It's a looming task. Probable you ask? No. But that's why you play the game. Then again, MU is uncharted territory against UT. Last year, Zaire Taylor's 'and-one' on the final possession down in Austin put the Tigers in the position to win three straight against the Horns with a win Wednesday. That would be a first for MU since the formation of the Big 12 in 1996.
Texas ran out of the gate with 17 straight wins and a No. 1 ranking. UT then dropped five of its next seven before absolutely demolishing Nebraska, 91-51, last weekend. Barnes seems to have his young team in line again, and poised to make a run at the Big 12 Championship.
Meanwhile, The Tigers are coming off a three-point loss to Baylor last Saturday, dropping them to 6-4 in the Big 12. Offensive productivity is streaky at best. The bench for the Tigers has actually outscored the starters five times this season.
To win, you, first and foremost, have to worry about yourself before anything else. That's why the first four of my five points are strictly what Mizzou can control.
There is no way Mizzou is going to outbound Texas on the boards. Last week, UT posted a +22 rebounding count against NU. When MU played Nebraska, the difference was +5. The Horns have out rebounded their opponent in 18 of their 25 games so far, including 10 games by double-digit margins.With the likes of Damion James, Jordan Hamilton and Gary Johnson wiping up the glass night in and night out, it is too much to ask for a much smaller Tiger squad to keep it even. But letting the difference get too lopsided will be the biggest black eye to the Tigers. If Mizzou can keep the difference within single digits, it will have a chance.
HIT THE THREE EARLY
The Tigers, more so than I have ever seen, live and die by the tray ball. It's usually fine when you are at home, but not always as the Tigers learned against Oklahoma. Making the three your bread and butter is never a consistent winning strategy but without Leo Lyons and DeMarre Carroll to control the paint, the Tigers have had to adjust. That's why it's important that the Tigers start the game hot. UT is not a first half team, leading only two of its 10 conference games at the half, so it's imperative to hit the ground running and getting all 15,061 fans behind their team.
The Tigers lead the nation with a nearly 30 percent turnover margin. Add that to a young UT team with two freshman starting guards, a loud Mizzou Arena and an experienced MU defense, and this game could get interesting very quickly.
STARTERS OUTSHINE BENCH, TAKE OVER GAME
Five times this season, the bench has outscored the starters. It's not that the bench has been spectacular, it's that the offense has slumped. Keith Ramsey and Justin Safford will need to control the boards as well as they can and, more importantly, keep UT's points in the paint to less than 15 a half. JT Tiller will need to figure out his recent shooting funk and shoot lights out, in addition to playing the defense he always does.
CONTROL DAMION JAMES
The guy is averaging a double-double this season. Behind James Anderson, this is my Big 12 MVP. Ramsey will most likely be the guy guarding him. He can't contain him. No one can. Help defense will need to have special emphasis on what ever part of the floor James is standing.
Here are my Top 5 things the Tigers will have to do (or not do) in order to hang a W in the win column.