Mizzou's game against Kansas State on Saturday was never short on storylines in the first place. Kansas State is riding a recent wave of success back on to the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Missouri is looking for its first win in Manhattan since 2004 and only its second road win in Big 12 play. The story somewhat sells itself.
Missouri and Kansas State have played in a series of recent games increasing in intensity, physicality and bitterness ever since a supremely subpar Mizzou team upset the Michael Beasley-led Wildcats at Mizzou Arena in 2008. This storyline of hostility got yet another boost on Friday when Kansas State's Jacob Pullen and Jamar Samuels spoke to the media.
I can't confirm or deny whether or not the visiting locker room at Bramlage Coliseum has a bulletin board, but if it does, Kansas State's players did everything in their power to make sure they appear on it. The following tweets were reported by a sports anchor at KOMU in Columbia:
#KSU's Jacob Pullen on Mizzou: "We have a respect for Kansas you know. 'You don't respect Missouri though?' Not at all."
More from Jamar Samuels on Mizzou: "They grab a lot and I feel as though that's for elementary school kids and stuff like that."
In one sense, the comments say much more about Kansas State than they do about Missouri. A few weeks ago, it would have been hard to imagine Pullen or Samuels making such comments. But buoyed by renewed confidence, the Wildcats appear to have regained what was missing for a large chunk of the season: its swagger.
It's an interesting juxtaposition with Mizzou, which has swagger to spare in Columbia but an almost paralyzing self-doubt on the road. Generally speaking, the motivation from "trash talk" is vastly overblown, but Pullen and Samuels' words might provide Missouri an edge it has lacked in road games this season.
Mike DeArmond of the Kansas City Star noted that Mizzou's frontcourt was propelled to one of its best performances of the season on Wednesday by far less incisive comments from Baylor. Mizzou had the last laugh on Wednesday, but the Tigers find a much stiffer task in laughing last on Saturday.