There’s no place in America that cares more about the Kansas-Missouri rivalry than Kansas City, Missouri. It’s the epicenter of the Border War.
Growing up here and as a Missouri fan, from the day you assume your Missouri fandom, you are taught to not capitalize the K and hate anything in the crimson and blue. It’s the oath you take as a Missouri fan to always rebuke Kansas.
There’s been a void in cheering for Missouri lately. It was filled yesterday. People ask me all the time, “do you miss the Big 12?” I don’t. What I miss is playing Kansas and being in the Big 12 Tournament. If you’ve ever been to Kansas City in the second week of March, the Power and Light District turns into a college basketballpalooza type event that is unmatched around the country and as a Missouri fan, you always feel left out of the party.
Missouri is off somewhere far away and forgotten in college basketball hotbeds like Nashville and Atlanta. It’s not the same. Something is missing.
I had forgotten how much fun Missouri basketball is when it matters. I had also forgotten how much fun cheering against Kansas is. It had been a while.
Andy Dufresne in Shawshank Redemption says “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” This entire offseason has been defined by hope. Like Andy Dufrense, Missouri fans have endured the sludge of the last three seasons to come out on the other side with a new coach, a top-three recruiting class, and a renewed hope.
Missouri has a chance to have a special season — the type of season that you tell your kids about and have hypothetical debates with your friends about who they would beat in a game.
For 40 minutes, you got a chance to see how Missouri can have a special year, but you also saw their flaws and things that needed to be corrected. That’s the beauty of the college basketball season: learning new players, seeing the offseason development of the returning players, seeing how it all meshes together throughout the course of the season and praying that March Madness gods look down on your team with great favor.
This team will be incredibly deep. Missouri battled back late with Michael Porter Jr. on the bench and giving them little in the second half. Like most teams, you will be as carried as your star can take you, and Missouri will need better shot selection for their star freshman who went 6-for-20 from the field and 2-for-9 from beyond the arc.
- Jeremiah Tilmon has a chance to be fantastic, but you can’t do that on the bench in foul trouble.
- Jontay Porter, who should be a high school senior, at times looked overmatched offensively but with his ability to space the floor has a chance to be a great off bench asset for this team.
- Jordan Barnett will be a great second or third option for this team.
- Kassius Robertson’s shot is as advertised and he’ll provide excellent floor spacing for this team and will knock down some big shots this year.
There were a lot of great signs from the game that should excite Missouri fans. The hype and hope for this year’s edition of the Tigers is well deserved.
The atmosphere inside Sprint Center was electric. The proceeds from that game may gone to charity, but that was not a charity game. The results and score may not have mattered but that was not an exhibition game neither.
The game mattered. It felt real. The energy, the electricity, the buzz in and around the building, it was all there. The only thing missing was the bands and the cheerleaders. The same feelings and intensity that you’ve felt towards the opposition was still alive and real, and you realized that it never went away — it was just placed on hold.
Kansas is always going to be Missouri’s rival, not Arkansas or South Carolina or Georgia, no matter what magic trophy they try to create to drum up a rivalry. There will never be a team that elicits the emotion from Missouri fans the way that Kansas does.
I hope these two teams play again this season. I hope these two teams get together more often. It’s the best thing for Kansas. It’s the best thing for Missouri. It’s the best thing for the place that I call home. It’s the best thing for the game of college basketball.
We need more days like yesterday, not fewer. Here’s to hoping we don’t have to wait another five years for the rematch.