Big 12 action gets off with a bang on Saturday as Missouri travels to Manhattan to take on Jacob Pullen and the Kansas State Wildcats.
This game will go a long ways in determining seeding for the Big 12 tournament and which team will finish in the top four of the Big 12 standings and get a bye at the conference tournament in Kansas City.
Missouri comes in at 22-6 overall and 8-5 in conference while K-State is 19-9 and 7-6 in conference. Both teams are coming off wins on Wednesday night as the Wildcats won a defensive battle at Nebraska while the Tigers demolished a possibly quitting Baylor team in Columbia.
This game is the start of back to back road games for Missouri as they travel to take on Nebraska the following Tuesday after K-State. It is a crucial stretch for a team that has caught major flak for not being able to win outside of their home arena. The schedule does not ease up after the two roadies as Missouri finishes with arch rival Kansas at home.
As for the Wildcats they must be breathing a sigh of relief after their win in Lincoln as it almost assuredly makes them a lock for the NCAA Tournament.
This contest will feature two of the best guards in the conference in Jacob Pullen of K-State and Marcus Denmon of Mizzou.
Pullen has been on fire lately as he is averaging over 30 points a game in the Wildcats three game winning streak. Denmon has scored over 20 points in two of the last three games for the Tigers. For Missouri to win this game Denmon will need to be aggressive and not defer as much as he tends too at times.
As with any Missouri vs KSU game how the referees call the game will be critical. Both teams like to play tough physical defense and it usually seems like the home team gets the benefit of the doubt in this series.
With their player defections this year K-State is thin on the interior with really only a three person rotation in the post with Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels starting while 7 footer Jordan Henriquez-Roberts subs in.
Even though he has already been through almost a full season of Big 12 action Phil Pressey is still a freshman and will be making his first appearance in Bramlage Coliseum. One would not expect him to be rattled after already playing in places like Allen Fieldhouse this year but going against a preseason all-american in Jacob Pullen it is possible that Pressey might try to do too much and be turnover prone. Keep an eye on this matchup.
In the game earlier this season in Columbia the Tigers rolled to an easy 75-59 victory over an at the time reeling KSU ballclub. In that game, Missouri fans chanted NIT at Jacob Pullen. That taunting is something Missouri players may regret has having occurred as this game comes around.
While Missouri has played strong and close in conference road games this year the fact is they have only one of these games. On Saturday they face one of the hottest teams in the conference being led by a possible Big 12 first team all conference player who has been rolling lately. The Tigers will need to come out and establish their tempo and of utmost importance hit some early shots to get their confidence up and not let momentum get going for KSU.
As for the K-State side they need to avoid a letdown after almost essentially locking up an NCAA tourney bid. Frank Martin pretty much knows Jacob Pullen will show up on Saturday but he knows that to beat Missouri he will need contributions from Will Spradling and Henriquez-Roberts, two players who struggled against the Cornhuskers.
If Missouri wins they pretty much lock up fourth place in the Big 12 conference while a K-State win means it's a battle to the finish line this season. This game can be seen on ESPN.
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