Missouri-Kansas: what it means

Missouri had a chance in Lawrence on Monday night, but it slipped through the Tigers' fingers for their second straight road loss with another road game at Nebraska on Saturday. What must they do now?

As the Tigers have followed the win-loss pattern perfectly since January, coach Quin Snyder has often talked about the margin for error.

After Monday night's loss at Kansas, it's gone.

At 9-9, Missouri is going to need a serious run this season or even bigger one in the Big 12 Tournament to have a chance at the NCAA Tournament. With a road game against Texas Tech left, Missouri's best chance at the tournament is to run the table at home. And yes, that means wins against Oklahoma State and the finale at home.

Without Randy Pulley as any kind of insurance, it was clear Jimmy McKinney was hesitant on Monday night to get the ball inside. That task became even more challenging when Kansas switched back to a zone in the second half. It will be interesting to see if Pulley comes back. He's not a great player, but he can give McKinney more of a rest instead of putting in freshman Spencer Laurie.

Another interesting part of last night's loss was how much Josh Kroenke played in the second half instead of Thomas Gardner. Remember, Snyder did the same thing at Iowa State and later said it was partly because Kroenke was playing his last game there. Against Kansas, Kroenke provided little for a comeback, and it was clear a change had to be made. What has Gardner done that deserves a benching? All he's done is been one of the top three players on the team behind Paulding and Johnson. It was too big of a game to leave him off the court when it mattered.

Probably the hardest part to swallow is how much Missouri could have won this game. Kansas didn't play particularly well, even in the last six minutes when it separated away. Missouri had chance after chance to come back, and it never could. Now it has to face the biggest uphill climb of Quin Snyder's coaching tenure.

The next month will sure be interesting to see if the Tigers can do it.

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