Men's basketball preview 2011

Big 12 matchup capsules

**Baylor**

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Scott Drew (ninth season)
Top returners: forwards Perry Jones III, Anthony Jones, Quincy Acy, Cory Jefferson; guards A.J. Walton, J'Mison Morgan
Top newcomers: forwards Quincy Miller and guards Pierre Jackson, Brady Heslip
Last year: Missouri won 77-59 at MU.

THE LINE

Favorable:
Missouri could keep the Bears uncomfortable if it plays at a quick pace. Baylor's rotation will feature big bodies that might struggle to keep up with a Tiger squad that prides itself on its quickness and is at its best when it's on a full-court attack. It has yet to be seen how Drew can get a group loaded talented forwards to mesh.

Unfavorable:
Bottom line: Missouri will struggle to match up with Baylor's roster. The Bears boast five players that are 6 feet, 9 inches and taller and all of them — Jones III, Miller, Jones, Morgan and Jefferson — will see the floor. If there's one area in which MU is sorely lacking, it's size. After 6-foot-9-inch senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe, senior guard Kim English is the next tallest in the starting five at 6 feet, 6 inches. Clearly, the Tigers' biggest test will be in the paint, where Jones III and Miller, projected top 10 picks in next year's NBA Draft, could dominate the league.

KEY FACEOFF
Kim English vs. Quincy Miller

MATCHUP PREDICTION:
Jan. 21 at BU: Missouri loses
Feb. 11 at MU: Missouri loses

**Iowa State**

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Fred Hoiberg (second season)
Top returners: guard Scott Christopherson and forward Melvin Ejim
Top newcomers: forwards Royce White and Anthony Booker; guards Chris Allen, Chris Babb, Tyrus Mcgee; center Percy Gibson
Last year: Missouri won 76-70 at MU.

THE LINE

Favorable:
Iowa State will rely heavily on six players who did not play a second of collegiate basketball last year – literally. White, Allen and Babb are expected to start for the Cyclones after sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules last season. Missouri, on the other hand, has a senior-filled squad. Hoiberg has a lot of confidence in his batch of transfers. But can any coach, let alone one in his second year with a program, win under such extremely unique circumstances?

Unfavorable:
The Cyclones are arguably the most intriguing team in the Big 12. White, a Minnesota transfer with a remarkable 6-foot-8-inch, 240-pound frame, has already received stellar reviews. He was selected as the preseason Big 12 newcomer of the year and didn't even play regulation basketball last season. Hoiberg said at Big 12 Media Day that he planned on playing White in different positions. He could create matchup nightmares for the Tigers this season. Michigan State transfer Chris Allen, who was last seen making 27 starts in MSU's Final Four season in 2010, will carry point guard duties.

The Cyclones enter the season with plenty of promise as well as numerous question marks. Flying under the radar could be their greatest advantage right now, and the Tigers would regret overlooking them.

KEY FACEOFF
Ricardo Ratliffe vs. Royce White

MATCHUP PREDICTION:
Jan. 11 at MU: Missouri wins
Feb. 29 at ISU: Missouri loses

**Kansas State**

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Frank Martin (fifth season)
Top returners: forward Jordan Henriquez; guards Rodney McGruder, Will Spradling and Martavious Irving
Top newcomers: forwards Thomas Gipson and Adrian Diaz; guard Angel Rodriguez
Last year: Missouri won 75-59 at MU. Kansas State won 80-70 at KSU.

THE LINE

Favorable:
Martin and crew will be in search of an identity without guard Jacob Pullen, who was a one-man-wrecking-crew last season. A blend of experience and inexperience forms this year's Wildcats. Rodriguez and Gipson made contributions for KSU in its exhibition schedule, but the freshmen still have growing to do. No one on the roster but McGruder averaged double-digit points last year and much of the offensive burdens will fall on him. The Tigers could prey on the Cats inconsistencies this season.

Unfavorable:
Martin's defensive culture faded behind Pullen's explosive performances last season. Martin has emphasized defense over the offseason and if his team latches on to his style, the Tigers could find their rhythm disturbed by Martin's patented scheme.

KEY FACEOFF
Michael Dixon vs. Rodney McGruder

MATCHUP PREDICTION:
Jan. 7 at KSU: Missouri wins
Feb. 21 at MU: Missouri wins

**Oklahoma**

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Lon Kruger (first season)
Top returners: forwards Andrew Fitzgerald and Tyler Neal; guards Carl Blair Jr., Cameron Clark and Steven Pledger
Top newcomers: forward Romero Osby; guard Sam Grooms; center Casey Arent
Last year: Missouri won 84-61 at MU.

THE LINE

Favorable:
The Big 12 Coaches Poll has Oklahoma finishing last alongside Texas Tech. The Sooners are a still-budding team under a new coach this season. Kruger is wanting to install an up-tempo brand of play, and the Sooners will have to adapt to it after boasting just a 27-36 record during the past two seasons. The team will need production from former transfers Osby and Arent to support Fitzgerald in the front court.

Unfavorable:
Osby, Arent and Fitzgerald each bring better than 230 pounds to the paint. If the three can be productive in a rotation, it could prove problematic for the Tigers, who are limited with big bodies. There is a good level of comfort in the Sooners' locker room with four returning starters.

KEY FACEOFF
Ricardo Ratliffe vs. Andrew Fitzgerald

MATCHUP PREDICTION:
Jan. 3 at MU: Missouri wins
Feb. 6 at OU: Missouri wins

**Oklahoma State**

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Travis Ford (fourth season)
Top returners: guards Keiton Page, Jean-Paul Olukemi, Markel Brown, Reger Dowell and Fred Gulley
Top newcomers: forward Michael Cobbins; guards LeBryan Nash; center Marek Soucek
Last year: Oklahoma State won 76-70 at OSU.

THE LINE

Favorable:
Missouri could find dilemma this year when it faces teams with inside presence. That is exactly what Oklahoma State must find this season. It's not unlikely that the Cowboys put five guards on the floor with Page, Brown, Gulley, Dowell, Olukemi and explosive top recruit Nash in the mix. There will be a complete change of scenery in the Cowboys' offense from last season.

Unfavorable:
For what Oklahoma State lacks in size it could make up for in athleticism. Olukemi and Nash are unique talents in forward bodies with guard mentalities. If those two can pose threats in the lane, Page, who ranks 10th on the Cowboys' all-time three-point list, is a prime outlet.

KEY FACEOFF
Matt Pressey vs. Keiton Page

MATCHUP PREDICTION:
Jan. 25 at OSU: Missouri wins
Feb. 15 at MU: Missouri wins

**Kansas**

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Bill Self (ninth season)
Top returners: forward Thomas Robinson; guards Elijah Johnson, Thomas Robinson
Top newcomers: guard Naadir Tharpe

Last year: Kansas won 103-86 at KU. Kansas won 70-66 at MU.

THE LINE

Favorable:
The Jayhawks are a roster in transition following the departures of Brady Morningstar, the Morris twins and Tyrel Reed. Kansas' top two freshmen, Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor, have both been ruled ineligible for the season. MU has a very experienced roster, as the current senior class already has the most wins in program history. ESPN's "College GameDay" crew will be in Columbia on Feb. 4. The show will make KU's final trip to Mizzou Arena for the foreseeable future an even stiffer road test.

Unfavorable:
Kansas lacks its usual dominant upperclassmen presence, but there is no shortage of talent in Lawrence, Kan. Junior forward Thomas Robinson returns poised for a breakout season now that he is out form underneath the spotlight of the Morris twins. Robinson recorded a double-double last year at Mizzou Arena. The Tigers haven't won at KU since 1999, and the fervor in Lawrence will be kicked up a few notches thanks to MU's impending departure for the SEC.

KEY FACEOFF
Phil Pressey vs. Tyshawn Taylor

MATCHUP PREDICTION:
At MU, Feb. 4: Missouri wins
At KU, Feb. 25: Missouri loses

**Texas**

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Rick Barnes (14th season)
Top returners: forward Alexis Wangmene; guard J'Covan Brown
Top newcomers: guards Myck Kabongo and Sheldon McClellan

Last year: Texas won 71-58 at UT.

THE LINE

Favorable:
The Longhorns lost all five starters from last year's 28-8 team that lost to Arizona in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. J'Covan Brown is the only player on the current roster who has received meaningful playing time. The Tigers draw the Longhorns early in Big 12 play, placing the young Longhorns at an even greater disadvantage.

Unfavorable:
Brown scored 10.4 points a game off the bench last year. He's also averaged 21.3 points in three career NCAA Tournament games. Now that this is his team, look for the junior to emerge as one of the Big 12's best guards. McClellan, a 6-foot-4-inch shooting guard was a top 50 recruit. Kabongo, a McDonald's All-American, will start at point guard. The three give coach Rick Barnes a very formidable trio of guards.

KEY FACEOFF
Marcus Denmon vs. J'Covan Brown

MATCHUP PREDICTION:
Jan. 16 at MU: Missouri wins
Jan. 30 at UT: Missouri loses

**Texas A&M**

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Billy Kennedy (first season)
Top returners: forwards David Loubeau and Khris Middleton; guards Dash Harris and Naji Hibbert
Top newcomers: guards Jamal Branch and Jordan Green
Last year: Texas A&M won 91-89 at TAMU.

THE LINE

Favorable:
Texas A&M was forced to learn an entirely new system at the onset of practice after assistant coach Glynn Cyprien took over for first-year coach Kennedy, who was placed on medical leave of absence. The adjustments will take time. The Aggies lack good guard play, so MU's four-guard lineup should have a big advantage.

Unfavorable:
Texas A&M's top two returners, Loubeau and Middleton, are matchup dilemmas for the Tigers without forward Laurence Bowers. Ratliffe held his own against Loubeau in their regular season matchup, but Loubeau dominated in their Big 12 Tournament matchup. English will have his hands full with Middleton, who led TAMU in scoring 16 times last season. The Tigers have dropped eight straight games to their future SEC foe.

KEY FACEOFF
Kim English vs. Khris Middleton

MATCHUP PREDICTION:
At MU, Jan. 16: Missouri loses
At TAMU, Feb. 18: Missouri loses

**Texas Tech.**

AT A GLANCE
Coach: Billy Gillespie (first season)
Top returners: forwards Robert Lewandowski and Jaye Crockett
Top newcomers: guards Cameron Forte, DeShon Minnis and Ty Nurse
Last year: Missouri won 92-84 at MU.

THE LINE

Favorable:
The Red Raiders are the youngest team in the Big 12. Gillespie welcomes 10 newcomers to the squad, none of which come in as being highly touted recruits. Lewandoski is the lone returning starter. The Tigers' four-guard lineup should have its way with Texas Tech. The Red Raiders visit Columbia on Jan. 28, which will be an uphill battle for such an inexperienced team.

Unfavorable:
Lewandowski is what the Tigers lack: A dominant presence in the paint. Ratliffe is a good player, but all too often larger opponents pushed him around last season. Ratliffe won't face any larger in the Big 12 than the 6-foot-10-inch, 256-pound Lewandowski. The Tigers face the Red Raiders right before a two-game stretch against Texas and Kansas. MU can't afford to overlook any conference opponents.

KEY FACEOFF:
Ricardo Ratliffe vs. Robert Lewandowski

MATCHUP PREDICTION:
At MU Jan. 28: Missouri wins
At TT Mar. 3: Missouri wins

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