Today is the final regular season match-up of one of the most storied rivalries in college basketball history, so the weight of tradition will be resting upon the shoulders of the Missouri Tigers and Kansas Jayhawks as they tip off today at 3pm CT. The Border War has featured many great games, but this showcase of two of the top programs in the nation this season should be extra special.
Kansas head coach Bill Self even noted that he loves Missouri’s players and respects the incredible season they’re having with only two losses overall.
“Missouri’s got a terrific team,” said Self at a recent press conference. "I love their players. We recruited Denmon and Dixon. I love the personnel. I love how the Presseys play. Ratliffe’s having a monster year and English is having a great senior year. We really admire the year they’re having, without question. We went over there and played pretty well and put ourselves in position to win but didn’t close.
“To me, I don’t know that there’s any correlation between this game and that game because I expect them to play better. They played good enough to win over there, but it wasn’t one of their stellar games. We’re going to have to do a great job defending them again and put ourselves in great shape to win better than what we did over there — and what we did over there, I thought, was pretty good.
He also said his players were going to be ready to play for more than just the Border War.
“These kids will be fired up to play, no question, for a lot of reasons. It’s a chance to get a ring or at least a piece of it. It’s a chance to play Missouri. More importantly, it’s a chance to play a team that beat us the first time we played. That will be plenty of focus.”
Kansas State has defeated Mizzou twice in its two conference match-ups and Self said he was prepped to watch the game film of their recent contest for clues on how to handle the Tigers.
“It’s on my to-do list, but I haven’t seen it,” he said. “But one thing that K-State did that was so impressive the first time they played them was they were physical and got the ball in tight. Based on the little bit I’ve seen, I thought K-State did a great job the other night getting their lead early as far as getting the ball inside and getting in tight.”
While Self says he enjoys these games against Missouri all these years, he’s not going to wax nostalgic once the season is over.
“I love playing Missouri,” he said. “I’ve loved playing them since I was at Illinois. I love playing them here, but it’s not anything that I’m going to lay around or sit around and think about, ‘Oh, I wish.’ I don’t feel that strongly at all about it.”