Missouri.

Mizzou still wants to try and cause turnovers and rebound in bunches to spring their fast-break defense.  While CU is very comfortable playing that style, it's still a pain in the ass to play against.  CU will have to limit turnovers and try and find their own fast break opportunities to counter with. 

Prediction - I'm pretty sure 36-point Alec Burks isn't coming through that door to carry CU this time around (...pretty sure...), so I'm having trouble with the concept of CU scoring the upset.  As much as I'd love to embarrass Governor Jay Nixon one last time, Mizzou at home is too daunting to predict a win. 

With the loss last night at OSU, Mizzou really needs this game with a trip to Lawrence on tap for next week. Couple that with their butt-hurt feelings about their performance in Boulder 25 days ago and I expect them to come out like hell-fire. 

Yes, CU matches up well against Mizzou; we like to run just as much as they do, and I'd take Higgins and Burks over Denmon and Dixon any day.  The problem is that home court advantage.  Essentially, I think Mizzou is two different squads: the home version and the road version.  CU can beat them in Boulder, but not in Columbia.  Mizzou will cause more turnovers and grab more rebounds than they did in Boulder, and the game will slip away from CU.  Mizzou 87 - CU 79


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