COLUMBIA — Trap games litter the schedule in college sports, where there is a huge difference between the talent on the rosters of major and minor schools.
A game receives this title in one of two situations. One is when a team from a major conference, like the Big 12, is playing a team from a minor conference, like the America East Conference. Sometimes a team from the larger conference takes its smaller-conference opponent for granted.
The other happens when there are more prominent games on the horizon for a team and it gets caught looking ahead to those bigger matchups instead of focusing on the game at hand.
For example, the MU football team has a showdown with Kansas next Saturday in Kansas City. But first, the Tigers and Jayhawks must get through games they are favored to win against Kansas State and Iowa State on Saturday.
Well, the MU men’s basketball team also has a showdown in Kansas City next week, but at the newly constructed Sprint Center instead of Arrowhead Stadium.
The Tigers will be playing No. 12 Michigan State in the O’Reilly Auto Parts College Basketball Experience Classic on Monday. MU is guaranteed to play another game in Kansas City on Tuesday against either No. 2 UCLA or Maryland, depending on the results of Monday’s games.
And that’s where the trap comes in for the Tigers. Before MU makes the trip to the Sprint Center, it plays the Southern University Jaguars at 7 p.m. today at Mizzou Arena.
The Jaguars play in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, one that normally only sends its required one team to the NCAA Tournament each spring. It could be difficult to stay focused on that game when games against teams from the Big Ten, Pac-10 and ACC loom.
“We don’t look past anybody,” sophomore guard J.T. Tiller said. “We just take one game at a time, and we’re just looking toward Friday.”
Usually these games are about focus, and that is something coach Mike Anderson has stressed to his team in its preparation for the Jaguars.
“That’s the thing I’m really concerned about, the focus part of it,” Anderson said. “You had the regional tournament here, and then a day off (on Wednesday). The key is they (the players) know they got another ball game.”
Southern, 1-1 this season, has a victory on the road against Southern Methodist University. That is a game Anderson said was an attention-grabber for him. Southern trailed by nine at the half before rallying for a 75-61 victory.
Anderson said the Jaguars are a guard-oriented team. Three of the team’s guards, Chris Davis, Joe Holliday and Steffon Wiley, are scoring more than 10 points a game so far this season.
“They’re quick, they’re fast, and they can attack,” Anderson said. “When you’ve got quickness and some guys that can shoot the basketball, you’re going to have a chance.”
The two teams played each other last season, a game MU won 87-58.
Anderson has talked a lot through the Tiger’s first two games about MU playing with a tournament mentality for the CBE Classic. Tiller said he thought that MU should adopt that mentality for every game on the schedule.
“Tournament mentality is win or go home,” Tiller said. “That’s how we should feel on any game. It’s pretty much the same feel (for the Southern game).”
The trap is set. The Tigers will try to avoid taking the bait.
RECRUITING: One recruit is yet to officially sign with the Tigers after the early signing period that began on Wednesday.
Anderson said he would address the recruiting class after tonight’s game against Southern, when the last recruit is expected to have signed.
According to rivals.com, six players have verbally committed to Missouri, including five rated three stars.
They are small forward Laurence Bowers from St. George’s in Memphis, Tenn., shooting guard Marcus Denmon from Hogan Prep in Kansas City, shooting guard Kim English from Notre Dame Prep in Fitchburg, Mass., power forward Steve Moore from Truman Senior in Independence, and point guard Miguel Paul from Kathleen in Winter Haven, Fla., and forward Keith Ramsey, from Okaloosa-Walton Community College in Niceville, Fla.
Anderson did not specify which players had signed.