By Greg DeVries
“The fastest 40 minutes in basketball.”
That used to be the slogan for Missouri’s No. 5 basketball team. It referred to their style of play that mildly resembled the 100-meter dash.
When coach Mike Anderson left to coach Arkansas, however, the slogan left with him, but the style of play remained.
No. 3 Baylor will have to contend with this style as it faces the Tigers at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Ferrell Center.
The Tigers’ starting five consists of four guards and a power forward. This lineup allows them to have ball handlers at many different positions.
As a team, Missouri is the second-best shooting team in the country at just over 50 percent. They score more than 83 points per game, which makes them the fourth-best offense in the country.
Missouri’s offense starts with senior Marcus Denmon. He averages 15.4 points per game in conference play, the same as Baylor sophomore Perry Jones III. Denmon shoots nearly 48 percent from the field and 42 percent from the 3-point line.
Brady Heslip will likely guard Denmon. Heslip is not known for his defense, but he does average about one steal per game. Heslip likely won’t shut down Denmon, but if he can force him into taking contested shots, then Heslip should be happy with his defensive effort.
The Bears are not going to beat Missouri if they try and keep up with the Tigers. Pushing the tempo only feeds into Missouri’s style of play. If Baylor is going to win this game, it will be won in the post. When Missouri played Kansas State, the only team to beat them this season, the Wildcats outscored the Tigers 46-18 in the paint.
Senior Ricardo Ratliffe is Missouri’s starting post player. Ratliffe leads the nation in shooting percentage at 77 percent from the field.
To put this in perspective, the all-time NCAA record for field goal percentage was 76.6 percent set by Travis Weiss in Division III.
Senior Quincy Acy will likely defend Ratliffe. Acy is a tenacious post defender. He blocks 2.4 shots per game. Since Ratliffe plays below the rim, Acy should not have too much trouble with him.
The Bears are going to need a big game from Jones III. With Acy on the floor, Jones III will probably be matched up with senior Kim English. English is only 6 feet 6 inches tall, and his true position is guard. Jones III should have a big night if he posts up and gets shots inside.
Because of Baylor’s size, it would make sense for Missouri head coach Frank Haith to start senior Steve Moore, but that would severely limit their depth in the post.
Another pivotal element to this game will be rebounding. Missouri grabs fewer than 35 rebounds a game, ranking 204th in the country. Limiting Missouri’s offense to one shot will help keep its scoring down.
Keeping Missouri off of the free-throw line will be another point of emphasis. As a team, the Tigers are shooting more than 80 percent from the line during Big 12 play.
Denmon shoots the highest percentage at 92.4 percent. Backup point guard Michael Dixon also shoots over 90 percent.
In their last game, Baylor fell to the Tigers 77-55 at Missouri.