1. Mizzou Struggling
It's been a rough season for the Tigers, who enter the matchup 8-11 overall and 1-5 in SEC play. On top of that, Mizzou has already been removed from postseason consideration (including their spot in the SEC Tournament) due to NCAA rules violations alleged against the staff of previous head coach Frank Haith. Despite the dark cloud hanging over their heads, the Tigers have been moderately competitive in their last three games, including a 13-point loss to SEC-leading Texas A&M on Saturday at College Station. They also own a 15-point win over Auburn, a team that beat Kentucky. As John Calipari loves to say, the Wildcats are "everybody's Super Bowl," but that may be even more true with this particular opponent. Mizzou has never beaten UK in eight previous meetings, so it would likely make their season to do it Wednesday at Rupp Arena. Barring a complete no-show by the No. 20 Cats (15-4, 5-2 SEC), who may get caught looking ahead to Saturday's high-profile clash with Kansas, this shouldn't be the breakthrough game for the Tigers.
2. Defying The Recruiting Rankings
Mizzou freshman Kevin Puryear came out of Blue Springs (Mo.) South High School as an overlooked 2-star prospect, but has been an overwhelming success story for the Tigers in his first season. The 6-foot-7, 236-poound forward is averaging a team-leading 11.5 points while shooting 49 percent from the field and 82 percent at the line. On January 20 against Georgia, he became the sixth-fastest player in program history to reach the 200-point mark. He posted a double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) in the Tigers' win over Auburn, and had a 19-point performance against Georgia that included a 9-for-10 effort at the free-throw line. As a senior in high school, he helped lead Blue Springs South to its first Missouri Class 5 state championship.
3. Willis On A Roll
The emergence of Derek Willis the last four games -- averaging 9.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.75 blocks -- has "completely changed this team," according to Calipari. The 6-foot-10 junior forward has logged more than 30 minutes in each of the last three games, leading UK in rebounding each time. His ability to stretch defenses with his perimeter shooting (20 of 52, 39 percent from beyond the arc) has forced opponents to reconsider sitting back in the zones that the Cats saw almost exclusively during the first half of the season. UK has shot almost five percent better from long range during the last four games than it did previously. Mizzou features only one player taller than 6-8, so the Cats boast a big size advantage in this matchup.