#4 Missouri vs. #6 Baylor: Saturday's Preview

    
February 10th, 2012

Saturday is the day that many college basketball fans have been waiting for, with a number of important matchups on the slate. One of those games is #4 Missouri (22-2, 9-2) hosting #6 Baylor (21-3, 8-3) with the Bears looking to keep alive their fleeting hopes of winning the league title. Scott Drew's team is 0-3 in games against the two teams now ahead of them in the standings, most recently being whipped by Kansas in Waco. The Tigers are looking to complete a season sweep of Baylor and with a win over Kansas to their credit, Frank Haith's team would take control of the driver's seat should they get that done. 

Missouri won the first meeting 89-88 but that margin is a bit deceptive, and if there's one thing that Baylor should have taken out of that loss it's that they need to do a better job of keeping the Tigers off of the offensive glass. The Tigers, who average just 9.5 offensive rebounds per game, grabbed 14 in Waco with six of those coming from senior forward Ricardo Ratliffe. Ratliffe (14.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg) has done a very good job in the middle for the Tigers, who have gone small with Laurence Bowers being lost for the season before it even began. Baylor's got the edge in size and depth inside but they didn't take advantage of this in the first meeting. 

Quincy Acy (12.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg) is the "enforcer" of this group, but if Baylor's to play to the level that they can it's going to take more toughness from the other players in the rotation. Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller are the leading NBA prospects in this group while Anthony Jones and Cory Jefferson both hit the glass well and provide the starters with opportunities to rest. The Bears enjoy the better rebounding margin but the fact that they don't take care of business on the defensive glass has gotten them in trouble against both Kansas and Missouri. If Baylor can't remedy this issue not only will they lose in Columbia, but their NCAA tournament run could be a short one.

Missouri's got one of the nation's best backcourts in the county, and the fact that Marcus Denmon has snapped out of the slump that hampered him early in Big 12 play should be a concern for Baylor. Denmon made just one of seven shots from beyond the arc in the first meeting and as a team Missouri shot 7-for-21 from distance, but those offensive boards proved to be the difference. Kim English plays the four for the Tigers while point guard Phil Pressey has been one of the nation's best point guards and Michael Dixon Jr. provides scoring punch off the bench. Baylor has relied heavily on junior Pierre Jackson (12.9 ppg, 5.8 apg) and he's responded well for much of the season.

Jackson doesn't start but he does finish games, with the veteran A.J. Walton getting the start. Brady Heslip and Gary Franklin also factor into the perimeter rotation, but if the offense isn't finding Heslip shots he can struggle. Missouri's opponents have shot nearly 44% from the field this season and Baylor shot 57% from the field in the first meeting, but they didn't get to the foul line. Missouri outscored the Bears 22-9 from the charity stripe and if that happens again Baylor's going to be in trouble. Having already been swept by Kansas this is a big game for Baylor's resume, as their NCAA seeding likely depends on getting at least one win against one of the two leaders in the Big 12. And as tough as it is for visitors to win at Mizzou Arena, a Baylor victory would be quite the accomplishment.

There are three other games matching ranked opponents, two of which being a battle for first place in their respective conferences. Michigan State heads south to take on Ohio State in the first of their two meetings this season, and this will be quite the test for guards Keith Appling and Brandon Wood. Appling will see a lot of Aaron Craft, the Big Ten's best perimeter defender and a very good floor general to boot. Draymond Green and Jared Sullinger will be the headliners and rightfully so as both should be under consideration for National Player of the Year. Green can't have a repeat of his frustratiing outing at Illinois, but that shouldn't be a concern. 

In the Mountain West, UNLV hosts San Diego State and is looking for revenge as they lost the first meeting by two in San Diego last month. Jamaal Franklin scored the game-winner at Viejas Arena, and his matchup with UNLV's Anthony Marshall will be fun to watch. But if the Runnin' Rebels are to defend Thomas & Mack they need production from Chace Stanback as he can go quiet from time to time. Mike Moser has made a good case for Mountain West Player of the Year to this point in the season but there's no mistaking the fact that a conference title would help boost his chances.

The ACC has a nice slate with Virginia visiting North Carolina and a suddenly hot Miami team taking on Florida State, who should be ready to go after losing at Boston College. Mike Scott has been outstanding for the Cavaliers but they need consistent play from Sammy Zeglinski to have a shot at winning in Chapel Hill. Tempo will be critical as Virginia relies on their pack-line defense to keep opponents out of the lane, but that's going to be tough given the ability of Kendall Marshall to find open teammates. Tyler Zeller and John Henson enjoy the advantage in size in the paint, and if Scott doesn't get help inside things could get bad. A win in Tallahassee would provide another boost to the Hurricanes' profile, and they'll need smart guard play to do so. 

Kentucky visits Vanderbilt looking for a win in a gym that's been a house of horrors for the Wildcats in recent years. John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor have led the way all season for the Commodores, who will have their hands full with Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Can Marquis Teague build on his ten-assist outing against Florida? It would help the Wildcats if he could do so, and to be fair the freshman should be able to take care of business against Brad Tinsley.  

The Missouri Valley will have a good idea of the direction in which their race is headed down the stretch at the end of Saturday's action as Wichita State visits Creighton. The Bluejays surprisingly lost at Evansville earlier this week, dropping them a game behind the Shockers heading into the second meeting of the season. Creighton won the first contest on the road, but big man Garrett Stutz has been outstanding in road games this season for WSU. Both he and Doug McDermott will be players to watch, and with the depth that both teams enjoy the game won't disappoint.

The top two teams in the A-10 also meet as Temple hosts Xavier, with the Musketeers hopeful that they can pick up the road win and take over first place. Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons really haven't been the same since their return, and that's a bad position to be in with the Owls boasting Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez and Khalif Wyatt on the perimeter. And Syracuse hosts Connecticut in a game the Huskies desperately need not just for their resume but for confidence reasons. The news from the NCAA that their appeal regarding APR penalties that could keep them out of the 2013 NCAA tournament doesn't help matters for George Blaney, but a lot will be learned about UConn in terms of whether or not they've got the leaders needed to make a run.

Lastly another edition of the rivalry between VCU and Old Dominion is on the docket with the Monarchs looking to avenge their loss in the first meeting this season. VCU is one of three teams tied at 12-2 in the CAA, and with ODU at 11-3 the achievement of further separation could improve the league's chances of grabbing a second NCAA bid. Kent Bazemore leads Blaine Taylor's squad that's known more for its defense, which will be tested by Bradford Burgess and company. Fans won't lack for entertainment on Saturday, so make sure the batteries in the remote work.  

Top 25 Games
9:00 PM (1) Kentucky at Vanderbilt (ESPN)
1:00 PM Connecticut at (2) Syracuse (CBS)
6:00 PM (12) Michigan State at (3) Ohio State (ESPN)
1:30 PM (6) Baylor at (4) Missouri (ESPN3)
1:00 PM (20) Virginia at (5) North Carolina (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Tennessee at (7) Florida (ESPN3)
8:30 PM Austin Peay at (7) Murray State (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Maryland at (9) Duke (ESPN)
4:00 PM Oklahoma State at (10) Kansas (ESPN3)
11:00 PM Santa Clara at (13) Saint Mary's
4:00 PM (14) San Diego State at (16) UNLV (NBC SN)
5:00 PM Wichita State at (15) Creighton (ESPN2)
1:00 PM Miami (FL) at (17) Florida State (ESPN3)
1:30 PM Georgia at (18) Mississippi State (ESPN3)
3:00 PM Cincinnati at (19) Marquette (ESPNU)
7:00 PM (21) Harvard at Princeton (ESPNU)
12:00 PM (23) Louisville at West Virginia (ESPN)

NCAA Division I Games
11:00 AM Butler at Cleveland State (ESPN2)
11:00 AM Ball State at Kent State (ESPNU)
12:00 PM DePaul at Notre Dame (ESPN3)
12:00 PM James Madison at Towson (CSN MA)
1:00 PM Nebraska at Penn State (BTN)
1:00 PM Dayton at Fordham
1:00 PM Arkansas-Little Rock at Middle Tennessee (ESPN2)
1:00 PM Sacred Heart at Bryant
1:05 PM Southern Illinois at Indiana State
1:30 PM South Carolina at Arkansas (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Utah at Arizona (FSN AZ)
2:00 PM American at Holy Cross
2:00 PM Kansas State at Texas (ESPN)
2:00 PM VCU at Old Dominion (Comcast)
2:00 PM Albany at Maine
2:00 PM Rider at Niagara
2:00 PM Sam Houston State at Texas A&M-CC
2:00 PM Wofford at Appalachian State
2:00 PM Siena at Canisius (TWC)
2:00 PM Delaware at Georgia State
2:00 PM Saint Louis at La Salle
2:00 PM Seattle at Longwood
2:00 PM Illinois-Chicago at Loyola (IL)(ESPN3)
2:00 PM Rhode Island at Charlotte
2:00 PM Manhattan at Saint Peter's
2:00 PM Western Kentucky at Troy (FCS)
2:00 PM North Dakota at NJIT
2:00 PM Jacksonville at USC Upstate
2:30 PM Navy at Army (CBS SN)
3:00 PM Florida A&M at Howard
3:00 PM Davidson at Charleston
3:00 PM South Alabama at Louisiana-Monroe
3:05 PM New Mexico State at Utah State (ESPN2)
3:05 PM Utah Valley at Chicago State
3:15 PM Lipscomb at Stetson
3:30 PM Wyoming at New Mexico (The Mtn.)
3:30 PM Central Michigan at Miami (OH)
4:00 PM California at UCLA (FSN)
4:00 PM Texas A&M at Iowa State (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Clemson at Wake Forest (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Duquesne at St. Bonaventure (CBS SN)
4:00 PM Toledo at Bowling Green
4:00 PM Western Carolina at Furman
4:00 PM Delaware State at Coppin State
4:00 PM Hofstra at Drexel
4:00 PM North Florida at East Tennessee State
4:00 PM Maryland-Eastern Shore at Morgan State
4:00 PM South Carolina State at North Carolina A&T
4:00 PM South Florida at Providence (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Coastal Carolina at Winthrop
4:30 PM Ohio at Eastern Michigan
4:30 PM Radford at UNC-Asheville
4:30 PM Lamar at Nicholls State
5:00 PM George Washington at Richmond (ESPNU)
5:00 PM Mississippi Valley State at Alcorn State
5:00 PM McNeese State at Central Arkansas
5:00 PM Elon at Samford
5:00 PM UCF at Southern Miss (BHSN)
5:00 PM Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Southern
5:00 PM Stephen F. Austin at UTSA
5:00 PM Grambling State at Texas Southern
5:15 PM Belmont at Florida Gulf Coast
5:30 PM High Point at Charleston Southern
6:00 PM Pepperdine at BYU (BYU TV)
6:00 PM Alabama State at Alabama A&M
6:00 PM Western Michigan at Buffalo (ESPN3)
6:00 PM Hampton at Norfolk State
6:00 PM IPFW at Oakland (FCS)
6:00 PM Washington State at Oregon (CSN NW)
6:30 PM Colorado at Arizona State (FSN AZ/ROOT RM)
6:30 PM Jackson State at Prairie View A&M
7:00 PM Alabama at LSU (ESPN2)
7:00 PM Auburn at Ole Miss (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Yale at Columbia
7:00 PM Brown at Cornell
7:00 PM Dartmouth at Pennsylvania
7:00 PM East Carolina at Marshall
7:00 PM Long Beach State at UC Davis
7:00 PM George Mason at UNC Wilmington (MASN)
7:00 PM Lafayette at Bucknell (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Morehead State at Eastern Kentucky
7:00 PM North Texas at Florida Atlantic
7:00 PM VMI at Gardner-Webb
7:00 PM Colgate at Lehigh
7:00 PM Fairleigh Dickinson at Monmouth
7:00 PM Liberty at Presbyterian
7:00 PM Saint Francis (PA) at Robert Morris
7:00 PM Northwestern State at Southeastern Louisiana
7:00 PM Massachusetts at Saint Joseph's
7:00 PM Eastern Illinois at Tennessee-Martin
7:00 PM Mount St. Mary's at Wagner
7:00 PM Northeastern at William & Mary (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Valparaiso at Youngstown State
7:05 PM Georgia Southern at Citadel
7:30 PM UNC Greensboro at Chattanooga
7:30 PM Northern Illinois at Akron
7:30 PM Denver at Florida International
8:00 PM South Dakota State at UMKC
8:00 PM Houston at Tulsa
8:00 PM UAB at Memphis (CSS)
8:00 PM SMU at Rice
8:00 PM Texas State at Texas-Arlington
8:00 PM Loyola Marymount at Gonzaga (ROOT NW)
8:00 PM Illinois State at Northern Iowa (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Southeast Missouri State at SIU-Edwardsville
8:00 PM Oklahoma at Texas Tech (ESPN3)
8:05 PM Western Illinois at Oral Roberts (FCS)
8:05 PM Ecclesia at Houston Baptist
8:15 PM Arkansas State at Louisiana-Lafayette
8:30 PM North Dakota State at South Dakota
8:30 PM Colorado State at TCU (The Mtn.)
8:30 PM Tennessee Tech at Tennessee State
8:35 PM Idaho State at Northern Arizona
9:00 PM Xavier at Temple (ESPN2)
9:00 PM San Francisco at San Diego (CSN CA)
9:00 PM Boise State at Air Force (CBS SN)
9:05 PM Tulane at UTEP
9:30 PM IUPUI at Southern Utah
9:30 PM Eastern Washington at Weber State
10:00 PM UC Irvine at Cal Poly
10:05 PM Montana at Sacramento State
10:30 PM Cal State Northridge at Pacific
10:30 PM UC Riverside at UC Santa Barbara (CSN CA)
11:00 PM Nevada at San Jose State
11:05 PM Louisiana Tech at Idaho
11:59 PM Fresno State at Hawaii