The 271st meeting between Kansas and Missouri on the hardwood is set to take place on Saturday. Gates and his players know the importance of this game. However, there is something to be said about not allowing the energy and emotions to take over.
“(We) just have to stay in the moment,” Nick Honor said. “We know it’s gonna be a big time game; there’s gonna be a lot of people here. At the end of the day, it’s just basketball. So it’s all about just relaying that message to the guys.”
Like Honor, Gates did not grow up surrounded by this rivalry, but he’s enough of a college basketball junkie to understand the meaning of it.
“As a basketball savant, yeah, you have some great rivalries out there. Not just in basketball but in all of college sports, right?” Gates said. “From baseball to football to basketball. Also women’s basketball. Those things show you the qualities of why college athletics is so special. You have generations of families, friends, loved ones, alumni, who all come back because this rivalry exists. And this is one that people have circled. And they make plans to be back. And it’s one of the longest standing rivalries, and there are some historical perspectives in it as well. “
Asked about what he expected from the fans on Saturday, Honor pointed at The Antlers specifically.
“I expect The Antlers to be a little rowdy. I mean, they already are, but I know there’ll be a little bit more amped up,” Honor said.
Gates, similarly, anticipates a raucous crowd on Saturday, and he wishes everyone the best in traveling to the game and pleads for everyone to be respectful on Game Day.
“It’s going to be a high-level environment, there’s no doubt about it. I give all our fans, including their fans, safe, safe travel mercies,” Gates said. “Be safe on the road, but also, please conduct yourselves in a way that’s representative of who we are as people. There’s a lot going on in this world. Let’s be respectful of each other.”
At the end of the day, this is just a game, and there will always be a winner and a loser.
“Both teams can go out and play their very best, but there’s still going to be one winning team and one losing team,” Gates explained.
Dennis Gates’ Approach
Coach Gates and Bill Self actually stem from the same coaching tree under Leonard Hamilton. However, it was past Mizzou coaches Gates has reached out to in order to prepare for this game.
“I’ll always keep confidentiality as it relates to talking to former coaches,” Gates said. “I stand on the shoulders of those who have come before me. I did talk to Coach Hamilton today, and Coach Ham’s perspective is simple: just go out there and do your best for your team.”
Gates said he’s also talked with Norm Stewart, Cuonzo Martin, Kim Anderson and Frank Haith, among others.
Otherwise, Gates says that practice this week has been business as usual.
“This will be a day where we prepare for Mizzou basketball. And when I say Mizzou basketball, my job is for my team to continue to be their biggest opponent,” Gates said of practice on Thursday. “Who are we when we are in adversity? Who are we when we look in the mirror? Who are we when we have to put sacrifices aside and do it for the betterment of the team? Those are the things that are important to me.”
Gates revealed nothing regarding the scouting report, merely stating that Kansas is a great team, are the defending National Champions, and that Coach Self plays an unbelievable style of basketball. Ultimately, however, Gates is looking at the bigger picture.
“I’ve prepared for my first year; I don’t look at it as one game, because ultimately, I had to prepare for every opponent including our non-conference, including our exhibition because we’re building our program, we’re in the infant stages of doing so,” Gates said. “So I don’t just look at it from one game; there are several games before and there are several games afterwards. I have to make sure the mental, physical and emotional growth of my team is going in a direction that will allow us a successful season.”
Last Year to This Year
“It was extremely loud with a lot of energy, and it was a lot of fun.”
That was Kobe Brown’s assessment of the 2021 matchup in Lawrence, a game in which the Tigers lost 102-65. Brown went on to say that that kind of environment can “most definitely” be replicated at Mizzou.
“(Last year’s game) let me know how serious this rivalry really was,” Brown said.
Kobe went on to state he was somewhat surprised by the intensity of the matchup last year. He even described how Kansas students were already cursing him and his teammates out upon arrival in Lawrence last season while they were camped out in long lines around the building.
However, the difference between this year and last, you may ask?
“Connectivity,” Brown explained. “Everyone’s playing for each other. Everyone’s playing for the bigger picture. We’re all bought into what we do and excited to play every game.”