WACO, Texas -- Baylor basketball fans were greeted by an unfamiliar sign when they approached the ticket window at the Ferrell Center Friday morning.
“SOLD OUT,” it read.
The Bears have filled their home arena before, but Saturday’s showdown against fifth-ranked Missouri marks the first time ever that a game has sold out more than 24 hours in advance of the opening tip.
It will also be the first matchup in school history between a pair of top five teams. The Tigers and third-ranked Baylor are each 17-1. The Bears suffered their first loss of the season to No. 7 Kansas on Monday in Lawrence.
“The top-10 thing didn’t work out [Monday],” Baylor coach Scott Drew chuckled Friday afternoon, “so I’m ready or a top-5 [matchup]. Let’s keep moving up.”
Missouri enters Saturday’s game averaging 83.1 points while shooting 50.2 percent from the field, a mark that ranks second in the nation.
Still, as difficult as it is to match their talent, the most challenging part about playing the Tigers is preparing for their unorthodox style. With only two players on the roster standing above 6-foot-6, Missouri employs a four-guard lineup that gives opponents fits.
Kim English, Marcus Denmon, Michael Dixon, Phil Pressey and Matt Pressey all handle the ball as well as a point guard. The Tigers are extremely fast up and down the court and are shooting a collective 40 percent from 3-point range.
“You don’t face many teams in the country that play four guards,” Drew said. “And I don’t think you face anybody that has the caliber of their four guards. Their guards are all-conference level, guys who are going to make a lot of money playing basketball for a long time.”
Drew even said they reminded him of “four honey badgers.” Bears forward Perry Jones III said Missouri has “four Pierre Jacksons,” referring to the Baylor point guard and early favorite to win Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.
As fast as the Tigers may be, their lack of depth and height could be a problem against a Baylor squad that boasts players such as Perry Jones, Anthony Jones, Cory Jefferson and Quincy Miller, all of whom are 6-foot-9 or taller. Two weeks ago Missouri faced a Kansas State squad with similar length and height -- but not nearly as much talent -- and lost 75-59. K-State outrebounded the Tigers 36-22.
Drew said his squad’s size is only an advantage if “length stays in front of quickness.”
The 10,347 fans who pack the Ferrell Center Saturday are hoping that will be the case for a Baylor team that’s off to its best start in school history.
“We’ve had great sellouts before,” Drew said. “But the fact that it’s done in advance speaks to what the guys have accomplished this year. Playing at home creates a lot of energy and enthusiasm and helps give you that extra edge that you need.”