COLUMBIA – As the Missouri men's basketball team prepares for postseason play Thursday in the Big 12 Conference tournament, the Tigers are focusing on the little things.
Missouri, the tournament's No. 2 seed, will meet the No. 7 seed Oklahoma State in the quarterfinal round of the tournament. For Missouri head coach Frank Haith, the Tigers' ability to play defense will be key.
Second round of Big 12 Tournament
Missouri (27-4, 14-4)
vs. Oklahoma State (14-17, 7-11)
WHEN: 6 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Sprint Center, Kansas City
RADIO: KCMQ/96.7 FM
"We've just got to get back to the basics on some things," Haith said, noting that he wanted to focus on his team's closeouts on defense and tweak a few things on offense.
Sophomore guard Phil Pressey realizes how important defense is for his team. Strong offensive play can come and go, but the Tigers can bring their defense every night, he said.
Although Haith is keeping his team's focus solely on its upcoming opponent, he's also planning ahead. He will be taking three different suits to Kansas City, which he will need if Missouri makes it to the championship game Saturday.
Kansas City's Sprint Center has been a place where Missouri has struggled in the past, but with victories over Notre Dame and California to win the CBE Classic in November, the building now holds some better memories for the team.
"To have success in that building, that's a positive for us," Haith said. "Our guys had a lot of energy at that time of year, and we played extremely well."
Lack of energy this time around won't be a problem for Pressey, who, like his teammates, is used to playing back-to-back games like he did in AAU club basketball.
"We're young. I live for this. I don't think I get tired," Pressey said. "I'm pretty sure none of our guys get tired."
Haith said he thinks Missouri's guard-heavy lineup will be beneficial in postseason play. If a team has talented guards, they have the ability to control the game, he said.
"There's no question this time of year when you have guard play and if you're within reach in the last four minutes of the game, you've always got a chance," Haith said.
As for the possibility of Missouri meeting Kansas in the championship, Haith said he realizes a lot of things have to happen — both teams must win two games. So, for now, regardless of their opponent, his focus is on the Tigers' chance to play in the Championship, which "would be awesome," he said.
"Once the games come, they come pretty quick," senior guard Marcus Denmon said. "We need to prepare for each one, one game at a time. Everyone understands that each game has the highest importance at that time."