Missouri Tigers vs. Kansas Jayhawks Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Missouri Tigers (15-4 SU, 8-5 ATS) vs. Kansas Jayhawks (18-1 SU, 8-7-1 ATS), 9:00 p.m. EST, Monday, January 25, 2009, Phog Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kan. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Missouri +12/Kansas -12
Over/Under: 150

The Kansas Jayhawks were the No. 1 team in the country a few weeks ago. But a loss at Tennessee dropped the them from the top spot. Now they are trying to prove they’re still the best team in the country, as they host rival Missouri at Allen Fieldhouse on Monday nihgt.

The Jayhawks had that one slip-up on the road at Tennessee but they haven’t really had the same quality schedule that the other top teams have had. Their best wins have come over Memphis, UCLA, Michigan, California, Temple, Cornell, Nebraska, Texas Tech, Baylor and Iowa State. And they’ve had plenty of close calls in some of those wins.

The Jayhawks may still be the best team in college basketball but they have to prove it by continuing to win and blowing some teams out like they did in their 84-61 win at Iowa State on Saturday. Cole Aldrich had one of his best games of the season with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while fellow big man Marcus Morris had 16 points and seven rebounds, and Sherron Collins had 11 points and six assists. The Jayhawks only shot 3-for-17 on 3-pointers and got to the free throw line just 10 times, but they out-rebounded the Cyclones by 11, forced 17 turnovers, and held them to 38 percent shooting from the field. Iowa State power forward Craig Brackins, who had 42 points and 14 rebounds against Kansas last season, had just 13 points and one rebound this time around.

Kansas has won 53 straight at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks haven’t lost at home since a 69-66 loss to Texas A&M on February 3, 2007.

Like Kansas, Missouri is also very strong at home, having won 33 straight there with their last home loss coming to Oklahoma State, 75-73, on February 26, 2008. But unlike the Jayhawks, the Tigers have not been very good on the road. They are 1-3 in road games this season with losses to Vanderbilt, Oral Roberts and Oklahoma, and their only road win coming over Texas Tech.

Missouri’s last game was a 70-53 home win over Nebraska on Saturday. Miguel Paul came off the bench and scored 15 points in 16 minutes. Zaire Taylor chipped in with 12 points for the Tigers. They only shot 39 percent from the field and 8-for-28 from 3-point range, but the shot 18-for-21 from the free throw line and committed only five turnovers in the game. If they can protect the ball like that against Kansas, they could have a chance to stay in the game and possibly pull off the road upset.

Dealing with Kansas’s size will be a problem for Missouri. The Tigers have nobody who can guard Aldrich and the Morris twins, so they will likely be using their patented full-court man-to-man press for the entire game to speed things up and not let Kansas set up its half-court sets. If the Tigers can force some turnovers, they may be able to stay in the game. But the Jayhawks are terrific in transition, so the full-court press could be quite dangerous. Collins is a terrific ball-handler, and Collins, Xavier Henry, Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed can all light it up from beyond the arc, especially in transition. The only hope for Missouri is to hope that the Jayhawks play sloppy and commit a lot of turnovers that lead to easy baskets for the Tigers.

Missouri is 16-35 ATS in its last 51 road games and 6-15 ATS in its last 21 games as a road underdog. The Tigers are 1-4 ATS in their last five Monday games, while Kansas is 10-1 ATS in its last 11 Monday games. The Jayhawks are 35-17-1 ATS in their last 53 home games (all of which are SU wins). Missouri is 1-4 ATS in its last five games against Kansas.

Ryno’s Pick: While it looks like Missouri is a very good team this season to an average observer, the Tigers are really just a great home team. They don’t have that same quality of play away from their home arena, as evidenced by their 1-3 road record this season. Kansas knows how to beat Missouri’s press and has been preparing to do so since the win at Iowa State on Saturday. The Jayhawks are at their best in transition, so this could get ugly for Missouri. It looks like 12 points are a lot for a solid Missouri team, but the Jayhawks have the edge in almost every category and should roll to their 54th straight home win. Take Kansas -12.