The last time Missouri and Kansas played in Columbia, Kansas had an eight point lead with 2:08 remaining, but Missouri rallied with Marcus Denmon and some questionable calls for the home team to get the victory. In that game, Thomas Robinson dominated the second half against the undersized Tigers, but it was the other big man, Jeff Withey, who was key in his relative absence. Missouri often goes with only one player over 6’6″ on the floor, and the seven footer should have had the matchup advantage playing opposite Robinson. Instead, he went scoreless and only attempted one shot.
After that game, Withey went on a tear, and will likely be motivated to have a much better performance in Lawrence. Kansas will again rely on its dominance in the paint in this game, while Missouri will have to create turnovers, easy scoring opportunities, and hit from the perimeter to win the game. An Anthony Peeler-like performance from 1992 would not hurt either.
The last time Missouri won in Lawrence, Norm Stewart was the head coach (1999). They’ve won at Kansas only twice in the last twenty years, and the last time Missouri had a team this good, in 2009 when they reached the Elite Eight, they went to Lawrence 24-4 and left with a 25 point loss.
This also could be the last time these rivals meet tomorrow. Sure, they could meet again in the Big XII tournament or the NCAA tournament, and I suspect a major theme of the Big XII tournament will be the city of Kansas City clamoring for a final match at the Sprint Center. The chances of both teams making it through are still no better than 20%, though.
Setting aside the historical significance, this game is huge for lots of reasons. The winner is likely the #1 seed in the Big XII tournament. Kansas would virtually assure the regular season title with a win, as a result of Missouri’s home loss to Kansas State. Missouri would pull even if they get the road upset, and have the tiebreaker. Further, the winner boosts into the third #1 seed spot (behind Kentucky and Syracuse) while the loser would likely have to win out, and then win the Big XII tournament, to have a shot at a top seed.
[photo via US Presswire]