Missouri Basketball: Big 12 Tourney Preview

On Thursday (6:00 P. M., Big 12 Network), the #5 Missouri Tigers (27-4, 14-4) begin postseason play in the Big 12 Tournament as the number two seed at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

On Thursday (6:00 P. M., Big 12 Network), the #5 Missouri Tigers (27-4, 14-4) begin postseason play in the Big 12 Tournament at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.  As the number two seed, Missouri awaits the winner of Wednesday's game between Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.

On Saturday, Missouri closed out the regular season with an 81-59 road win over Texas Tech (8-22, 1-17), to complete a season sweep of the Red Raiders.

Missouri split with Oklahoma State (14-17, 7-11) during the regular season, losing 72-79 to the Cowboys in Stillwater, before evening things up, with an 83-65 win in Columbia.    Oklahoma State is reeling from late-season injuries.  Philp Jurick is out and Big 12 Freshman of the Year Le'Bryan Nash is doubtful, and would be severely limited even if he did play.

With a win on Thursday, the Tigers will advance onto the tournament semi-finals on Friday (9:00 P.M., Big 12 Network / ESPNU) to face the Iowa State – Texas winner, with the Finals to be played on Saturday (5:00 P.M., ESPN).

Texas and Iowa State split a pair of regular-season games.  The Longhorns will be short-handed, after injuries to two of their big men.   Clint Chapman is playing at less than 100%, and Alexis Wangmene is likely out for the rest of the season.

Since this is Missouri's last season as a member of the Big 12 Conference, this is the Tigers final Big 12 Tournament.

On Monday, the AP named Missouri Head Coach Frank Haith as the Coach of the Year in the Big 12.

In this final Big 12 season for Missouri, the Tigers lead the conference in scoring (79.7 points/game), scoring margin (+14.5), field goal percentage (50% FG%), 3-PT field-goal percentage (39% 3-PT FG%), free-throw percentage (77% FT%), assists (16.1 assist/game), turnover margin (+4.3), assist/turnover ratio (1.54 A/T), and steals (8.3 steals/game).

This year's Missouri team won more regular-season (27) and regular-season conference (14) games than any in school history.  This year's senior class has won more games during the last four years (104) than during any four-year period in school history.

"We're very grateful for what we've been able to accomplish so far,"  explained Coach Haith.   "I think this team should be commended for what they've accomplished.  I mean, they've set some standards here………………………………………….. Those things cannot be taken away from these guys.   But, they're determined to have that chapter is closed, and now we start another chapter, and that's postseason play.  The next couple of weeks are very important……………………………………….. It's simple now.  You lose, you're done!  In both tournaments.  So, I think this team is focusing on continuing to win, and continuing to play."

Marcus Denmon is the second-leading scorer in the conference, at 18 points/game.  Denmon is also averaging 5.1 rebounds/game, and 2.2 assists/game.

Earlier this week, Denmon was named First-Team All-Big 12 for the second consecutive season.  Denmon ranks second in the conference in free-throw percentage (89% FT%) and 3-PT field goals made (2.94), third in steals (1.55), sixth in field-goal percentage (47% FG%), and seventh in 3-PT field goal percentage (42% 3-PT FG%).

With 1714 points, Denmon is currently sixth on Missouri's career scoring list.

1. Derrick Chievous (1985-88) 2,580

2. Doug Smith (1988-91) 2,184

3. Anthony Peeler (1989-92) 1,970

4. Steve Stipanovich (1980-83) 1,836

5. Arthur Johnson (2001-04) 1,759

"He's tremendous!  He's going to go down as being one of the all-time greats to ever play at Mizzou,"  said Coach Haith, talking about Marcus Denmon.  "He's got over seventeen-hundred points, but he just does so much.  I'm very proud that I've had the opportunity to be around this young man for one year.  He's not just a special player, but he's a special young man."

Ricardo Ratliffe is averaging 13.8 points/game, and 7.5 rebounds/game.  His 71 % FG% leads the conference and is on pace for a school record.   Ratliffe was named All-Big 12 second team by both the coaches and the media.

Phil Pressey has averaged 9.6 points/game, and 3.3 rebounds/game this season.  Phil Pressey leads the Big 12 in assists (6.2 assists/game), and steals (2.1 assists/game), and he ranks second in assist/turnover ratio (2.5 A/T). 

Phil Pressey now holds Missouri's single-season assist record (191) formerly held by Anthony Peeler, who had 179 assists in 1989-90.   He's a key component to the Tigers' post-season aspirations.  When Phil Pressey plays with great intensity and focus on the defensive end, he has the ability to raise Missouri to a whole other level.  Phil Pressey was named AP All-Big 12 second team and All-Big 12 third team by the coaches.

Michael Dixon has come off of the bench all year, and is averaging 13.3 points/game, and 3.1 assists/game

Dixon was a unanimous selection as the Big 12's Sixth Man of the Year, and a member of the Conference's All-Defensive Team, as selected by the coaches, and an AP All-Big 12 Honorable Mention.

Kim English has averaged 14.1 points/game, and 4.2 rebounds/game.  English has made 50% of his field-goal attempts this season, and he ranks second in the Big 12 in 3-PT field-goal percentage (45% 3-PT FG%).

Denmon and English share the school record for games played (137).  On Sunday, the Big 12 Coaches named English All-Big 12 third team.  On Monday, he was named AP All-Big 12 Honorable Mention.

Coach Haith was asked if his team is equipped to win out?

"Well, we'd love to have a couple of more guys,"  replied Coach Haith.   "But I think the seven guys we've got are pretty good."

"We've got great guards,"  continued Coach Haith.   "I always think that if you've got really good guards, you've got a chance at this time of year, because you can control the game.   I would like to be playing better defense.  So, that's what we've got to work on right now.  But there's no question, this time of year, when you have guard play, and if you're within reach in the last four minutes of the game, you've always got a chance.  And, we do have that.  In terms of being equipped, we do have that on this team."

The last time that Missouri played at the Sprint Center, the Tigers played pretty well, so they should be feeling good about playing in Kansas City.

"We all understand that it's win or go home,"   said Marcus Denmon.   "It's a one-game season……………………………………….  There's nothing to save it for.  Everyone has to be at the highest of their playing abilities and focus."

"Our team needs to just continue to keep our focus at a high level, and continue to guard,"   Denmon explained the Tigers recipe for success.  "And just play defense, because this time of the year defense and free throws are things that need to be really constant.  So, just continue to guard, and get better on the defensive end.  With the weapons that we have, the offense will come."


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