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February 6, 2010Missouri looks to bounce back and finish the first half of Big 12 play with a winning record. The Tigers travel to Boulder on Saturday to take on the Colorado Buffaloes, who took top-ranked Kansas to overtime on Wednesday. PowerMizzou.com takes a look at five factors to watch in the pivotal Big 12 matchup.
Win the rebounding battle
In most games, this isn't a realistic goal for this Tiger team. But this isn't most games. Colorado is guard-driven and doesn't have a dominant player on the boards. If Keith Ramsey and Justin Safford can't step up their production on the glass in this game, it's tough to find one where they will.
Missouri's best offense is always going to be a result of dribble drives. They don't have low-post scorers so they have to get their guards in the paint. Colorado does plenty of things well, but defense doesn't particularly seem to be one of them. If the Tigers can get in the lane, they should have some open shots.
Speed it up
Colorado doesn't play at the glacial pace Nebraska does, but the Buffs don't want to get into the eighties or nineties either. Missouri again struggled against Texas A&M when the Aggies were able to slow the game down and make the Tigers attack in the half court. Missouri needs to get up and down a bunch in Boulder. Due to their depth, altitude fatigue shouldn't be an issue.
Unleash Laurence Bowers
If these keys were in order, this might be number one. The fact is, the Tigers' starting forwards have to start feeling some heat. Missouri had only 26 rebounds against A&M. Bowers had ten of them. He also had 11 points and is the only Tiger forward who seems consistently able to get to the free throw line. Bowers isn't the tradition back to the bucket forward or anything, but he's the best frontcourt scorer Missouri has. It's time to give him as many minutes as he can handle.
End it early
Missouri has had a habit of keeping every Big 12 game close well into the second half (except for the loss in Lawrence). Missouri never had a double digit lead against A&M and coughed up a nine-point edge with a ridiculously long scoring drought. Missouri is going to go through those droughts at times because the Tigers are so reliant on jump shots. If you're up 16, you can handle a drought. If you're up six, you can't. Colorado has managed to stay in close games with a lot of teams this year. The Buffs problem has been finishing. Eventually, they're going to figure out how to do it. Missouri can't let CU hang around. They need to remove doubt from this one early if possible because they haven't been all that good down the stretch in close games much of the year.
Breakdown and prediction
The Buffs have been in a lot of games. But they haven't won many. Eventually, that wears on a team. The Tigers haven't been all that good away from home. But this is a desperate team. A loss more or less ends realistic tournament hopes. Maybe that's not much of a reason to pick a team, but we're picking Missouri because the Tigers simply have to win. We'll say it's 84-79 Missouri.