Tigers gaining national traction

Luke ThompsonContributor IJuly 22, 2009

OKLAHOMA CITY - MARCH 14:  The Missouri Tigers celebrate after winning the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Championship at the Ford Center March 14, 2009 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Big 12 released its 2010 conference basketball schedule today, and Mike Anderson’s Missouri Tigers will be reaping the benefits of last year’s successful season.

The reigning Big 12 tournament champs will play in a school-record nine nationally televised games, although as usual, the only Big Monday game is against the mighty Kansas Jayhawks. Missouri may be in the national conversation a little more, but it’s hard to believe expectations for the Tigers will be great, considering they lost 40 points and 16 rebounds per night with seniors DeMarre Carroll, Leo Lyons and Matt Lawrence.

That could be good for a team who seems to do better when it has something to prove.

Another obstacle the Tigers will confront in their quest for national prominence is lack of star power—unless someone like Kim English or J.T. Tiller can take their game to another level. At this point, the team’s biggest star is probably Anderson, and it’s likely to remain that way.

That’s not because he’s a guy who craves the spotlight. In fact, the truth would be closer to the opposite. But Anderson’s system requires an above-average number of solid contributors, and it’s unlikely anyone will even reach 30 minutes per game.

As a result, star recruits with dreams of putting up huge numbers probably won’t come to Missouri. Even if an unselfish blue chip recruit winds up in Columbia, it will be tougher for him to get the stats to draw people’s attention.

DeMarre Carroll's incredible assault on NBA draft boards from when he left Mizzou up to draft day is the perfect example of how Anderson’s system can hide top talent. Fortunately for the Tigers, Anderson’s system works, and the fans don’t seem concerned about not having a national star—as long as the team is winning.

Now, the media is starting to catch on as well.

Missouri’s conference schedule is below. Their non-conference schedule will be released at a later date.

Day                    Date                    Opponent               Location                   Time             TV
Saturday           January 9          Kansas State          Columbia, Mo.         1 p.m.           ESPN2
Wednesday      January 13        at Texas Tech         Lubbock, Texas       8 p.m.           ESPNU
Saturday           January 16        at Oklahoma          Norman, Okla.         12/1 p.m.     ESPN/2
Saturday           January 23        Nebraska                Columbia, Mo.         5 p.m.           Big 12
Monday            January 25        at Kansas                 Lawrence, Kan.       8 p.m.           ESPN
Saturday           January 30       Oklahoma State     Columbia, Mo.         1 p.m.           ESPN2
Wednesday      February 3        Texas A&M             Columbia, Mo.         8 p.m.          ESPNU
Saturday           February 6        at Colorado             Boulder, Colo.          3 p.m.          Big 12
Wednesday      February 10      Iowa State               Columbia, Mo.         TBA              TBA
Saturday           February 13      at Baylor                  Waco, Texas             12:30 p.m.   Big 12
Wednesday      February 17       Texas                       Columbia, Mo.         8 p.m.           ESPN2
Saturday           February 20     at Nebraska             Lincoln, Neb.           5 p.m.           Big 12
Wednesday      February 24     Colorado                  Columbia, Mo.         TBA               TBA
Saturday           February 27     at Kansas State       Manhattan, Kan.     7 p.m.           ESPNU
Tuesday            March 2            at Iowa State           Ames, Iowa               TBA              TBA
Saturday           March 6            Kansas                     Columbia, Mo.          1 p.m.           CBS

In conclusion, I’m not especially big on making predictions— especially this early— but here are five matchups from the Big 12 schedule you don’t want to miss:

1. Kansas @ Missouri; Saturday, March 6, at 1 p.m. on CBS

Since this is a Missouri blog, I’m obligated to put this game at No. 1. A win at the Phog would probably be asking too much, but the Tigers could really get a lot of momentum with a triumph against their rivals in the last game of the regular season. If you’re feeling masochistic, right after this game you could switch over to the Big 12 Network for the worst game of the year: Texas Tech at Colorado.

2. Kansas @ Texas; Monday, February 6, at 8 p.m. on ESPN

This game will feature the most talented teams in the conference, and probably the only two with national championship aspirations. The Jayhawks haven’t won in Austin since a 110-103 overtime victory in 2002.

3. Texas @ Kansas State; Monday, Jan. 18, at 8 p.m. on ESPN

This game could serve as the first indicator of whether McDonald’s All-American Wally Judge and the Wildcats are ready to compete in the Big 12 race, as they try to avenge the Big 12 quarterfinal loss that probably cost them an NCAA bid. Oddly, the home team hasn’t won in this series since 2005.

4. Kansas @ Kansas State; Saturday, Jan. 30, at 6 p.m. on ESPN

In case you hadn’t noticed, Kansas is going to be THE team to watch this season in the Big 12, and maybe the entire country. They’re that good. Kansas State still needs another win or two to make the Sunflower Showdown a respectable rivalry again.

5. Texas @ Oklahoma; Saturday, Feb. 6, on ESPN

It’s not the Red River Shootout, but the basketball version of this rivalry could be fun to watch if Willie Warren can emerge as a star and Oklahoma can find half-decent replacements for the Griffin brothers down low. It’ll also be interesting to see if the notoriously fickle OU basketball fans continue to pack the Lloyd Noble Center now that the main attraction plays for the Clippers.