When 14th-ranked Mizzou plays Wednesday at Oklahoma State, the Tigers will be taking on not only the Cowboys but also seeking to defy the essential gravity of the Big 12.
Entering third-ranked Texas' game at No. 16 Texas A&M on Monday night, Big 12 teams were 28-11 in conference play at home — not to mention 217-6 at home in nonconference play the last two seasons.
At nearly the halfway point of the conference season, only Texas and No. 2 Kansas have winning records on the road in Big 12 play (3-0), and MU is among the five still seeking its first away from home.
Just as it is in many other conferences, playing in what Mizzou coach Mike Anderson calls "the family" makes for higher stakes and intensified atmospheres that can compound the challenge.
"A lot of factors have to go your way," said Anderson, noting that the Tigers failed to avail themselves of two major ones, shooting and rebounding, in their 71-58 loss at Texas on Saturday and adding, "That's a recipe for disaster."
People are also reading…
At some levels, the ingredients in what's become a traditional Big 12 stew are simple enough to understand.
The league features two of the nation's current top three and four of its top 16, and that doesn't include Baylor and Kansas State programs that returned some key elements from Elite Eight runs in 2010.
The conference is the only one whose every member is in the RPI top 150, and 10 of the 12 have been ranked or received votes in at least one major poll this season.
"Our league's a bear," said Kansas State coach Frank Martin, whose disappointing Wildcats are 1-4 on the road and 2-5 overall in Big 12 play.
And thus particularly snarling with home-court advantages such as rowdy crowds in well-filled facilities: Last season's Big 12 home attendance average of 11,214 was a little over a thousand behind the perennial national leader, the Big Ten.
Perhaps influenced by the crowds, it's common to see disparities in free-throw opportunities for the home and away teams.
Oklahoma State went to the line 20 times, Texas Tech 39 in OSU's overtime loss at Tech on Saturday. MU faced a similar difference, 38-19, in its overtime loss at A&M.
That's hardly always the case, of course, and the numbers themselves don't automatically mean that the officiating didn't reflect the way the game was played.
But this much is for sure.
"The stats speak for themselves," said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose Bears are 12-1 at home, 2-5 away from Waco and 1-2 on the Big 12 road.
He added, "Any time somebody gets a road win (in the Big 12), they should celebrate."
Said Nebraska coach Doc Sadler, whose Huskers are 0-3 on the Big 12 road but beat No. 16 Texas A&M at home Saturday: "If you're going to try to do anything in this league, every home game's big."
The difference between being road worriers and road warriors isn't just an issue for the wanna-bes.
Mizzou won four NCAA Tournament games in its previous two seasons, including an Elite Eight run in 2009. But in his fifth season, Anderson has yet to have a team go over .500 on the road in Big 12 play. His Tigers are 25-10 in Big 12 home games, 13-22 away.
When Kansas travels to Texas Tech tomorrow, the Jayhawks will be seeking to end a three-game losing streak in Lubbock — including a 20-point loss there in 2009 when KU was otherwise 14-1 in conference play and Tech 2-13.
"We were abnormally hot," Texas Tech coach Pat Knight said.
Said KU coach Bill Self: "I don't know what it is; we just haven't performed well there."
More concretely, conference coaches can articulate the remedies even if they can't always coax them out.
Colorado coach Tad Boyle suggested it takes nothing less than a combination of being "dialed in" and "mentally tough," defense and rebounding, making plays down the stretch and getting to the free-throw line.
Oh, and taking care of the ball and shooting it well all along.
"You have to do all that stuff," he said.
With the margins for error so small between most conference teams, though, Anderson perhaps summed up the most crucial component.
"You've got to seize the opportunities that are in front of you," said Anderson, whose team had plenty in losses at Colorado and A&M and adding, "You've got to make plays going down the stretch."
Easier said than done for most travelers in the conference.