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The Border War is set to end in 2012 and it's not hard to find cries that the longtime rivalry between Kansas and Missouri should continue. This weekend's game showed just how great the contests can be when both teams are competitive and many hope to see both teams putting forward a hand to shake on some sort of continuation even after Missouri leaves for the SEC while KU remains in the Big 12.
But that's not going to happen anytime soon. Bill Self and the KU administration have not capitulated to such suggestions like Missouri has and Seth Davis says that's for good reason. No matter what local reasons are thrown out there, the Kansas brand simply doesn't need a rivalry with Missouri to make good on its reputation or ability to compete for recruits and rankings. Davis writes:
If Missouri is going to convince Kansas to change its mind, it's going to have to overcome more than just the hurt feelings of a jilted lover. The hard truth is, Missouri needs this game significantly more than Kansas does. The Jayhawks have won three national championships and have been to 13 Final Fours. Missouri has never even been to one. Kansas can recruit on a national scale, while Missouri has to focus on the Midwest. If injected with truth serum, I'll bet Haith would tell you the move to the SEC is making his job harder. So why would Self do something that will only make it easier?
Besides, it's not like Kansas has trouble scheduling nonconference games. The Jayhawks still have two years left in the Champions Classic that will rotate them with Kentucky, Duke and Michigan State. They are a perennially plum choice for all the major Thanksgiving and Christmas week tournaments. Their decision to participate in an intersectional matchup guarantees that it will be broadcast on ESPN or CBS. If Kansas agreed to play Missouri, it would be providing the Tigers with a national platform they currently lack. Hard to see the upside in that for the Jayhawks.
Davis is right in terms of the bigger picture, although there are some fans who hate to see the rivalry end. For the short term, the Border War's inevitable end is a sad moment and will be mourned by many. In the process, Self and the rest of the KU admin could seem heartless or, at the very least, stubborn like a spurned lover. Yet the interest of the SEC and Kansas' consistency in the win column will be enough to move everyone along. Missouri has to hope they aren't left wishing they hadn't made the move after all.
The Missouri Tigers have proven themselves to be worthy of elite status this season as they maintain their No. 4 ranking in this week's AP poll.
Marcus Denmon led the show with 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting, but the 15,061 Missouri fans who were in attendance proved to be the difference in the final Border War in Columbia.
The Kansas Jayhawks looked to have a huge win over the No. 4 Missouri Tigers as they led 71-63 with 3:24 left on a Tyshawn Taylor dunk, but that was the last points that Kansas would score on the night. Missouri scored the final 11 points in the game with nine of those coming from Marcus Denmon who hit two key three-pointers with his second giving Missouri a 72-71 lead with 56 second left in the game.
The showdown between No. 4 ranked Missouri Tigers and the No. 8 ranked Kansas Jayhawks is living up to its top-10 billing. At the half Missouri has a slight five point lead over Kansas 39-34. Both teams are shooting above 50 percent from the field and above 35 percent from three-point range.
A lot is at stake for today’s Border War showdown between the Missouri Tigers and Kansas Jayhawks at Columbia. Not only is it about pride, bragging rights and all of the intangible emotions and momentum that come with beating a rival — especially a highly-ranked one — but major Big 12 posturing is also at stake. Instead, Baylor is hoping for Mizzou to win to create a logjam at the top, while KU can walk away with some breathing room if they play things right.
Gary Parrish writes, “It’s been several years since I’ve been to Missouri for a game despite the fact that it’s just an 80-minute flight from my home. I apologize to Kim English and company for my absence. But there’s nowhere better to be Saturday than in Columbia because the fourth-ranked Tigers are hosting No. 8 Kansas, and a Mizzou win — combined with a Baylor victory at Oklahoma State — will create a three-way tie for first in the Big 12 between Kansas, Missouri and Baylor. Fun league, huh? Looking forward to my 80-minute flight.”
Parrish says it’s the top game of the week for him and it’s impossible to argue with that. Today’s Border War is going to be going beyond the typical regional attention due to the surge of Missouri to the top of the college basketball rankings. This has major implications for the AP Top 10 and both teams will come ready to play.
This isn't going to be your normal Missouri-Kansas rivalry game.
A normal MU-KU basketball game consists of some of the most directed hate in all of college sports, one of the loudest arenas in the nation for the duration of the game and some of the more exciting basketball you will see all season.
This is game is going to blow all of that out of the water.
No one that has experienced this rivalry has ever experienced a game with so much outside meaning surrounding it.
Two top-ten ranked teams. The last scheduled matchup between the two in Columbia. College GameDay is in town. Think 2007 level football, only with less implications on a national title, at least for now.
The atmosphere is going to be out of this world.
But how will the game play out?
Missouri-Kansas games are usually hyped in the same way: how can the Tigers pull an upset against a ranked Kansas team? This game is different in the fact that the Tigers are actually favored by more "experts" and come into the game with a higher ranking than the Jayhawks.
That doesn't make Missouri fans feel any better about winning this game.
Marcus Denmon, Missouri's best scorer, has been ice cold from the floor for the last half of the season, so Tiger fans aren't as confident as usual in the team's ability to score a lot of points, especially against one of the top defenses in the nation in Kansas.
Also, Ricardo Ratliffe will have one of the toughest matchups of the year on both sides of the court when he tries to guard and score against Thomas Robinson, the current leader for national player of the year.
With those two factors seemingly going strongly against Missouri, how can they be favored to win?
Well, just like they have done all year, the Tigers have taken their size disadvantage and turned it into an advantage with their quickness. When Kim English is on offense, he will likely be matched up against Robinson or 7-footer Jeff Withey, so he can do a lot of good work with relative ease around the perimeter. He will get open looks on the outside, or be able to pressure the defense enough to take the ball to the hoop and try and get fouled or kick it out to an open shooter.
Bill Self acknowledged that he is worried about that matchup.
"One of their strengths is playing Kim (English) at the four," Self said. "They have a lot of strengths, but that is one of their biggest. When you play him at the four, then that also isolates (Ricardo) Ratliffe one-on-one in the post because there are no traps or anything like that. It is a well thought-out scheme that they are doing over there and it is our job to try and take something away."
So while Missouri takes disadvantages because of their size on one end of the court, they turn that into more advantages on the other side of the court. This is the reason the Tigers are 20-2 and this is the way Missouri needs to attack Kansas.
Another thing that needs to go Missouri's way if they want a chance to win is turnovers. The Tigers have been able to bother Kansas to the tune of 26, 18 and 24 turnovers in the last three games at Mizzou Arena, so they should have a pretty good chance to do that again this year, especially with Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson averaging to turn the ball over more than 6 times per game.
Phil Pressey will be key in that area. How much can he bother Taylor and how often can he turn steals into quick points the other way? The sophomore guard has been incredibly impressive in Big 12 play, and there's no reason to think he will fold on the big stage.
Finally, this game is being played at Mizzou Arena. No matter the circumstance, the Tigers always put up a good fight at home, and with everything surrounding this game, you can bet that both the team and the fans alike will be ready to give everything they have to see their Tigers get one final home win against their hated rivals.
So whether you are going insane inside Mizzou Arena tomorrow, or watching this from your couch, just remember that this isn't just any Missouri-Kansas game.
It's so much more than that.
There's little doubt that tonight's game with No. 8 Kansas (18-4, 8-1 Big 12) will be the biggest test of the season for a No. 4 ranked Missouri team (20-2, 7-2 Big 12) that's trying to prove its worth as a national title contender and potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
There are plenty of storylines to choose from - a national stage thanks to ESPN's "Gameday" broadcast from Columbia, as well as one of the final meetings between the two schools in the "Border War," at least for the near future as the Tigers jump to the SEC next season. Mizzou hasn't beaten the Jayhawks in their last five meetings, and oh yeah - first place in the Big 12 conference is on the line, too.
Time/date: 8 p.m. CT, Saturday, February 4, 2012
Location: Mizzou Arena, Columbia, Missouri
The Border War is coming. Tomorrow night, the fight for Big 12 supremacy will commence with the Kansas Jayhawks and Missouri Tigers competing for bragging rights at a key stage in the college basketball season. ESPN’s Gameday crew will be there and both top 10 teams will certainly be ready for the spotlight.
Bill Self said the game should be a good one and looks forward to getting the game under way in Columbia. That said, the Kansas coach also admits that there are definitely match-up issues with Missouri’s smaller line-up that boasts Kim English as a major problem.
“So much is made of how you match-up, but the bottom line is we have to match-up with them, but they also have to match-up with us,” says Self. “One of their strengths is playing Kim (English) at the four. They have a lot of strengths, but that is one of their biggest. When you play him at the four, then that also isolates (Ricardo) Ratliffe one-on-one in the post because there are no traps or anything like that. It is a well thought-out scheme that they are doing over there and it is our job to try and take something away.”
That said, Self has considerable success here and he mentioned as much even as he was giving Mizzou their due credit.
“We’re 5-3 in games at Missouri since I’ve been here, so I have five favorite games. There’s nothing more fun, in my opinion, than beating Missouri and I’m sure they would say there is nothing more fun than beating Kansas.”
Frank Haith's upstart Tigers earn a national stage for a huge Big 12 showdown with Kansas.