After blitzing through their first seven non-conference games under new coach Frank Haith, the undefeated Missouri Tigers face the biggest test of their young season on Tuesday when they play Big East power Villanova in the Jimmy Valvano Classic in New York City.
Missouri is a -5 point favorite over the 5-2 Wildcats, the most talented team they will face before the start of Big 12 play.
After losing senior forward Laurence Bowers to a knee injury before the season began, the Tigers are fairly thin in the front-court. Only one of their top six players, 6'8 240 senior Ricardo Ratliffie, is taller than 6'6.
He'll have his hands full against Villanova, who start the 6'10 255 Mouphtaou Yarou at center. Yarou, widely considered a lock for the NBA first round, is averaging 16.0 points and 8.4 rebounds on 57% shooting as a junior.
The undersized Tigers will likely try to speed up the pace to keep Yarou from dominating from the low-block, but the Wildcats have an NBA-caliber back-court of juniors Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek that is well equipped to handle Missouri's defensive pressure.
Wayns, a 6'2 200 junior point guard and former McDonald's All-American averaging 18.7 points and 4.4 assists, will be a good test of defensive ace Kim English's abilities.
Expecting a well-played and fast-paced contest, the odds makers have set the over-under for Tuesday's game in Madison Square Garden at 142.
The 6:00 PM game will be televised nationally on ESPN.