Missouri men's basketball at No. 5 in poll entering game against Texas A&M

Monday, January 16, 2012 | 1:37 p.m. CST; updated 7:13 p.m. CST, Monday, January 16, 2012

COLUMBIA – New Missouri men's basketball coach Frank Haith is crossing paths with more than one old friend.

Two days ago, Haith faced Texas coach Rick Barnes, who Haith worked for as an assistant coach from 2001 to 2004. In Monday’s game against Texas A&M, Haith faces his former assistant, Aggies coach Billy Kennedy.

Monday's game

Texas A&M (10-6, 1-3 Big 12)
at No. 5 Missouri (16-1, 3-1 Big 12)

WHEN: 4:30 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM, 100.5 FM, KCMQ/96.7 FM

AP POLL  The top 25 teams in The Associated Press' college basketball poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Jan. 15, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and previous ranking:

1. Syracuse (60) 19-0 1,619 1
2. Kentucky (4) 17-1 1,558 2
3. Baylor (1) 17-0 1,503 4
4. Duke 15-2 1,380 8
5. Missouri 16-1 1,335 9
6. Ohio St. 16-3 1,312 5
7. Kansas 14-3 1,218 10
8. North Carolina 15-3 1,172 3
9. Michigan St. 15-3 1,119 6
10. Georgetown 14-3 884 11
11. Indiana 15-3 858 7
12. Murray St. 18-0 825 15
13. UConn 14-3 807 17
14. UNLV 16-3 651 12
15. Virginia 14-2 649 16
16. S. Diego St. 15-2 621 22
17. Florida 14-4 596 19
18. Miss. St. 15-3 590 20
19. Creighton 16-2 471 23
20. Michigan 14-4 461 13
21. Marquette 14-4 278 25
22. Illinois 15-3 257
23. Louisville 14-4 208 14
24. Saint Mary's 17-2 167
25. Kansas St. 12-4 102 18

Others receiving votes: Vanderbilt 101, Wisconsin 90, Seton Hall 79, Gonzaga 64, New Mexico 61, Harvard 22, Cincinnati 17, Stanford 16, West Virginia 16, Alabama 10, Wichita St. 3, Iona 2, Florida St. 1, Northwestern 1, Wagner 1.

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Kennedy was an assistant coach under Haith at Miami during the 2005-06 season. Before serving at Miami, Kennedy was the head coach for Southeastern Louisiana from 1999 to 2005 and led the team to the Southland Conference championship in 2005.

“I just felt like it was time to get uncomfortable again and be somewhere where I had a chance to grow,” Kennedy said in Monday’s Big 12 teleconference about his move to Miami. 

Kennedy said he learned ACC basketball and zone defense under Haith in Miami, but most importantly, he learned the importance of continuing to have a relationship with his players. 

“Billy is a great man. He’s a terrific basketball coach,” Haith said. “He will have that program riding very high.”

This year’s Missouri team is totally different than any of the teams Haith coached while at Miami, Kennedy said. With four guards who are used to playing together, the Tigers make things difficult for opponents.

“You just can’t guard one guy or two guys,” Kennedy said. “They have too many weapons offensively.”

Like Haith at Missouri, this is Kennedy’s first season as a head coach at Texas A&M. Kennedy said a new start can be difficult.

“The No. 1 challenge is changing the culture to what you believe,” Kennedy said.

Some teams fight the change, and it’s been a process for the Texas A&M team, Kennedy said. Haith echoed those same sentiments saying that the most difficult thing as a new head coach is getting your team to buy into what you’re trying to do.

The Tigers, who have moved up to No. 5 in the Associated Press poll, will receive a much-needed break after Monday’s game. Missouri traveled to Iowa State on Wednesday, hosted Texas last Saturday and will host Texas A&M on Monday before traveling to No. 3 Baylor this Saturday.

“It’s been fast and furious since we got back on the 26th of December,” Haith said. 

When classes start Tuesday, the Tigers will have the day off, Haith said, so they can have a chance to regroup and be students.

The No. 5 ranking is the highest the Tigers have received since the 2003-04 season when they were ranked No. 3 during Week 4 of rankings. It’s the first time they’ve received a No. 5 ranking during conference play since the 1993-94 season when they were No. 3 at the end of conference play.

The Tigers also ranked No. 5 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll.


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