The Missouri Tigers are 9-0, and atop the Southeastern Conference. They face their biggest challenge of the season when they welcome the Kansas Jayhawks to Mizzou Arena in Columbia.
The Kansas Jayhawks are also first in their conference, The Big 12 conference. 8-1 on the season with their only loss to the seventh-ranked Tennessee Volunteers.
There is a significant difference in the strength of the schedule between the two teams. The Tigers have faced minimal opposition throughout their first nine games. On the other side of the page, Kansas has already played North Carolina State, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Duke. To say the opposing team matchups have been lopsided is quite an understatement.
Kansas, the more successful and storied franchise leads the series all-time 175-95, including seven consecutive wins over the Missouri Tigers. The rivalry took a break upon Missouri’s departure from The Big 12 when the university moved to the SEC conference.
In what will be almost a year to the day, on December 11, 2021, the Missouri Tigers suffered a 37-point loss to the Jayhawks in Lawrence, Kansas. Despite a change in coaching and some departed players, that loss still stings. The alumni and fanbase certainly feel it. Everyone that supports and cheers for the University of Missouri feels it.
For decades, the Missouri Tigers have made the KU game their mission and their passion. Although often on the losing end, nothing is more important than beating Kansas. If you ask the right fan, they will tell you they would prefer that to a Final Four. That sounds intense and irrational, but so is this rivalry.
This year, the Missouri Tigers have a real chance at besting big brother. The Tigers are 3.5 underdogs. The home crowd means something, and this Mizzou team is far better than the one the Jayhawks faced in 2021. To that end, this is still a very favorable line for Kansas. As mentioned earlier, Mizzou has not played anyone that was a real threat, aside from Wichita State. The Tigers have looked great, but it is one of the softer schedules to date, from a power conference team.
The only way Mizzou wins this game is through senior, Kobe Brown. Brown will need to contribute on the offensive end, but his defense is what will be most important. Kansas’ Jalen Wilson is a superstar, and Player of the Year candidate. The roadmap to a Mizzou win is suffocating defense and ball pressure, on Wilson specifically. If the Tigers can hold Wilson well short of his 22 points per game, I like Mizzou’s chances.
The greatest area of concern for Head Coach, Dennis Gates entering the season was Mizzou’s lack of size. Kansas has the overall talent advantage and the size advantage. KU’s starting five will be longer and stronger than Mizzou, meaning Missouri will have to not only defend at their best, but the Tigers’ shot-making needs to be at its best. Mizzou’s size has also led to lopsided rebounding margins, even in wins. There is minimal room for error against the defending champions tonight.
Missouri Tigers Keys to Victory
· Box out and rebound on the defensive glass. Second chance points will bury the Tigers early and make the game much tougher than it needs to be.
· Stop Jalen Wilson.
· Trap and pressure at all costs. This will open transition opportunities for Kansas, but the Tigers are a deep team that can run. This is one advantage Mizzou can exploit.
· Shoot above 45% from the three-point line. Missouri will need to score a lot of points to win. The outside shot is the X factor. Expect Coach Gates to run a lot of ball screens to get a lot of stop and pops from deep.
· Active hands – no one takes the ball from their opponent better than the Tigers. Defending while staying active low will force KU into turnover and result in steals if Mizzou can do so effectively without getting into foul trouble.
· The Missouri Tigers crowd. Every bit of Tigers faithful in the house needs to be loud and proud. No seat should be filled, as they all should be standing.
This is a winnable game for Missouri, but only if they execute most or all of the above.
Want your voice heard? Join the Truman's Tales team!Write for us!