If ever there is a game between rivals where a fan of the road team goes into it about 98% sure their team will lose, it’s Mizzou-Kansas. Over the past three seasons, including one in which the Tigers were one step short of the Final Four, the average margin of victory for the Jayhawks was 21 points.
So when the Tigers came out and stuck by Kansas’ side for the first half at Allen Fieldhouse, it was a minor victory. That it ended up a 17-point loss was to be expected.
Those who didn’t watch the game will look at the final score and assume it was simply Mizzou getting throttled by the bigger dog on the road again…
Those that did watch the game might have a different reaction – recognition that the Tigers weren’t out of their league playing against the #2 team in the nation at the most difficult road venue in college basketball.
By the end of the second half, Kansas had ridden Mizzou foul trouble and their own red-hot shooting to a convincing win. But should the Tigers bring their first half intensity and quality offensive possessions with them on the road in their three remaining games away from home, all three might be notched in the win column. To this point, the bubble has still not sucked Mizzou in despite a 4-5 conference record. Bracketologist Joe Lunardi at ESPN.com even has the Tigers as a #5 seed in his latest projections:
Get to the Tournament and Mizzou has two advantages:
1.) Throughout Mike Anderson’s career at Mizzou his teams have developed the habit of hitting their peak at the end of the season. See ’08-’09 as an example.
2.) Short turnaround times on games at neutral sites means that Mizzou opponents can’t take advantage of the Tigers biggest weakness (road games) and can’t adequately prepare for their biggest strength (dictating a chaotic pace).
Seven games remain with the season-ender against the Jayhawks in Columbia being the only one that some are tempted to view as an automatic loss. The schedule is in their favor to make a run and, should they play like they did last night against non-KU opponents, that run will come.
Funny how a 17-point loss in Lawrence can actually be viewed as somewhat positive.