COLUMBIA — While the Missouri men's basketball game against Baylor University on Saturday is being called a powerhouse matchup between two top-five teams, the Tigers aren't putting much stock in the hype.
Just ask Kim English.
No. 5 Missouri (17-1, 4-1 Big 12)
at No. 3 Baylor (17-1, 4-1 Big 12)
WHEN: 1 p.m.
WHERE: The Ferrell Center, Waco, Texas
RADIO: KTGR/1580 AM, 100.5 FM; KCMQ 96.7 FM
"Rankings are nothing," the Tigers' senior guard said. "It's January."
So as No. 5 Missouri gets ready to travel to Waco, Texas, to play No. 3 Baylor, the Tigers are attempting to keep their preparations the same.
But what has worked in the past might not work when it comes to Baylor's ability to block shots. As a team, the Bears have a combined 114 blocks in their 18 games. Quincy Acy, a 6-foot-7 senior forward, leads the team with 43 blocks.
To put that into perspective, Missouri has managed 55 blocks this season with senior Steve Moore leading the Tigers with 23.
It's an issue Missouri coach Frank Haith recognizes but simply can't do much about.
"We don't have a lot of shot blockers on our team to practice against," Haith said. "When we play against shot blockers, one thing you don't want to do is make it a big deal to go in there and try to avoid it. We've got to be the same aggressive team that we are. Because once you start to think about those things and worry about it, your game might not be as good as it can be."
The Bears' Cory Jefferson, who is 6-foot-9, doesn't score many points but has blocked 31 shots so far this season, good for second on the team, while at 6-foot-11, Perry Jones III has 13 blocks and averages 14.2 points per game.
Missouri is at a clear height disadvantage, but Baylor's defensive game is also contingent on physicality, something that is part of the shot-blocking mentality it carries into every game.
While Missouri players can't hope to miraculously grow four inches taller by Saturday, a physical playing style is an area Haith can control and emphasize to his players.
"These guys played against that length last year, and we played against length all (this) year," Haith said. "We got to be the same team regardless, in terms of how we attack. I do know we can't go in there soft because if we go in there soft they will block you."
Trying to be more physical can lead to other problems, though. In previous games against bigger squads such as Illinois, the Tigers got into foul trouble early. And with only forwards Ricardo Ratliffe and Steve Moore seeing regular playing time, early fouls can mean trouble.
But English said worrying about and trying to balance physicality without taking fouls is also pointless.
"You can't play trying to stay out of foul trouble," English said. "If you try not to do something, you're probably going to do it. That's out of your control. The only thing I can control is playing as hard as I can. Accept the things you cannot change."