A number of local fans are yearning - even expecting - a rematch between Kansas and Missouri in next week's Big 12 Tournament championship game. Baylor, Iowa State and Kansas State, which always seems to bring its "A" game to Kansas City, I'm certain have other ideas about how all of this will play out.
One way to look at it is that matchups in this tournament often don't turn out the way they are supposed to. And that's actually a good thing. Otherwise why go to all the trouble of having all of the teams come to town and contest eight games over three preliminary rounds just to get to two final teams to play for a postseason Big 12 championship? Why not just have the top two teams in the regular season play for the conference championship like they used to in football when the Big 12 actually was composed of 12 teams?
What I'm really building up to is that I don't want to see Kansas and Missouri play again this season. I realize this isn't going to be a popular opinion around these parts. In fact, I might just be an island of one on this one. I'm not saying that I don't want either school to win the championship. I just don't want both teams to reach the championship game, because that is the only chance they would have of playing each other again this season, given their top-two seeding in the conference tournament and the extremely long odds of meeting in the NCAA Tournament.
With Kansas having already clinched its eighth consecutive Big 12 regular-season championship (six of which they have won six outright), it would be poetic justice for Missouri to conclude its final season in the Big 12 by walking off with the conference tournament championship trophy. As well as first-year MU coach Frank Haith's team has played this season, reaching No, 2 in the national polls before being upset at home by Kansas State just a couple of weeks ago, you could argue the Tigers would be a deserving conference tournament champion.
Don't expect Kansas fans, however, to harbor that same sentiment toward soon-to-be dearly departed Missouri. You see, neither of these two schools have any compassion for one another. In fact, they flat out hate each other, and neither has the slightest inclination to see the other do well, regardless of the sport or the circumstances.
Kansas has won 12 regular-season basketball championships and eight postseason tournament titles in the 16-year history of the Big 12. Missouri, on the other hand, has only one tournament title on it resume over that time. And you can be assured that the faithful fans in Jayhawk Country would like to keep it that way.
Let's be realistic. It is highly unlikely that neither the Jayhawks nor the Tigers will be playing next Saturday in the conference championship game. One, if not both, should make it through the quarter and semifinal rounds and be playing not only for the conference postseason title but also a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament that begins the following Thursday.
Here are the five reasons I don't want to see a Kansas vs. Missouri rematch in the tournament final:
- Missouri's decision to break off its century-old affiliation with the Big 12 and all the predecessor leagues that preceded it coupled with Kansas' declaration that it wouldn't schedule any future basketball or football games with a Mizzou team that chose to leave the Big 12 has sparked additional resentment between the two schools. An extra basketball game between the two won't improve this situation. In fact, it could further incite it.
- Each school had a thrilling come-from-behind victory on its home floor over the rival school. You couldn't dial up two more exciting games if you tried. Why not leave it at that? A rubber game isn't necessary. It wouldn't change anything, not even bragging rights.
- Continuing on the same theme expressed in the preceding bullet, each school won this year on its home court in front of its own fans. A third game runs the high risk of detracting from the two exceptional games played in the regular season, among the two best games of the entire college basketball season. And another thing: with the tournament being in Kansas City, the so-called neutral court setting is highly misleading. The division of the fans in attendance is likely to more significantly favor Kansas than Mizzou because of the closer proximity to the KU campus.
- Kansas and Missouri have played 267 times in basketball dating back to their first game in 1907. Kansas has won 172 times to Missouri's 95 (in case you interested, the Jayhawks were victorious over their archrivals in 31 of the first 33 games and in 24 of their past 33 games). Nothing would be gained from one more rivalry game. Kansas already has a dominant advantage. With the two bitter rivals splitting their two games this season, that's a perfect way to leave it.
- In 24 games played in Kansas City between Missouri and their Border War rivals from the Sunflower State, Kansas has won 18. The last time the two teams met in Kansas City was 1997, a Big 12 Tournament game won by Kansas. Again, what does another game matter, aside from a huge boost to the local economy.
The one point I might concede is: If Missouri and Kansas get a rematch in Kansas City, there is a good possibility that both teams will secure No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. But so what, really? I would believe that regardless of what happens in the Big 12 Tournament, the worst Kansas or Missouri is likely to fall in the NCAA seeding process is No. 2, and there really is little difference between a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. If you win your four regional games, you will advance to the Final Four.
The best thing to do, in my opinion, would be to fast forward to Selection Sunday and go from there. Nothing else before really matters.
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