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CBB Missouri at Kansas Preview

January 15, 2007

College Basketball - Missouri Tigers at Kansas Jayhawks (-16, 143) 9:00 PM EST

The Kansas Jayhawks may be rated number six overall in the entire country, but there's a theory among rival teams that they rarely play up to their vast potential.

Kansas has an impressive 15-2 record on the surface, but closer examination reveals that they may be a little over-rated. After losses to unranked Oral Roberts and DePaul in non-conference play, the Jayhawks almost fell to another inferior opponent last Saturday.

The Jayhawks got an almighty scare at Iowa State, having to go to overtime to come up with a 68-64 win. So even though they are listed as 15.5 point underdogs, Missouri will feel that an upset win is not beyond them.

This game will also prove an interesting test of the growing theory that the Jayhawks only play as well as they have to against unranked opponents. That certainly seemed the case against Iowa State, with only the play of the Jayhawks' top-scorer, Brandon Rush saving them from an embarrassing loss.

Rush produced two crucial baskets in overtime, while Sasha Kaun chimed in with 13 points, to prove the difference against a luckless Cyclones outfit.

The win extends the Jayhawks' winning streak to nine games, but Coach Bill Self will be asking for a more committed performance from start to finish against Missouri tonight.

Ironically, Missouri (11-5) had Iowa State at their mercy only a week ago, leading by 16 points at one stage, before crumbling to a late loss.

On Saturday, the Tigers trailed Kansas State by the same 16-point margin and fought back strongly before eventually going down, 85-81. It marked their third straight loss in a row, all in the Big 12, with their toughest test yet to come in Kansas.

The key to the Tigers' hopes tonight will be whether junior point guard, Stefhon Hannah can regain his scoring touch. Hannah, who was committed to Kansas State until his mother refused to sign his letter of intent, is averaging 15.4 points per game, a rate higher than any player in tonight's game.

But Hannah was well defensed on Saturday by Kansas State, coming up with a mere seven points, only the second time this season he has been held to single figures.

While Hannah is the go-to man for the Tigers, the Jayhawks have many more options on offense. Rush (13.5 points per game), Mario Chalmers (12.3), Darrell Arthur (11.8) and Julian Wright (11.4) are all enjoying productive seasons.

Summing Up: The signs aren't good for the Tigers as they haven't won away from home this season, and also haven't beaten a Big 12 rival.

The Jayhawks have lost just one of 12 games at home, and are 5-4 against the spread there. If they are focused and get off to a strong start, they should blow the Tigers off the court.

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