Mike Anderson will try to shake one giant burden off his back Monday when he goes for his first win against the hated Kansas Jayhawks.
Anderson is 0-4 against Kansas since taking over as Mizzou's head man in 2006, and the Tigers have dropped five straight to KU. Anderson had his shot at his first win against another rival, Illinois, on national television earlier this year, but he and most Missouri fans would rather not relive that experience on ESPN's Big Monday.
The Jayhawks (19-4, 8-0) will roll into Mizzou Arena with an undefeated conference record Monday, and Missouri (20-4, 7-2) is very much in the thick of the conference race, sitting just two games behind the Jayhawks and the no.2-ranked Oklahoma Sooners. The Tigers have been dominant at home lately, and boast a 25-game home court winning streak.
Anderson isn't the only Tiger looking for his first win over the Jayhawks, as only seniors Matt Lawrence and Leo Lyons have tasted victory in the Border Showdown, and eight Tigers have never faced the Kansas on the hard court. The Jayhawks don't have a lot of Border Showdown veterans either, as they 11 players who've never seen time against Mizzou.
Though lots of Tigers and Jayhawks are getting their first taste of the bitter rivalry tonight, some are quite familiar with what a victory would mean to their school and state.
Kansas is led by junior guard Sherron Collins, who boasts the most experience against the Tigers. Collins has scored in double digits in three of his four contests against Mizzou, including an impressive 23-point performance as a freshman. Collins is Kansas' leading scorer this season, averaging 18 a game, in addition to five assists and nearly three rebounds.
Another key player for Kansas is sophomore big man Cole Aldrich, who's averaging 10 rebounds and nearly 15 points a game this season. At 6'11", Aldrich could pose some serious problems for a smaller Missouri squad.
Missouri senior forward Demarre Carroll comes into Monday's game on a bit of a hot streak. He put up 31 points Saturday in a win over Iowa State, and is averaging over 17 points a game on almost 60-percent shooting in conference play.
Keys to success for Missouri
Stay out of foul trouble - If Mizzou allows Aldrich to catch the ball in a scoring position consistently, big men Carroll, Lyons, and Keith Ramsey could get into early foul trouble. If the Tigers are going to win, they're going to need Lyons and Carroll on the floor down the stretch.
Contain Collins-If Sherron Collins is can break Missouri's press easily, he'll be able to find open shots and easy buckets for his teammates in transition.
The Fans- Mizzou Arena has been anything but a scary place for visiting Jayhawks, and if the Tigers are going to turn the corner in this department, the Missouri faithful will need to be loud all evening.
The newbies- Missouri and Kansas both have a load of guys with little or no experience in this rivalry, and whoever can get the most production out of their young guys will likely come out on top.
Take what they give you- Missouri has traditionally struggled from the free throw line during Anderson's reign, and their inability to capitalize at the charity stripe cost them a win against Xavier earlier this season. If this version of the Border Showdown is as close as expected, free throws will be crucial.