Tiger Basketball Preview: Kansas Jayhawks

The Missouri Tigers basketball team will face their biggest road test of the season in Lawrence against the Jayhawks

On Monday night (8:10 P.M., ESPN), the #2 Kansas Jayhawks (22-1, 7-1) play host to the #14/#15 Missouri Tigers (18-5, 4-4), in Big 12 Conference action.  Missouri comes into Allen Field House after having bounced back from a pair of road losses with an 89-73 home win over Colorado.

Kansas' most recent outing was an 86-66 win at Nebraska, a game in which Bill Self's Jayhawks were without 6'2" freshman G Josh Selby.  It's unclear at this writing whether the talented Selby, who averages 12 points/game, and 3.2 assists/game, and is connecting on 43% of his 3-PT attempts, will be available against Missouri.

Whether Selby plays or not, Kansas will still have plenty of ammunition.  The Jayhawks are big, physical, and talented up front.  Kansas' two leading scorers are 6'9" junior F Marcus Morris, who is averaging 16.7 points/game and 6.8 rebounds/game, and his twin brother, 6'10" junior C Markieff Morris, who is averaging 13.1 points/game and 8.5 rebounds/game
In Selby's stead, Coach Self will likely go with 6'3" junior G Tyshawn Taylor, who averages 8.4 points/game and 4.8 assists/game, 6'3" senior G Tyrel Reed, who averages 9.7 points/game, and is hitting 38% from behind the 3-PT line, and 6'4" senior G Brady Morningstar, who is hitting 37% of his 3-PT attempts.

The Jayhawks bench is deep, including 6'9" sophomore F Thomas Robinson, who averages 8.9 points/game and 6.4 rebounds/game, 6'6" senior G Mario Little, 6'4" sophomore G Elijah Johnson,  7'0" sophomore C Jeff Withey, and 6'5" sophomore G Travis Releford.

For Coach Anderson's Missouri squad, juniors Ricardo Ratliffe and Marcus Denmon provide the inside, and the outside, punch.  Coach Anderson made some long overdue line-up changes against Colorado, in an attempt to improve Missouri's defense.  The line-up changes were effective enough that he has to be pleased with the results, and one would expect that he would stick with the new starting line-up, and the associated distribution of minutes.

Joining Denmon, Missouri's leading scorer, at 16.7 points/game, and Ratliffe, who is scoring 11.7 points/game and grabbing 6.8 rebounds/game, in Missouri's starting line-up, will likely be junior Laurence Bowers, who is scoring 10.7 points/game, and pulling down 5.7 rebounds/game, junior Matt Pressey, who is scoring 7.1 points/game, and freshman Phil Pressey, who is scoring 6.3 points/game, handing out 3.9 assists/game, and garnering 1.8 steals/game.  Bowers is also second in the Big 12 Conference in blocked shots, with 2.1 blocks/game.  Denmon's 3-PT FG% has fallen off in conference play, but his 46% 3-PT FG% still ranks second in the conference.  Denmon 2.1 steals/game also ranks second in the Big 12.

Coming in off of the bench for Missouri, is sophomore Mike Dixon, who is scoring 10.4 points/game, handing out 4.1 assists/game, and garnering 2 steals/game, junior Kim English, who is scoring 10.8 points/game, junior Steve Moore, senior Justin Safford, and freshman Ricky Kreklow.

Missouri hasn't won a conference road game this season, and beating the Jayhawks on their home floor will be a challenge.  The Tigers will need to play excellent defense, gang rebound, take care of the basketball, and make shots, from the field, and from the FT line.   In other words, Missouri needs to play their best game of the year, and they need to do it on the road in what will be an extremely hostile environment. 

That's going to require that the Tigers play with more intelligence than they've thus far demonstrated.  Coach Anderson's line-up changes will help in that regard. 

Missouri needs to get the ball inside to Ratliffe, and to Denmon on the perimeter.  Missouri will need to turn up the defensive pressure, and do so without fouling the Jayhawks.

"We're going to go in there, and we're going to leave it on the floor,"  said Coach Anderson, talking about playing Kansas on Monday night.  "They're playing awfully well.  Hopefully, we can have one of those games where we play well, as well." 
Statistically, for those watching on ESPN, this is one of the better Big Monday match-ups of the season.  Missouri/Kansas features the top two scoring teams in the Big 12, and the two leading assist teams in the conference, as well.  Missouri and Kansas are first and second in steals, in the Big 12, and second and first in assist/turnover ratio.

This contest also features the top two players in the conference in field goal percentage, Marcus Morris, at 60% FG%, and Ricardo Ratliffe, at 59% FG%.

As a team, Kansas leads the nation in FG%, at 52% FG%.  The Jayhawks are also 8th in the country in FG% defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 38% from the field.  They're also very good against the 3-PT shot, as opponents are shooting just 28% from 3-PT land against Kansas, which ranks 6th in the country.

Comparative Statistics

Missouri   Kansas
FGM: 695 694
FGA: 1492 1335
FG %: .466 .520
3pt FGM: 174 168
3pt FGA: 463 435
3FG %: .376 .386
FTM: 353 350
FTA: 490 525
FT % .720 .667
Points: 1917 1906
Per Game: 83.3 82.9
Reb./Gm 37.6 38.9
Steals 10.0 8.6
Assists: 17.1 18.2
Blocks: 5.6 4.4

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