Protecting the basketball against Missouri is not unlike trying to hit a baseball against former big league pitcher Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez. They come at you from so many different angles that if you let them, they’ll tie your brain in knots.
Hitters never knew whether El Duque would come from over the top, sidearm, three-quarters.
He messed up the hitters’ timing with a hard curve, a slow one and a slower one, then came inside hard.
Mike Anderson’s Missouri team applies so many different types of pressure the idea is to speed up the minds and bodies of the opponents, trick them into making mistakes that mushroom.
In basketball, the offense acts and the defense reacts, but when Mizzou is at its best, it turns the tables, putting opposing offenses in reaction mode.
The trapping Missouri does can look random, but according to the coach who faces them tonight, it’s not random to the Tigers.
“There is definitely a method behind the madness, but it’s hard for other teams to pick that up,” Kansas University coach Bill Self said. “... In a single possession, they may switch a ball screen, trap a ball screen, hedge a ball screen. They may guard it totally different three times on three ball screens that possession, so as a team, you go in saying we are going to trap ball screens this way. You never know if that’s the case. They have done a great job creating confusion with opponents.”
The best approach? Against El Duque, it was see the ball, hit the ball. Don’t let him put you in a state of mind where he has gotten you out before he’s gone into his windup. Same thing here.
“It’s best not to think,” Self said of facing Missouri. “It’s always best to go play.”
It’s also best to avoid drawing false confidence from double-digit leads. Anderson’s teams are famous for late comebacks.
Opposing coaches have a tough choice to make. Because of Missouri’s unconventional style, coaches feel the urge to have the players they most trust on the court as much as possible. Yet, the hectic style tends to make fatigue more of a factor than usual.
Sherron Collins, in the best shape of his life, played 38 amazing minutes against Baylor, looked fresh the whole time and lifted his team to victory on a night the Bears made spectacular shots.
As risky as it might seem to try to conquer Missouri’s pressure with Collins sitting on the bench, Self will need to find ways to give him ample rest coming out of media timeouts.
Collins and Tyshawn Taylor each had six turnovers, Taylor’s coming in 20 minutes, in a two-point loss in Columbia last season. Taylor had two turnovers in 30 minutes in the rematch, a 25-point KU victory. Interestingly, Tyrel Reed didn’t turn it over in a combined 40 minutes against MU.
Missouri, ranked No. 11 in the Sagarin predictor ratings — which blow away the useless RPI numbers — leads the nation in turnovers forced per possession, but doesn’t play well on the road. The Tigers commit borderline fouls, which tend not to get called as often at home, where the crowd support staves off fatigue.
KU’s a 12-point favorite, but Mizzou’s better than many think.