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Big 12 Hoops By The Numbers: Mizzou Playing Small, But Achieving Big Things

Basketball is a tall-man's game, but Missouri is proving that you can also be successful playing small.

Kim English is one of Missouri's small guards who is reaping havoc on opponents.
Kim English is one of Missouri's small guards who is reaping havoc on opponents.

At 17-1 coming into this weekend's games, the Missouri Tigers' men's basketball team have been playing like giants this season. Truth be told, however, the fifth-ranked Tigers are one of the smallest teams in college basketball.

Except for one road loss at Kansas State, Missouri has dominated just about every opponent it has come up against this season, especially through the nonconference portion of the schedule. Through 18 games, the Tigers' average margin of victory has been almost 20 points per game, and they are doing it mostly with a four-guard lineup. The average height of the Missouri basketball team this season is 75.6 inches, which ranks the Tigers 303rd in the country, according the college basketball rating service Kenpom.com. That figures out to an average height of a little over six-foot-four and gives just about every team the Tigers play a height advantage over coach Frank Haith's team.

The Tigers have six-foot-eight senior Ricardo Ratliffe in the starting lineup and another six-foot-nine player, Steve Moore, who comes off the bench, but that's it in terms of a front-line presence. Missouri has thrived on the deadeye shooting of guards Marcus Denmon, Kim English and Michael Dixon, who have provided most of the firepower in Mizzou's 83.1 scoring average, fourth best in the nation. And because of the quickness and shooting accuracy of the Tigers' perimeter players, opportunities are freed up inside for Ratliffe, who leads the country in field-goal percentage at 77 percent.

It clearly helps that, as a team, Missouri is the second-best shooting team in the land, at better that 50 percent, which does wonders to offset the severe height disadvantage the Tigers have inside. In its one loss so far this season, Missouri was completely dominated in the paint by a much taller and longer Kansas State squad, which contributed greatly to the Wildcats 16-point win.

Kansas has used its height advantage over the rest of the Big 12 to race out to a 5-0 start to the conference season. The average height of the Jayhawk team is six-foot-six, over two inches taller than Missouri and good enough for 12th in the country for the No. 7-ranked team this week. The Jayhawks are led by six-foot-ten Thomas Robinson and seven-foot Jeff Withey. Texas A&M is the second tallest team in the conference (22nd in the country), averaging just a shade under six-foot-six, followed by Oklahoma and Baylor. Kansas State ranks fifth in the Big 12 in average height at 76.9 inches (almost six-foot-five). The national average is 76.5 inches

Some other noteworthy numbers around the Big 12 this week:

2 - The Big 12 is one of two conferences to have every one of its current teams ranked in the top 25 at least once since 2005

8 - Number of conference teams with 10 or more wins this year. Only one team (Texas Tech) is below .500 for the season.

14 - Iowa State has outrebounded 14 of the 18 teams it has faced this season but ranks fourth in the Big 12 in total rebounds.

19.2 - Scoring average for Texas senior guard J'Covan Brown, who leads the Big 12 in scoring through all games.

23 - Number of 20-point games for Missouri's Marcus Denmon in his career.

54 - Dash Harris of Texas A&M has scored 54 points in his last seven games. He had scored a total of 37 points for the season prior to that.

60 - The magic number for Kansas State on defense. The Wildcats are 38-2 under coach Frank Martin when they hold their opponents to under 60 points.

100 - Wins against nonconference teams this season. The Big 12's 100-26 record in the nonconference portion of the schedule is the second best winning percentage (.794) in the Big 12 era.

106 - Points scored by Baylor last weekend in a blowout 106-65 win at home over Oklahoma State, the most ever by the Bears in regulation in a Big 12 game.

138 - Wins at Allen Fieldhouse for Kansas under Bill Self against only seven losses. The Jayhawks are currently riding a 16-game winning streak at home.

491 - College coaching wins for Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger, 32 more than Bill Self of Kansas. Kruger, who has coached previously at Kansas State, Illinois, Florida and UNLV, is in his first year at Oklahoma.

705 - Consecutive games in which Texas has made at least one three-point field goal. Baylor is second with a streak of 637 games.

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