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Missouri Basketball: How Long Can Frank Haith's Tigers Stay Undefeated?

Looking ahead at the Missouri basketball schedule one starts to wonder how long this talented, senior-laden squad can remain unbeaten. Read about the breakdown of the schedule here.

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The Missouri Tigers look like they are getting a little bored.

After overcoming a "slow start" to take a 68-34 lead midway through the second half against Navy, the Tigers took their foot off the gas and allowed the Midshipmen to go on a 24-6 run to slice the lead back to 16 points late in the game.

It didn't really matter in the end, as Missouri came out with a convincing 84-59 win, but that kind of performance actually proved that the Tigers are extremely dangerous, even when they don't look particularly interested or on top of their game.

Missouri's performances against Villanova and Navy last week got me wondering how long this team can stay unbeaten. They have already passed a number of early season tests, including beating a talented Notre Dame team and a ranked California team in Kansas City as well as a young but talented Villanova team in a road-like atmosphere and none of their nine wins have come by less than 10 points.

Looking ahead at the upcoming schedule, there is little doubt that the Tigers will go into their annual Braggin' Rights game with the Illinois Fightin' Illini with an 11-0 record. If Illinois can win home games against UNLV and Cornell, they will also enter the game with an unblemished record of 12-0.

This is the Tigers' biggest test remaining in non-conference play, but if the past two Braggin' Rights games are any indicator, they really should be favored to win this game fairly easily, especially with the way they have done against big time competition in 2011.

Sophomore center Meyers Leonard could give the Tigers problems down low, as he is averaging 13 points and seven rebounds while shooting 64% from the floor, but Ricardo Ratliffe has shown that he can handle big men defensively and the Tigers speed should be able to beat the Illini defense. Plus, the Illini are ranked 40th in Ken Pomeroy's overall rankings, even with their undefeated record (the Tigers are 8th).

Looking at the schedule past Christmas, Missouri should be able to handle the remaining non-conference game with relative ease (@Old Dominion) before heading into conference play at home against Oklahoma on January 3.

The Sooners had a rough season last year, finishing last in the conference at 14-18 (5-11). They seem to be making a bit of a turnaround this year with their record currently sitting at 7-1, including wins over Oral Roberts and Arkansas. Still, the talent of the Sooners comes nowhere near the Tigers and this game will be at Mizzou Arena. They should be 14-0 after winning their first conference game.

After that, Missouri goes on the road to Kansas State and Iowa State, both tough places to play in recent years, but also places where the opponents figure to be having down years.

Kansas State is 6-1, but needed overtime to beat North Florida and will be easily sped up by the quickness of Missouri's guards. We've seen it tried multiple times this season, but no one has been able to effectively slow down the Tigers.

Iowa State is 7-3 including losses to Drake and Northern Iowa, so this one shouldn't be a problem for Missouri either.

Finally, Missouri gets Texas at home right as students come back to campus. The Longhorns are 7-2 and unranked, but always have good athletes and give the Tigers trouble more often than not. This should be an interesting one, but Mizzou Arena should give the Tigers another win. Same thing with the next game at home against Texas A&M, a team Missouri has handled in recent years.

After that, they go on the road to face No. 7 Baylor, which will be the first game that the Tigers will most likely not be favored in. Let's call the undefeated streak ending at this point.

Looking at the schedule like this, it will take an upset for the Tigers to NOT be undefeated after 18 games. Just think about that for a second.

When was the last time Missouri started 18-0? You have to go all the way back to the 1981-82 season to see the only time the Tigers started 18-0 or better (started 19-0 before losing to Nebraska). That year's team finished 27-4 and won the Big 8 conference before being bounced in the Sweet 16.

This team is looking like it will put itself in historic company by the time they lose a game, which continues to boggle the minds of everyone who watched last year's team and knows that they lost their head coach and most valuable player in the off-season.

Enjoy the ride Tigers fans, because a season like this doesn't really come around too often.