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Know Your Border Rival: Kansas

LAWRENCE KS - FEBRUARY 07:  Travis Releford #24 of the Kansas Jayhawks grabs a rebound as Matt Pressey #3 of the Missouri Tigers defends during the game on February 5 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
LAWRENCE KS - FEBRUARY 07: Travis Releford #24 of the Kansas Jayhawks grabs a rebound as Matt Pressey #3 of the Missouri Tigers defends during the game on February 5 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Missouri played perhaps their best offensive game of the season in Lawrence ... and they got trounced.  Can they -- and Mizzou Arena -- slow down the Kansas offense any better the second time around?

Kansas (28-2) Since Last Time

Pace (No. of Possessions)
Points Per Minute
2.10 1.73
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.26 1.04
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.50 1.29
2-PT FG% 57.6% 50.0%
3-PT FG% 42.3% 34.1%
FT% 69.6% 77.8%
True Shooting % 62.8% 55.6%

KU Opp.
Assists/Gm 18.9 13.4
Steals/Gm 8.1 5.9
Turnovers/Gm 12.7 12.7
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.12 1.52

KU Opp.
Expected Off. Reb./Gm 10.6 11.1
Offensive Reb./Gm
11.7 8.0
Difference +1.1 -3.1

Kansas has only played one interesting team (Kansas State) away from Allen Fieldhouse since the last time these teams played, and they were trounced.  This is not the most mentally, defensively strong Kansas team Missouri has ever met.  But ...

...look at those offensive numbers.  They've been making almost three of every five two-pointers (for the season, they rank first in the country in 2PT%), over two of every five three-pointers (17th in 3PT%), and when they do miss, they grab a high number of offensive boards (48th in Off. Reb. %).  A 1.26 points per possession average is really impressive over one game, much less seven.  (And yes, these stats include the last Mizzou game, which obviously did nothing to hurt their offensive averages.)

It's pretty clear what must happen for Mizzou to beat Kansas -- they have to take advantage of everything Kansas gives them (solid shooting %'s, decent turnover totals) and take away at least one of the Jayhawks' major strengths (ball movement, shooting, rebounding).  They are vulnerable to steals and pressure, but only so much so.  This really will have to be an A+ game from Missouri.  KSU brought that level of game to KU, and the Jayhawks crumbled.  Anything less, and Mizzou will likely be 8-8 in conference.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

KU Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

KU Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 3
Effective FG% 1
KU Big
Turnover % 97
Off. Reb. % 48
KU Big
MU Offense vs KU Defense Ranks

MU Offense KU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 20
Effective FG% 35
Turnover % 23
Off. Reb. % 154
KU Big
KU Big

So Kansas controls the matchups when it comes to shooting, rebounding, and fouls.  Mizzou controls the turnovers aspect.  They must dominate in the ball control category to have a chance.

Great looks on O (1st in 2PT%, 17th 3PT%), less so on D (9th 3PT%, 60th 2PT%).  310th in Def. FT%, meaning they foul guards.  Steal the ball almost as much as Mizzou (30th in Def. Steal%).

Results Since Last Time

  • Wins (Team Rank is from
    No. 46 Texas A&M, 64-51
    No. 62 Colorado, 89-63
    No. 75 Iowa State, 89-66
    No. 80 Oklahoma State, 92-65
    at No. 146 Oklahoma, 82-70
  • Losses
    at No. 29 Kansas State, 68-84

Kansas has oscillated between being one of the best road teams in the country (beating Baylor, Nebraska and Texas Tech by 20+) and a shaky one (pummeled by KSU, challenged mightily by Michigan and Iowa State, keeping Oklahoma at a distance but not dominating them after a first-half surge).  Two of their less impressive results have come the last two times they left Lawrence (KSU, OU).  Are they vulnerable, or are we talking tiny sample sizes here?  They're already talking about their "seventh straight Big 12 title*," meaning there's always a possibility for a little "take their eyes off the ball" factor here.  We can hope, anyway.  There's no questioning who's the hungrier, angrier team right now ... but that doesn't always lead to positive results.

* Including ties ... which means Missouri can also say they won three of the final four Big 12 North titles in football.  Hooray!

Player Stats Since Last Time

Over the last seven games, Josh Selby and Thomas Robinson have missed time to injury, and Tyshawn Taylor has been suspended.  That has resulted in all sorts of fun short-term numbers.  Because of the absences, eleven KU players are averaging at least eight minutes per game (in games they play).  Jeff Withey got time when Robinson was out, but he likely won't play many minutes (if any) tomorrow.  Here's to hoping he does, as that probably means at least one of KU's primary bigs has found foul trouble.

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Marcus Morris (6'9, 235, Jr.) 17.8
28.9 MPG, 18.6 PPG (65.1% 2PT, 40.0% 3PT, 68.2% FT), 7.1 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.1 BPG, 2.0 TOPG
Markieff Morris (6'10, 245, Jr.) 17.2
26.4 MPG, 15.1 PPG (67.3% 2PT, 41.7% 3PT, 67.7% FT), 7.6 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.7 BPG, 1.6 TOPG
Brady Morningstar (6'4, 185, Sr.)
32.7 MPG, 9.0 PPG (47.4% 2PT, 59.1% 3PT, 75.0% FT), 4.3 APG, 2.0 RPG, 2.0 SPG
Tyrel Reed (6'3, 193, Sr.)
28.0 MPG, 10.7 PPG (64.3% 2PT, 48.1% 3PT, 78.3% FT), 2.3 APG, 2.3 SPG, 1.9 RPG
Tyshawn Taylor (6'3, 185, Jr.)
25.2 MPG, 10.8 PPG (41.4% 2PT, 46.7% 3PT, 60.0% FT), 3.8 APG, 2.8 RPG, 3.0 TOPG
Mario Little (6'6, 218, Sr.)
16.9 MPG, 6.3 PPG (45.8% 2PT, 30.8% 3PT, 83.3% FT), 4.0 RPG, 1.1 APG
Jeff Withey (7'0, 235, So.)
8.3 MPG, 4.0 PPG (87.5% 2PT), 1.8 RPG
Elijah Johnson (6'4, 195, So.)
14.3 MPG, 4.6 PPG (80.0% 2PT, 54.5% 3PT, 85.7% FT), 1.9 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.7 TOPG
Thomas Robinson (6'9, 237, So.)
11.5 MPG, 4.8 PPG (53.8% 2PT, 50.0% FT), 5.8 RPG, 1.8 TOPG
Travis Releford (6'5, 207, So.)
10.3 MPG, 3.7 PPG (62.5% 2PT, 33.3% 3PT, 66.7% FT), 1.3 RPG
Josh Selby (6'2, 183, Fr.)
18.2 MPG, 5.2 PPG (38.9% 2PT, 14.3% 3PT, 60.0% FT), 2.0 APG, 1.6 RPG, 1.2 TOPG

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds.  It redistributes a team's points based not only on points scored, but also by giving credit for assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls.  It is a stat intended to determine who had the biggest overall impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • Highest Usage%: Marcus Morris (28%), Robinson (27%), Taylor (26%), Markieff Morris (24%), Selby (23%).
  • Highest Floor%: Morningstar (54%), Markieff Morris (51%), Reed (48%), Marcus Morris (47%).
  • Highest %Pass: Morningstar (77%), Johnson (66%), Taylor (61%).
  • Highest %Shoot: Robinson (39%), Marcus Morris (38%), Little (37%).
  • Highest %Fouled: Robinson (23%), Releford (17%), Marcus Morris (16%).
  • Highest %TO: Robinson (21%), Withey (17%), Johnson (12%), Taylor (8%).
  • Here's to hoping the Morris brothers decide to enter the NBA after this season.  Over time, they have turned into every bit of the four-star combination their recruiting rankings suggested.  Marcus handles a little bit more of the scoring load, while Markieff does more of the dirty work (rebounds, blocks) ... not that you'll know which one is doing what during the game (I still haven't memorized which one wears which number).  Combined, their stats are ridiculous -- 33.7 points per game, 14.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 2.8 blocks.  Maturity is still a bit of an issue with them, which could always mean something positive for Mizzou tomorrow, but they are under control, they are unstoppable.

    Mario Little and Travis Releford are what we remember most about the last MU-KU game, and justifiably so, but the Morrises and Thomas Robinson softened Mizzou up considerably before Little and Releford laid the hammer down.

    Hey, speaking of which...
  • Mario Little against Missouri: 16 minutes, 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting, three offensive rebounds.
    Mario Little since then: 102 minutes, 27 points on 8-for-28 shooting, six offensive rebounds.
  • Travis Releford against Missouri: 16 minutes, 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting, three rebounds.
    Travis Releford since then: 46 minutes, 12 points on 3-for-9 shooting, five rebounds.

    Good times.
  • I'll say this much: I think it's good that both Tyshawn Taylor and Josh Selby are playing tomorrow.  Never mind the fact that Selby has been rather terrible lately (home or away, he's played like Kim English on the road the last five games since returning from injury), but he tends to occasionally slow Kansas' ball movement down a bit.  Taylor, meanwhile, just gets into funks where he makes multiple bad decisions in a row.

    Moving forward, I'm curious how KU's guard rotation will actually work.  In terms of per-minute contribution, Taylor and Johnson basically produce the same ... but Taylor has more highs and lows, and Johnson is possibly a better defender.  (It must be nice having a former five-star guard stuck on your third string for part of the year.)
  • Thomas Robinson has also been less effective since missing three games with a knee injury; but he's still quite good at the one thing KU needs from him: rebounds.

Last Time

Kansas 103, Mizzou 86

Pace (No. of Possessions)
Points Per Minute
2.15 2.58
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.22 1.47
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.48 1.69
2-PT FG% 59.5% 61.9%
3-PT FG% 38.1% 57.9%
FT% 81.8% 64.3%
True Shooting % 63.5% 70.2%
Mizzou KU
Assists 16 23
Steals 5 6
Turnovers 8 12
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.63 2.42
Mizzou KU
Expected Offensive Rebounds 10 10
Offensive Rebounds 6 14
Difference -4 +4

Probably no need to rehash this one in great detail.  Mizzou and Kansas traded blows in one of the more offensively impressive games of the season in the first half ... and then Kansas pulled away with 19 Miserable, Miserable Possessions.  With Mizzou thriving in an open-court, up-and-down game, Kansas went to their bigs early and often in the second half, asserted their will on offense, and hit the nitro button.  Mizzou must not only figure out to withstand a similar will assertion this time around ... they must figure out how to do the same thing to Kansas.  It will be easier with the home crowd behind them, but still ...

Keys to the Game

  1. Find Your Little/Releford.  The last time these two teams played, Missouri averaged 1.22 points per possession, shot beautifully, won the ball control battle, and put themselves in position to overcome a rebounding disadvantage ... and then Mario Little and Travis Releford combined for 27 points on 11-for-14 shooting.  Even with Morris, Morris and Robinson dominating the glass, if Little and Releford score their season average, Mizzou's 17-point deficit dwindles to zero.

    So ... who's going to be Mizzou's Little/Releford?  Role players often make the difference in rivalries (just ask Corey Tate ... or Christian Moody), and frankly, Mizzou's role players have been nonexistent lately.  In the last five games, Matt Pressey, Steve Moore, Ricky Kreklow and Justin Safford have combined for just 48 points on 19-for-44 shooting (3-for-13 on 3-pointers), 22 rebounds (Moore: six in 34 minutes), 19 turnovers and 27 fouls.  And these numbers include a pretty decent three-game stretch from Safford (Tech, ISU, Baylor).  Whatever they have brought to the table, they've taken twice as much off of it, and that's not going to cut it against Kansas.  Somebody from this group has to step up ... who is it going to be?  Saffy, are you going to go out big on Senior Day?  Kreklow, are you ready to double up on that whole "beloved local hero" thing?  Big Pressey, are you ready to, um, prove Doug Gottlieb wrong?

  2. Keep Up With the Big Boys.  At some point tomorrow, Kansas will start to lean very heavily on the Morris twins and Thomas Robinson.  Those three players make up one of the best frontcourts in the country, and they represent Kansas' single biggest advantage in this game.  Mizzou must have an answer.  It doesn't even really matter what that answer is -- have Steve Moore pull a Hack-a-Robinson, double-team, triple-team, flop like crazy, hack like crazy, deny, beat them down the court for easy response buckets, whatever.  They just have to have an answer and neutralize KU's advantages.  Mizzou has some ball control advantages, and they are certainly strong in the backcourt; they don't have to beat Kansas in the frontcourt ... they just have to stay close enough that Mizzou's backcourt can win the game.

    KU has the rare frontcourt combination of size, strength and serious versatility.  All eyes on Laurence Bowers, Ricardo Ratliffe, Justin Safford and Steve Moore.  They handled Baylor's size very well ... but so did Kansas.  Hopefully Ratliffe, Safford and Moore left all their terrible play and bad body language in the locker room at the Devaney Center on Tuesday.

  3. Battle of Baltimore. Josh Selby has not been very good as of late, but it hasn't mattered.  With the experience Kansas brought to the table this season, Selby has been a total luxury.  That said, Selby might serve an interesting purpose in this game: bringing Kim English to life.  The two are friends and Carmelo Anthony acolytes from Baltimore, and if English cannot at least win the statistical battle over the struggling Selby, Mizzou will once again find themselves in a position where there is too much offensive pressure put on Marcus Denmon, Phil Pressey, Mike Dixon and Laurence Bowers.  If English is livened up by the presence of his buddy, then Mizzou's ceiling rises.  Bring it, Kimmeh.


Tuesday's loss to Nebraska was damaging on a number of fronts.  First of all, it clinched the fact that Mizzou will have just two road wins on their resume when the committee is drawing up the bracket next weekend.  But more than that, it actually caused me to officially start losing faith in this team.  I realize this was not the first time that either a) Mizzou looked neutered against Nebraska or b) Mizzou laid a late-season egg, but the team's complete lack of leadership -- and their complete non-response to Marcus Denmon's attempt at leadership (he was fantastic) -- really bothered me.  Because of that, because of the fact that Kansas is more well-equipped to handle the Fastest 40 Minutes than just about anybody, and because I don't bet against a streak (MIzzou's now lost four in a row to KU), I'm picking Kansas, 84-74.

That said ... I'm easy.  I can be won back in a heartbeat.  All Mizzou has to do to get me back on board is play with their pride and hearts on their sleeve tomorrow.  This team is athletic, explosive and full of potential ... potential they can still reach.  But without at least a good showing tomorrow, they will almost certainly sink to the 8-9 line in the NCAA Tourney bracket, which will all but mean death to hopes of a spot in the second weekend of tourney play.  It's time to channel Lee Coward, Corey Tate, Thomas Gardner and Zaire Taylor and pull out a somewhat season-turning win.  This team obviously can do it ... now they just need to actually do it.