The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Stevenson: Jayhawks should beat Tigers in rivalry finale

  • The final Big 12 game between Kansas and Missouri will be the epitome of a “big game.”

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  • The Kansas men’s basketball team might play SEC-bound Missouri in the Big 12 postseason tournament in Kansas City; if that happens, the game in KC will be anti-climactic compared to the last KU-MU conference game this Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse.
    The final Big 12 game between Kansas and Missouri will be the epitome of a “big game.”
    CBS is going to televise the game nationally with a 3 p.m. start — that is great news because it means that Dick Vitale will not be involved in the broadcast.
    When KU lost 74-71 at Missouri on Feb. 4, the Jayhawks faced a raucous and unruly mob in Columbia. MU will face the same type atmosphere in Lawrence. Kansas played well for most of the game in Columbia, can MU do the same in Lawrence?
    The KU-MU Border War is not a friendly rivalry — like the KU-K-State competition — where respect is restored after the game is played. Missouri has never been a good neighbor to Kansas and they still aren’t. Down through the years MU’s hierarchy has caused as many problems as possible for KU — off the field and court. The total contempt among old-timers from both schools is real, not imagined.
    Ironically, the intensity of the rivalry isn’t shared as much by today’s players as those of yesteryear. In the old days, most of the football and basketball players for each team were from Kansas and Missouri. That’s changed. But among the over-50 alums from both schools, the deep-seated disdain is well and thriving.
    Because of the importance of this basketball game from the rivalry aspect, feelings among fans will be at a fever pitch. In addition, the winner will have the inside rail to win the Big 12 championship. And the conference champ will likely be a number-one seed assigned to the Midwest Regional in St. Louis.
    Kansas will expose an overrated Missouri team this Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse. Outside of league play, MU has played just one team (Notre Dame) ranked in the top twenty-five in the nation. MU has compiled their glittering 25-2 record against non-league patsies and the weaker teams in the Big 12.
    Considering their talent, the Tigers have had a remarkable season. MU lacks size and depth.
    Missouri will not be able to control Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey in the pivot. The Tigers only hope is to go crazy shooting 3-pointers and that will be difficult against KU’s perimeter defense.
    KU’s biggest advantage is coaching. Bill Self is a veteran coach and he’s been involved in many big games.
    Self is in his prime as a college basketball coach and he’s becoming a Kansas legend. Missouri’s Frank Haith has done an excellent job in his first year with the Tigers, but he’s never faced a crowd like the one that will fill Allen Fieldhouse Saturday.
    Page 2 of 2 - Quite often games with such a fanatical buildup do not live up to their hype. That could happen. If KU starts rolling early, the Jayhawks could blow the Tigers out of Allen Fieldhouse.
    This will be the last regular-season basketball game between two rivals who detest each other.
    It will be a bitter, bitter pill for the losers to swallow. And it will be a joyous night of exuberant celebration for the winners.
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