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Illinois and Kansas: Which basketball school do we despise more?

Mizzou has long-standing rivalries with two of their biggest border states. The Tigers will get a shot to play both this season.

Braggin’ Rights and The Border War. Illinois and Kansas have been mainstays as thorns in the side of Mizzou basketball fans for decades. The Illini and Jayhawks have generally experienced superior success on the court to the Tigers, making the hatred run that much deeper.

Luckily (or unluckily, depending on your mindset), Missouri will take on both Kansas and Illinois this season for the first time since 2012, when the Tigers still resided in the Big 12 conference.

Mizzou has been playing Kansas since the year 1907, when the score lines would read 34-31, or even 21-20. That should speak to the history and passion this rivalry has within college basketball. The Border War is intense across all sports, but with Kansas generally putting all of their eggs into the metaphorical basketball basket, the rivalry is most intense on the court.

Kansas leads the all-time series 172-95, which will not come as a shock to many. Outside of a stretch spanning from 1917-1921, Mizzou has never really gotten on a roll in this game. The Tigers have won 7 out of 28 meetings since the turn of the century.

This game has also been played at a variety of settings. Outside of Columbia and Lawrence, the matchup was frequently played at the former Sprint Center in Kansas City (now know as T-Mobile Center), and even in Dallas, Texas for a pair of Big 12 Championship Games (2003, 2004).

There is a lot to digest with this rivalry.

Mizzou is technically 2-0 against the creator of basketball, James Naismith, after they won the first two ever matchups between the two schools. Then there’s Kansas center Clyde Lovellette stomping on the stomach of Mizzou star Win Wilfong in 1951, or a bench-clearing fist-fight just ten years later, or the three-straight years that a Missouri squad upset a Top 3 Kansas team from 1996-1998.

The Jayhawks also had a habit of spoiling send-offs. In 1971, KU took down Missouri in overtime by a score of 72-68 in the last game ever played at Brewer Fieldhouse. In 2004, Kansas scored with two seconds left to win the final game played at the Hearnes Center. As a side note, the Hearnes Center is the only place Mizzou holds a winning record over the Jayhawks (18-14).

With Missouri off to the SEC, 2012 was a fitting last year for the rivalry. The Tigers started things off by coming back from down 8 with under three minutes left in Columbia to win. Kansas would respond with a comeback of their own, battling back from a 19-point deficit in the second half to win in Lawrence.

These two have not met since, with Bill Self even saying in 2017 that only Missouri cares about the game.

“For people that actually have strongly supported our university I don’t think anybody … not one person called me and told me, ‘Hey you are doing a great thing.’ Not one person,” Self said after an exhibition game against the Tigers. “Nobody cared. The people that care about it obviously are people that support Missouri, for obvious reasons.”

Well, on December 11th, we will see if The Phog cares or not. My guess...they will.

On the other side of the state lies another traditional basketball power, and Braggin’ Rights have been on the line between Missouri and Illinois since 1932. Generally taking place right in-between the two schools in St. Louis, this game has been back-and-forth for years.

Illinois leads the all-time series at 32-19, largely thanks to their domination in the 1980s. The Illini won nine straight from 2000-2008, but Mizzou then went on their own four game winning streak from 2009-2012. Illinois took back over with five straight wins from 2013-2017, but the Tigers have dominated as of late, winning the past three meetings.

The triple overtime thriller in 1993 that saw Missouri come out on top 108-107 is likely the highlight of this series, but there are plenty of other great games. In 2014, Illinois’ Rayvonte Rice hit a buzzer-beating three to knock off the Tigers, while in 2010, a technical foul by the Illini’s Mike Tisdale essentially handed the game to Mizzou late in a ranked matchup.

Yes, this rivalry also includes Bill Self. That winning streak in the 2000s came largely at his hands, followed up by current KSU head coach Bruce Weber. This led to Quin Snyder having a bucket of popcorn thrown on him in his final game in 2005 (an 82-50 beatdown), and Tiger fans largely disgruntled until the series evened back out in the 2010s.

The way the trophy works for this game is also unique. It resides at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis in a single cabinet. One side has a blue and orange square, and another has a black and gold one. Whoever wins the game that year determines which square it occupies, and the other has a sign that states “The Trophy Belongs Here Next Year.”

We shall find out where that trophy will sit on December 22nd.

All in all, there are some common themes between these two storied rivalries. Bill Self, physical altercation, intense games, a losing record for Mizzou, etc etc.

2021 presents a unique and interesting challenge for Cuonzo Martin’s team. Playing both Kansas and Illinois in the same season means that there will be plenty on the line in December, and that this team could start out on a major high-note or have a sour taste in their mouths from the beginning.

Winning one of the two games would likely keep Mizzou fans satisfied for a while. Winning both would mean ecstasy in Columbia and a likely contract extension for Martin. Losing both would lead to more grumbling about job security and the overall state of this program. Unfortunately for any coach that comes through Columbia, you are measured up against two of the best in Kansas and Illinois year-in and year-out.

In honor of the upcoming meetings with the schools, I wanted to pose this question: Which of these meetings means more? Is it the long-awaited, hate-fueled Border War? Or do we aspire to keep Braggin’ Rights on this side of the state more?