Tomorrow in an early "Big Monday" game the Kansas State Wildcats (13-5) take on the Missouri Tigers (15-3) in Columbia, MO in a battle of two teams who are both currently 1-2 in Big 12 play. This game in essence will eliminate one of these teams from competing with the likes of Kansas, Texas & Texas A&M for the Big 12 regular season title.
The Wildcats enter in coming off possibly their best game of the season as they beat down Texas Tech by 34 points. KSU welcomed back Curtis Kelly in the game against the Red Raiders after he served his six game suspension for illegal benefits. In the game Frank Martin changed up his lineup and rotation greatly as he inserted true freshman Shane Southwell into the starting lineup and he did not play former starters Wally Judge and Nick Russell one single minute.
Missouri enters in coming off an exhausting overtime loss on the road at Texas A&M. Even though the Tigers are usually the team in better shape this game could be interesting to see if they aren't the team who is drained towards the end. With the margin of victory for K-State over Texas Tech, Frank Martin was able to rest his guys with the quick turnaround upcoming.
This game figures to be determined by the guard play of both teams. K-State is led by senior guard Jacob Pullen and sophomore Rodney McGruder while Mizzou is led by a group of guards in Marcus Denmon, Kim English & Phil Pressey.
Pressey in particular could be the X factor in the game as it is appearing that he is starting to become more of an offensive weapon for Mike Anderson. In the loss against Texas A&M he scored a total of 16 points and was 4-4 from long range.
The battle down low should be an interesting one to watch now that Kelly is back and Ricardo Ratliffe has given the Tigers a presence in the post they lacked last year. Once again for Kansas State if they can get any production from Wally Judge it would greatly improve their chances, that is assuming he gets into the game. The length of Kansas State with guys like Jamar Samuels and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts along with Kelly will be important for K-State to try and make Missouri beat them shooting strictly jump shots. If Justin Safford can hit some shots from the outside and make his defender come outside of the paint this would allow Ratliffe and Laurence Bowers more room to operate.
As is the case with any Mizzou and K-State game, how tight the referees call this game will be something to watch closely. Playing at home one would expect the Tigers to get some leniency when they are swiping at the ball trying to force turnovers while running their press. It's anyone guess on who would have the advantage if this game comes down to a free throw contest as K-State has struggled mightily at times from the line this year but Missouri went just 9-19 from the charity stripe against the Aggies.
How K-State handles the press has to be something that worries Wildcat fans as K-State has struggled with turnovers all season. Jacob Pullen has controlled a lot of the ballhandling since his return but the Tigers would love to see true freshman Will Spradling get his share of chances to handle the challenge of breaking the press.
The Tigers enter this game as an early 7 point favorite so it seems that most everyone would assume this should turn out to be a Mizzou victory. If K-State can avoid the turnover bug and they can carry over the momentum from the Tech game this could be closer than some anticipate. In the end though the simple fact is Missouri does not lose too often at home so it will be a big challenge for the Wildcats to try and turn their season around in a big way.
Tip Time is at 4:30 Central and the game can be seen on ESPN.