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February 9, 2009No one covers the Tigers like PowerMizzou.com. All of our coverage of Big Monday against Kansas will be free, but to follow the Tigers year-round, sign up today to start your Free Seven-Day Trial.
Missouri looks to stretch its winning streak to four as the Tigers return home to face Kansas in a nationally televised Big Monday battle. Missouri is 19-and-4 and 7-and-2 in Big 12 play. Kansas is 19-and-4 and 8-and-0. Kansas leads the series 166-93, including 63-55 in Columbia. PowerMizzou.com has the preview:
More than a Little Boost: Junior college transfer Mario Little got a late start due to injury this season. But Little has now played 11 games and has added a lot to the Jayhawks. Little is averaging six points per game, but has steadily improved. Little shared Big 12 Newcomer of the Week honors with Missouri's Zaire Taylor after averaging 12.5 points and four rebounds in two Kansas wins last week. He is shooting better than 62% from the floor.
Collins Elevates his Game: The key for the Jayhawks is the play of junior guard Sherron Collins. After playing a supporting role on KU's 2007-08 team, Collins is the unquestioned leader this season. He is tops on the team in minutes (34.4), scoring (18 ppg), assists (4.9) and steals (1.2). In the Jayhawks' four losses, Collins has made just 26 of his 74 shots (35.1%).
D is the Key: Kansas is good on offense, ranking in the league's top half in scoring (6th), shooting percentage (3rd), three-point percentage (4th) and free throw percentage (3rd). But as is the norm for a Bill Self team, the Jayhawks have defense to thank for their unbeaten conference record. Kansas is holding teams to 64.8 points per game. The Jayhawks lead the league in field goal percentage defense and rank second in three-point percentage defense (behind the Tigers). Missouri leads the Big 12 in scoring, so something has to give tonight.
Balance Becomes Mizzou: Missouri has had six different players lead the team in scoring in Big 12 play. In the last three games, three different Tigers have set career highs in scoring. Two different players have scored 30 or more in that stretch. Missouri leads the league in scoring despite having just one player in the top 20 individually.
Tigers like to Share: The Tigers rank second nationally with 19.5 assists per game. In the win over Iowa State, Mizzou had 23 assists on 30 made shots. J.T. Tiller and Zaire Taylor both rank in the league's top ten with 3.5 helpers per game, but every Tiger averaging more than six minutes per contest except for Leo Lyons has at least as many assists as turnovers.
Home Sweet Home: Missouri has won all 14 of its home games this season and 15 in a row overall. The Tigers have not just won over that stretch, they have dominated. Missouri is outscoring its opponents by an average of 28.5 points per game during the winning streak, including a 26-point average margin in four Big 12 home games this season. The home-court winning streak is tied for the seventh-longest active streak in the nation and the seventh-best in school history. Ironically, Kansas holds the longest current home streak with 37 in a row at Allen Fieldhouse.
Contain Collins: As mentioned earlier, when Collins struggles, the Jayhawks can have trouble. The Tigers need to make someone else beat them. The key is not only in containing his scoring numbers, but forcing him to turn it over. Collins averages 3.3 turnovers a game. The Tigers need to make him give it up and turn those mistakes into points. If Collins can break the Tigers' pressure without help, Kansas is capable of putting up a lot of points.
Go After Aldrich: Cole Aldrich is a mountain in the middle and could cause Missouri plenty of problems. He is averaging a double-double on the year and Mizzou has been prone to giving up second-chance points. To counter that, Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll must use their advantage athletically to draw Aldrich out of the lane and possibly create foul trouble. If the Tigers can put Aldrich on the bench with fouls or by wearing him down, they can nullify any advantage the Jayhawks may have in the paint because the Morris twins have not proven to be consistent so far this season.
Start Fast: If you only had one key, this is it. Taking out the Texas game, Missouri has trailed for just 61 seconds in its other six Big 12 wins. That happened when Baylor took a one-point lead to start the second half at Mizzou Arena. But in the Tigers' two Big 12 losses, they trailed for every single second. If Missouri can jump out to a quick lead, it has proven that they are tough to catch. In addition, it will get a wild sellout crowd into the game early and the young Jayhawks haven't played in at atmosphere anywhere close to what they are likely to see tonight.
Official Prediction: Honestly, nothing would come as a surprise. In this rivalry, you expect close games, but the fact of the matter is, Missouri hasn't played anything approaching a close game at home this season. On the flip side, Kansas hasn't lost at Mizzou Arena in its last three trips. The Jayhawks are young, but their leader, Collins, won't be intimidated by the atmosphere. In the end, this is a Missouri team that looks to be hitting its stride and somebody will have to beat them at Mizzou Arena before we predict it to happen. The Tigers get the win 83-77.
PowerMizzou.com will provide complete coverage from Mizzou Arena tonight.
No one covers the Tigers like PowerMizzou.com. All of our coverage of Big Monday against Kansas will be free, but to follow the Tigers year-round, sign up today to start your Free Seven-Day Trial.