The Rivalry Continues

It's rivalry week and coming off just one day of rest, KU takes on Missouri with both schools contending for the top spot in the conference. This rivalry just got even more heated. Phog.net has a preview.

The last couple of years the KU/Missouri rivalry has been a bit one-sided with the Jayhawks coming out with a win in the last five straight meetings. But this is a different year and different Missouri team. Beating the Tigers in Columbia will present a whole new set of challenges for KU.

For the 102nd time these two Border War rivals will lock horns but an already heated series just got even hotter. Missouri is still a legitimate Big 12 title contender (20-4, 7-2) and is off to its best start in years. This is Mizzou's first 20-win season since 2002-2003. It should make an already hostile environment even more frenzied.

KU head coach Bill Self was playfully asked if he would speak to his young Jayhawks about the type of atmosphere they were in store for in Columbia, and Self playfully responded, "Why?  They don't like us?" Self smiled and then informed the media of one of the more obvious facts -- that the two schools don't exactly care for each other much.

"We've had good games there and we've had good atmospheres," said Self referring to prior games in Columbia. "I would think that they're probably as excited about their team as they have been in a long time. I bet the place will be jumping."

There is certainly plenty of reason for Missouri fans to be excited. The Tigers are a perfect 14-0 at home this season and they haven't just won those contests – they have dominated all of them winning all of them and have won each of their Big 12 games by double-digits. They've done it by putting up and average of 90.5 points per game with an average margin of victory of 28.5 ppg. This includes a 45-point win vs. Colorado, a 31-point win vs. Iowa State, and a 27-point stomping of Cal.
 
Missouri's high octane offense really starts on the defensive end where Mike Anderson features his own version of "40 minutes of hell". The Tigers are turning over opponents at an alarming rate and they don't just turn you over – they turn it into points at the other end forcing 19.2 turnovers per game and averaging 22.6 points off miscues. 30 percent of Mizzou's points have come off turnovers this season.

Missouri's press has gone both ways this year. Teams have successfully dismantled the press by attacking it and scoring easy baskets at the other end. But most teams have crumbled under the pressure. KU, coming off a 17 turnover performance on Saturday will have to value the basketball and take better care of the rock then they did down the stretch vs. OSU.

"I think they're good," Self acknowledged. "They play so hard and they get 75 percent of the 50-50 balls."

Winning 50-50 balls, cutting down on turnovers, and keeping Mizzou under 80 points are all keys for this Big Monday matchup. When Missouri scores 80 or more points they are 16-0 on the season.

It is not just the press spurring on Anderson's team's success this season. Seven players average five or more points a game and the Tigers second in the nation in assists-per-game (19.5) which means they are playing team basketball at its finest.

A'It seems like to me it's a fun team to coach and be around because they're sharing it and they have interchangeable parts," Self respectfully said of Missouri. "It should be a lot of fun going over there on Monday."

Though there is balance, there are two stars on offense for Missouri. Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll both average double-figures (14.6 ppg, 17.4 ppg) and have led the Tigers in scoring 18 times this season. Carroll has been in double-figures in 21 of 24 games thus far while Lyons has put up double-digits in 12 straight Big 12 games.

"To me Carroll is a first team all-leaguer no matter how you slice it because everything runs through him," Self said of Carroll who ranks in the top eight of five statistical categories in the Big 12. "He goes and makes plays for other people as a four-man, he keeps balls alive, and I'm a big fan."  

Kansas already has four quality Big 12 road wins under its belt but none would be as big as this one for the fans and the standings.

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