COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- After two lopsided wins, Missouri gets its first real test starting Thursday night in the O'Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Missouri is 2-0 after easy wins over Prairie View A&M and Chattanooga. Depending on how they do in San Juan, the Tigers could play five games in an eight-day period, starting with Thursday's game against Xavier (2-0).
Xavier is one of three 2008 NCAA tournament participants that coach Mike Anderson's team could face in Puerto Rico.
"There's a lot of good teams up there with a lot of long athletic guys just like us," forward Leo Lyons said. "It's just going to be really competitive."
The trip won't be the team's first outside of the U.S. already this year. Missouri played three exhibition games in Canada in September, winning all three.
The Tigers hope to improve on last season's 16-16 showing. This year's team features five freshmen and two transfer students.
Early on, freshmen Marcus Denmon and Miguel Paul are standing out. Denmon is averaging 10 points per game, Paul is averaging eight.
Still, Anderson has simple expectations for his newest players while in Puerto Rico.
"I just want them to go out there and get better and develop our bench," Anderson said. "When they are on the bench I want them to sit there and analyze the game so when they come in they add to it rather than take away."
The same can also be said of Anderson's expectations for his veteran players. Early returns from Anderson's seasoned front court are both positive and productive.
Lyons and fellow forward DeMarre Carroll are averaging a combined 43 points and 16.5 rebounds in the early going.
"It's their senior years so they are focusing on having great years and hopefully leading this basketball game," Anderson said. "Now it's about consistency."
That consistency could be built by making a deep run while playing in Puerto Rico as it could serve as ample preparation for the later months in the season.
"I think it's preparation for March and tournament time," junior guard Zaire Taylor said. "It's a tournament atmosphere that we are treating it as and we are trying to go out there and win the championship."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)