Tiger Basketball Preview: Colorado Buffaloes

The Missouri Tigers kick off their 2011 Big 12 conference basketball schedule by traveling to Boulder to play the Buffs

On Saturday afternoon, (12:45 P.M., Big 12), the #9/#8 Missouri Tigers (14-1) travel to Boulder, CO to take on the Colorado Buffaloes (11-4) in the conference opener for both teams.

Each team has enjoyed a successful non-conference slate, but the conference season represents a new challenge for both squads. Missouri's Coach Anderson talked about heading into the conference opener.

"This non-conference season is over," said Coach Anderson. "Now, we get to the real deal........................ We go on the road to play against a very improved Colorado team................... We've got to lean on some of those veteran guys...................... Because they've been through it. Not only just going on the road, but the level of intensity (in conference play) just shoots through the roof."

Colorado is scoring 84.8 points/game, which ranks 7th nationally, and are led by a high-scoring tandem of guards, in 6'6" sophomore Alec Burks (19.1 points/game), and 6'5" senior Cory Higgins (16.6 points/game). Burks has been named to the Wooden Award Mid-Season Top 30 Watch List.

"They're playing some pretty good basketball," said Coach Anderson, talking about the Buffaloes. "I mean, they're scoring. They're playing (with) a lot (more) freedom. I think Tad (Colorado Head Coach Tad Boyle) is doing a great job. They've got all returning starters....................... They're scoring the basketball."

Coach Boyle has improved depth this year. In addition to sharpshooter 6'4" senior G Levi Knutson (11.4 points/game), who is hitting 50% of his 3-PT FGAs, the Buffs return starters, 6'7" senior F Marcus Relphorde (12.1 points/game, 4.2 rebounds/game), 6'9" junior F Austin Dufault (9 points/game, 5 rebounds/game), and 6'3" junior G Nate Tomlinson (3.6 points/game, 2.9 assists/game).

And, the addition of 6'7" freshman G Andre Roberson (6.7 points/game, 7.7 rebounds/game), and 6'1" RSF G Shannon Sharpe, gives Coach Boyle a quality eight-man rotation.

Colorado is more than willing to push the pace, especially on the offensive end. Coach Boyle is trying to get the Buffaloes to play better defense.

"We want to play an up-tempo style," explained Coach Boyle. "We want to get up and down the floor....................... We've got to get better on defense, and in defensive rebounding. The only way you get leads, and you extend leads, is to get stops...................... And, that gets down to mentality. Defense and rebounding comes from a mentality that you have. That's what we're trying to instill......................... Players are instinctively dialed in offensively. As coaches, we have to emphasize the defensive end."

Missouri is averaging 86.4 points/game, so the conference opener is likely to be a high-scoring affair. The team that is able to get stops likely emmerges victorious.

Marcus Denmon enters conference play averaging 17.2 points/game. Denmon, who was just named to the Wooden Award Mid-Season Top 30 Watch List, has been the model of efficiency with his play this season.

But, Denmon is not alone. Depth is one of the Tigers' strengths. Missouri features five players averaging in double figures, and seven players who are scoring at least 7.7 points/game.

Colorado has a size advantage over Missouri on the perimeter, but the Tigers should have the advantage on the inside.

"The first thing you've got to turn up (in conference play) is the intensity level, and the sense of urgency," explained Coach Anderson, when asked what is different about conference play. "You've got to play every play like it's your last."

Comparative Statistics

Missouri Colorado

FGM: 474 446

FGA: 980 893

FG %: .484 .499

3pt FGM: 118 84

3pt FGA: 301 232

3FG %: .392 .362

FTM: 230 296

FTA: 319 381

FT % .721 .777

Points: 1296 1272

Per Game: 86.4 84.8

Reb./Gm 37.9 35.9

Steals 10.3 8.2

Assists: 18.7 14.8

Blocks: 5.5 3.2

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