Some rivalries start over a girl. Others start over a person selfishly nabbing that last slice of pizza. The Mizzou-Kansas rivalry, on the other hand, started because of a little thing called “The Civil War.”
So yeah, it’s kind of serious. Missouri and Kansas will be meeting on the basketball court for the 264th time on Monday night, and the Tigers are looking to win in Phog Allen Fieldhouse for the first time since 1999. That’s not to say that other schools have had much better luck in Lawrence, however.
The Jayhawks had won a nation-best 69 straight home games before falling to the Texas Longhorns on January 22nd. Add that to the fact that Kansas offers consistent and experienced shooters, the superior size and post ability of the brothers Morris, and that Mizzou is 0-4 on the road in the Big 12, and everything seems to point towards the Tigers being in for a world of hurt.
So does Mizzou stand a chance, or are they in line for a worse performance than the Black Eyed Peas in the Super Bowl halftime show? Well, as I see it, any team can be victorious on any given night (ask the Appalachian State football team). As for Missouri, they certainly have a chance to win, but to do so they will need to play an absolutely perfect game.
The first thing they need to do is start fast. Missouri has not fared very well in hostile environments thus far (understatement), and so they need to come out of the gates running. If they can shoot well early and quiet the 16,300 maniacal Jayhawks fans packed inside of Allen Fieldhouse, they’ll have a chance to ride that momentum and then hold on for dear life. Because if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about Big 12 basketball, it’s that there are no blowout road victories. That is, unless Texas A&M is hosting Texas.
It may seem cliché, but Mizzou also desperately needs to play the “Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball” (ever heard of it?). The Tigers score most of their points off turnovers or missed shots, by moving the ball in transition and catching defenses out of position. If you haven’t noticed already, Missouri’s half-court offense is not its strong suit. When forced to slow down, the Tigers have trouble separating from defenders and often are forced into contested jumpers. And when you’re depending on the tornado of inconsistency that is Kimmie English, that doesn’t bode well.
Speaking of English, the 6’6” junior will need to shoot well from outside in order to take the pressure off of Marcus Denmon. English was the team’s leading scorer last season with 14 points per game, but struggled mightily with his shot during non-conference play and is just now appearing to regain his confidence. He scored 21 points against Colorado on Saturday night, and will need a similar effort Monday in Lawrence in order for Mizzou to have a puncher’s chance.
Ultimately, I don’t think Mizzou will be able to overcome Kansas’ superior talent and sizable home court advantage. The Tigers have played their worst basketball on the road, and have yet to figure out how to close out big games. Mizzou has lost by an average of 22 points in their last two games at Phog Allen Fieldhouse, and that’s not a stat that can be easily overlooked.
But like I said, there’s always a chance. I was wrong about the Super Bowl, and I wouldn’t mind being wrong again- just one more time.