Was Saturday’s Border War Really the End?

Posted by cwilliams on February 28th, 2012

Clark Williams is a Big 12 microsite writer, and a current student at the University of Missouri.

As a Missouri student, nobody needs to ask me how much the most recent Border War hurt. But the intensity of the rivalry this season has done wonders for not only the Border War rivalry as a whole, but the entire Big 12 conference. Unfortunately, this beautiful rivalry is coming to an end because of conference politics realignment. Fans from both Missouri and Kansas are saying that they don’t need each other, and they’re fine with the notion of never seeing their evil conference foe ever again.  How do I sum up my feelings as a Missouri fan about Kansas? At the end of Anchorman, Vince Vaughn utters, “I hate you Ron Burgandy. But damn it, do I respect you!” This should be the general mindset. Hate your rival as you should, but it’s idiotic for any Tiger or Jayhawk fan to be simply complacent with this rivalry ending. In recent years, whether discussing Missouri’s rise in competitiveness in football, or Kansas’s hoops National Championship in 2008, these rivalry games have nearly defined each school’s athletic season. Go 2-10, but beat Kansas/Missouri and the season was a success.

You Won't Find Another Rival That Induces This Much Emotion: Kansas and Missouri

In 2008, I witnessed my first spewing of Kansas hatred. It was during my freshmen orientation, and part of the presentation by the leaders was a skit making fun of the Jayhawks. These orientations are meant to teach incoming freshmen the essentials: how to navigate your way through Missouri’s confusing campus, how to set up your meal plan, and how to hate Kansas with a passion. Only the essentials. I knew of the Border War rivalry, but did not know the history of it, and had never known it to be of an intensity that rivals Ohio State/Michigan and Duke/North Carolina. I asked a fellow peer of mine if the rivalry “was really that big of a deal,” and he just scoffed, immediately knowing I was not from around here. He was right. I was an awkward kid from Texas, already uncomfortable by the different culture presented to me on the campus of Missouri and in the city of Columbia. I had grown up a Longhorn fan, and the only rival I knew of was the Sooners of Oklahoma and those folks in Aggieland. Still, you never truly appreciate a collegiate rivalry until you become a part of the student body. I know this might resonate negatively with some of you, as the schools you cheer for are not always your alma maters. But, it’s true, and I will gladly hear any of your attempts to dissuade me from thinking this.

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Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs: Week Thirteen

Posted by cwilliams on February 17th, 2012

Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs is a weekly article examining what’s hot and what’s not in Big 12 basketball.

Just like that, it’s a two-team conference title race. Missouri ran Baylor out of Mizzou Arena, and continued their hot shooting against Oklahoma State on Wednesday. Across the border, Kansas escaped the Octagon of Doom with a win over Kansas State, two days after easily defeating the Pokes from Oklahoma State. Kansas and Missouri are tied for first in the Big 12, both boasting an 11-2 conference record. Missouri is ranked #3, while Kansas is ranked #4. Missouri has the better overall record at 24-2, but Kansas has the higher strength of schedule. Next weekend is the last Border War. Needless to say, it’s going to be a good time.

Jeff Withey (5) and I Share A Birthday. That's About It. (AP)

Alley-Oops

  • Runnin’ From the Bubble: This alley-oop one-liner is required to be read aloud in your best Van Halen voice. While the Big 12 has been blessed to have three teams considered to be NCAA Tournament “locks” from the dawn of this season’s bracketology, they’ve been lucky to have three more teams in the race for a bid, as well. More importantly, these three teams — Iowa State, Texas, and Kansas State — have been doing a very good job avoiding their bubble bursting. Texas has won four games in a row, Iowa State has moved to fourth place in the Big 12 standings, and Kansas State continues to win the games they’re supposed to. I wouldn’t be surprised one bit to see six Big 12 teams in the Tournament. Read the rest of this entry »
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Gearing Up: The Needs of the Big 12’s Top Tournament-Bound Teams

Posted by cwilliams on February 15th, 2012

While many pundits and fans are examining what the bubble teams need to do to reach the NCAA tournament, we at RTC Big 12 have our eyes set elsewhere. Today, I’ll examine what the Big 12 teams that are a lock for the NCAA Tournament need to do before they tip off in March. After all, the purpose of the Tournament is not to just make it, but to win it. No team in the nation is without flaw. Syracuse has struggled at times with rebounding and lacks a go-to player in crunch time, Kentucky is a youthful and inexperienced squad, while Duke struggles defensively and has two suspicious home losses. The Big 12 is lucky to have three Final Four-caliber teams, but these three teams don’t come without weaknesses themselves.

Overview

For Scott Drew, Bill Self and Frank Haith, A Run To The Final Four Won't Be Without Its Bumps and Bruises

Baylor: Baylor’s flaws have recently become more apparent. While the Bears started strong enough to initially appear as the clear-cut favorite of the Big 12, they have struggled in recent games. First off Scott Drew needs to be a better in-game coach, plain and simple. His lack of adjustments against Kansas caused him to receive national criticism. Then, he unsuccessfully changed his game plan against Missouri, allowing the Tiger guards to shoot an amazing 14-for-28 from long range. I truly think Drew is a talented enough coach to get this team to the Final Four. Any doubters need to just look at him taking an (arguably) less talented 2010 Baylor team to the Elite Eight. His level of coaching talent hasn’t decreased, but he just needs to learn to play his players better, as cliche as that sounds. Baylor also seems to lack a killer instinct against elite opponents. While the Bears have been able to dominate lesser or even equal opponents, they are 0-4 against Missouri and Kansas this year.

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Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs: Week Twelve

Posted by cwilliams on February 9th, 2012

Another week of Big 12 basketball is in the books. With each passing week, the Big 12 is seemingly becoming more and more of a media darling. The Border War was plastered all over ESPN this weekend, and if it weren’t for the Super Bowl (whatever that is), we’d probably still be seeing highlights of Marcus Denmon’s take over of the game. The Big 12 race has become a three-team contest, but let us not forget how quickly things can change, especially in a league with this kind of talent.

While Missouri is Hot, Oklahoma's Attendance is Not (Columbia Tribune)

Alley-Oops

  • Marcus Denmon/Mizzou Arena/The Border War: That’s right, a three-way tie. Obviously, Marcus Denmon deserves an alley-oop for one of the most impressive late game performances I’ve ever seen. After a bit of a shooting slump, Denmon has placed himself back in the conference POY race. Next, I want to recognize Mizzou Arena, namely how loud the student section was. Earlier in the season, I ranked the student sections of the Big 12, and placed Mizzou Arena’s third. I want to officially amend that to place them as a close second now to Allen Fieldhouse. Lastly, the Border War in general. After all the hype that surrounded this game, whether it was the College Gameday crew, the rumors about vicious t-shirts, or the finality of the rivalry, this game did not disappoint.
  • If I’m Going Down… : Yes, the Pokes from Stillwater are having a disappointing season. They will likely not see the glory of March Madness, and could possibly see no postseason play at all. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to try and ruin other teams’ chances at postseason glory. First, Oklahoma State upset #2 Missouri. Then, they gave Baylor a run for its money, narrowly losing by four points. Then, on Tuesday, the Pokes defeated surging Iowa State at home. While Oklahoma State may not be a threat to compete for the conference crown, they sure are making it difficult for everyone else to do so. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Border War, Part Two: A Rivalry on Edge

Posted by cwilliams on February 3rd, 2012

On Wednesday, I explored the rich history of the rivalry between Kansas and Missouri, known to many as the Border War. Today, as the first Border War of the 2011-12 basketball season approaches, I’ll examine the current state of the rivalry, which is shaky at best. On Saturday, the Jayhawks of Kansas will travel to Missouri to engage in a highly anticipated affair. ESPN College Gameday will be there, both teams are ranked in the Top 10, and the first game of this hardwood rivalry always carries a lot of hype. However, in all my years of being around it, I’ve never seen the fan intensity so high. Using the same bullet-point format I used in my previous Border War post, I will examine why it is that this Border War is so special.

  • The most obvious and glaring reason is that this 100+ year-old rivalry is in jeopardy of becoming extinct. With Missouri’s announcement of their departure from the Big 12 to the SEC, Kansas and Missouri will no longer be conference mates. Kansas fans blame Missouri for ending the rich history of their rivalry in bolting for the SEC, leaving behind the Border War. Missouri offered to continue playing Kansas in non-conference match-ups, but Kansas has not shown any inclination of favoring that idea.
  • Obviously, when tensions are high between the schools, they are going to be through the roof between the student bodies and fans. Last week, rumors were abound that Missouri fans were making a shirt that would read “NMT”, which allegedly stands for “No Mom Tom”, a reference to the tragic passing away of KU forward Thomas Robinson‘s mother last season. This rumor has been all but proven untrue, but even the rumor is enough to make Kansas fans’ blood boil (as it should — because if it were legitimate, it would be appalling)
  • YouTube is very popular among young whippersnappers these days. It gives every kid the opportunity to be a star. Unfortunately, a group of Missouri students discovered the video-making platform, and created this music video. It is a horrible rap, yes, but you have to admire the school spirit. If you can get over the gut-wrenching lyrics, that is. Read the rest of this entry »
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The Border War, Part One: A History

Posted by cwilliams on February 1st, 2012

Each collegiate rivalry is encompassed by a rich history. Many date back over 100 years, and each rivalry has its unique moments, stories and anecdotes. However, no rivalry coincides with American history as much as the Missouri-Kansas rivalry, known simply around those parts as the Border War. The cities of Lawrence, Kansas, and Columbia, Missouri, have despised each other for as long as anyone can remember, but not in a way similar to the dislike between Columbus, Ohio, and Ann Arbor, Michigan. Kansans and Missourians loathed each other due to state political and social views, not because of football scores. The Border War is so rich with history that I thought it would be best to briefly touch on many of these spectacular moments, instead of focusing on just one.

Hide Ya Kids, Hide Ya Wife, the Border War is Coming this Weekend. (Mizzou Magazine)

  • The initiation of the rivalry began around the 1850s, when Kansas and Missouri began burning down each other’s border cities during the Civil War. That’s right. Kansas residents would cross the border and burn down a Missouri city before heading home for supper, and vice versa. The tension reached it’s pinnacle when William Quantrill and his guerrilla forces rode into Lawrence and burned down parts of that city, ultimately murdering 200 people. Ironically, Quantrill was part of a group who attempted to burn down Columbia as well, because it was a Union stronghold during the Civil War. After the war, the athletic matches between Kansas and Missouri served as relief funds for the state’s recovery from the Civil War.
  • Former Missouri hoops coach Norm Stewart refused to let his team’s busses stop in Kansas for fuel or allow his players to eat in Kansas. He didn’t want to put a single Missouri penny into the Kansas economy. On the Red and Blue side, former Jayhawk football coach Don Fambrough once refused to see a doctor in Kansas City, Missouri, stating “I’ll die first!”
  • The first time Kansas and Missouri met on the football field was Halloween 1891. They hit the hardwood for the first time together in 1906, a 34-31 Missouri triumph.
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Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs: Week Eleven

Posted by cwilliams on January 26th, 2012

Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs is a weekly article examining what’s hot and what’s not in Big 12 basketball.

Despite being self-proclaimed “experts” in the field of college basketball, me and my fellow hoops writers are often wrong. And that’s part of it — first, we predict that Texas A&M will be a threat to win the Big 12; then, we say Missouri’s hopeless without Laurence Bowers; and then, we are proven wrong. That’s part of the job. But whenever predictions pan out correctly, most pundits can’t help but pat themselves on the back. We at RTC Big 12 predicted that, despite the injuries, academic ineligibilities, and the effect of conference realignment, the Big 12 would be one of the best conferences in college basketball. With Missouri at #2 in the nation, Kansas at #6, and Baylor at #8, plus the impressive seasons so far by Iowa State and Kansas State, it appears as if we were spot on with that one.

Nice to Meet You, Mr. Nash. (Washingtonpost.com)

Alley-Oops

  • That’s Just Nash-ty: Nash has been under a microscope all season, and for good reason. Touted as one of the nation’s most talented freshmen, Le’Bryan was expected to not only compete for Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, but Big 12 Player of the Year too. So, naturally, he’s been a slight disappointment this season. Until last night. Oklahoma State hosted the #2 Missouri Tigers, hot off a huge road win at Baylor, and Le’Bryan went off, dropping 27 on the stunned Tigers.
  • Border War Hype:  No matter what the records of Kansas and Missouri are, the Border War will always be surrounded by a great deal of hype in the Midwest. But this season, the teams have skyrocketed the polls, now sitting at #2 and #6, respectively. The jawing between the fanbases has reached new highs, which is saying something because these guys already despise each other. Next Saturday, with ESPN’s College Gameday in town, Missouri will host Kansas, in what many are touting to be the Big 12 game of the season.
  • Taylor Made: Perhaps Tyshawn Taylor noted the public’s criticism. Or maybe he ignored it and knew his game would naturally come back. Either way, Taylor has been playing some stellar basketball as of late. His turnovers are down, his points are up, and he’s playing like the floor general Kansas needs. When Thomas Robinson and Taylor are in sync, I’m not sure anyone can stop them.
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Tigers or Jayhawks, Who Ya Got?

Posted by cwilliams on January 23rd, 2012

The nice thing about rivalries is that when the two teams meet up, the intensity and atmosphere is always phenomenal, even if it’s a down year for either (or both) teams. That being said, whenever two rivals clash while both are having fantastic seasons, the intensity and atmosphere is unrivaled. That is what we are in for when Kansas travels to Mizzou Arena on February 4.

When Kansas and Missouri Face Each Other on February 4, It Will be the Egg McMuffin of the Big 12 season (adweek.com)

But before we get to that game, we need to solve this question: Who is better right now, Kansas or Missouri? The most recent national polls have Missouri at #2 and Kansas at #6, but many pundits are ranking Kansas higher in their personal “power” rankings. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Kansas a #1 seed in his lastest edition of Bracketology, with Missouri projected as a #2 seed. And, of course the message boards and blogs are also blowing up, with Kansas and Missouri fans each emphatically stating the reasons why their respective team is better. So, in order to find who’s truly better at this point, we need to dive in a bit deeper.

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Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs: Week Ten

Posted by cwilliams on January 20th, 2012

Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs is a weekly article examining what’s hot and what’s not in Big 12 basketball.

A lot can change in ten weeks of basketball. Pundits who wrote off Missouri after the loss of forward Laurence Bowers are eating their crow. Texas A&M has gone from Big 12 championship contender to a conference bottom dweller, playing with the offensive ability of my 1998 YMCA team. And at the same time, many things haven’t changed. Kansas is still unstoppable at Allen Fieldhouse, Frank Martin is still fiery, and J’Covan Brown continues to score almost all of his team’s points. Hard to believe, but Selection Sunday is only seven weeks away.

Will the Tigers be Celebrating in Waco This Weekend? (Photo by Chris Lee / clee@post-dispatch.com)

Alley-Oops

  • A Fear of Phog’s: Monday night’s marquee matchup of Baylor at Kansas proved that no matter how the Jayhawks roster is shaped up, they will always be the favorite when playing in front of the raucous crowd of Allen Fieldhouse. The previously undefeated Baylor Bears were the latest team to learn this, as they fell 92-74 in front of a revved-up group of Jayhawk faithful. Kansas has not lost since the Davidson debacle in Kansas City, and looks to continue its eight-game winning streak this weekend in Austin.
  • Top 7 Heaven: Yes, I’m biased, but I truly believe the Big 12 is getting overlooked in the “best conference” discussion. The Big 12 has the most schools in the Top 10. In fact, they have three schools in the Top 7, with Missouri, Baylor and Kansas. All three teams have players on the Wooden Award finalists list (Marcus Denmon of Missouri, Perry Jones of Baylor, and Thomas Robinson from Kansas), and all appear to have the necessary utensils for a deep tournament run come March.
  • National Love: On Monday, A&M and Missouri squared off on ESPN in the late afternoon. Later that night, Kansas hosted Baylor in a highly anticipated matchup, one that had college basketball pundits examining it all weekend. Every source of media you go to, you’ll see the college basketball experts writing about Kansas, Missouri and Baylor. This weekend is another highly anticipated ESPN matchup, when #5 Missouri visits #3 Baylor. Heck, even A&M is getting love on ESPN, being mentioned as the 2011-12’s biggest disappointment. Too soon?

Airballs

  • Oklahoma State: While some folks are still saying it is not time to write off the Oklahoma State Cowboys, I’m going to go ahead and do so, especially after Saturday’s embarrassing 106-65 loss to Baylor. I don’t see the Cowboys finishing .500 in conference play.
  • Texas’ Postseason Streak: The Texas Longhorns, who haven’t been left out of the field of 64 65 68 since the 1997-98 season, are in jeopardy of not dancing. While I’m ready to give up on the Pokes from Stillwater, I think Texas still has an opportunity and the ability to continue their dance marathon. However, they will need to learn to not rely on J’Covan Brown so heavily, and if Myck Kabongo and the other burnt orange youngsters are going to mature their game this season, now is the time to do so.
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Atmospheres and Cheers: Examining the Big 12’s Top Five Student Sections

Posted by cwilliams on January 18th, 2012

Rabid student sections, steep and seemingly endless rows of seats, and deafening noise. These things are synonymous with a college basketball crowd that is so intense that it can literally change the outcome of the game. We’ve seen the Cameron Crazies, Pitt’s Oakland Zoo, and the Izzone. But, in my mind, I feel the arena atmospheres of the Big 12 schools are heavily underrated. Today, I’ll rank the five toughest Big 12 venues to visit, in descending order.

Kansas's Student Section, Only 9 Hours Before Tip-Off.

5. Iowa State: Hilton Magic, baby. While Hilton Coliseum’s crowd has not been as electric as it was in the past, Fred Hoiberg and Co. are slowly bringing back the magic. The students sit right on top of the court and create an atmosphere that is unique and worth seeing for any college basketball fan. In recent seasons, the students have once again begun to pack the arena.

4. Texas A&M: Known for the fondness of Aggie traditions and priding themselves on school spirit, the Aggie students support their teams until the end. They also have the fastest rushing of the court I’ve ever seen.

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Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs: Week Nine

Posted by cwilliams on January 13th, 2012

Big 12 Alley-Oops and Airballs is a weekly article examining what’s hot and what’s not in Big 12 basketball.

Another week of Big 12 college hoops is in the books, and the contenders are separating themselves in the standings from the pretenders. Still, there are a few middle-dwellers that I cannot figure out. Iowa State has a great coach, a star player, and a winning conference record. However, they lack a marquee win, and have still not shown they can defeat a better team. J’Covan Brown continues to lead Texas to an impressive record, but is relied upon too heavily. The youngsters in burnt orange need to mature, and fast, if they want to make a run at the conference crown.

Royce White Enjoying the Hilton Magic. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Alley-Oops

  • Kansas: The Jayhawks are hot, and getting hotter. Kansas recently cracked the Top 10, and judging by their schedule, Kansas might not leave it the rest of the season. They are undefeated in conference play, Thomas Robinson is playing some of the nation’s best basketball, and even Tyshawn Taylor has found a way to reduce his amount of turnovers in recent games.
  • Frank Martin: While it’s easy to argue Frank Martin’s placement in this category due to the Wildcats 1-2 record in conference play, Martin might be doing his best coaching job yet this season. After a frustrating loss to Kansas, Martin fired up his boys and executed a perfect game plan against Missouri, handing the Tigers their first loss. Three days later, Kansas State continued their brutal conference start by hosting Baylor. Martin and the Wildcats gave the Bears their toughest test of the season, and narrowly lost by two. There’s no such thing as a good loss, but the way Kansas State played against the undefeated Bears, there was a lot of good to take from the game.
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Bringin’ in the Hardware: Examining The Two-Man Battle for Big 12 POY

Posted by cwilliams on January 10th, 2012

I have a confession. College basketball is not my favorite sport. Baseball is buried the deepest in my heart, and my passion for America’s pastime will never be challenged by any other game. Today, one of my favorite parts of the baseball offseason occurred, the Hall of Fame voting. Former Cincinnati Red great Barry Larkin was elected to Cooperstown today. Why am I telling you this? Because it made me ponder who will go down in Big 12 history after this season as the best college basketball player of the 2011-12 season. Awards like this solidify one’s spot in college basketball history. The opportunity to leave your name on a piece of hardware that will last much longer than your college basketball career is alluring to these athletes, to say the least. Let’s examine the favorites thus far for the Big 12 Player of the Year. It is a two-person race at this point, with candidates from two bitter rivals. Baylor’s phenomenal team play has led them astray in this individual award category, but I think Scott Drew is somehow ok with that.

Marcus Denmon Smirks at the Idea of Being Big 12 Player of the Year. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

  • Thomas Robinson, Kansas: After being a media darling during the offseason, Robinson entered the season with big shoes to fill. And fill those shoes he has. Robinson is easily averaging a double-double, with 17.5 points and 12.1 rebounds per game this season. Perhaps most importantly, Robinson has been consistent, even when the Jayhawks have not. Robinson has scored double figures in all but one game this year, a game in which he only played 22 minutes. He has also put up some individual game numbers that are jaw-dropping. Robinson dropped 16/15 against Duke, 21/18 against Davidson, and an amazing 30/21 against North Dakota.
  • Marcus Denmon, Missouri. While the hot start of the Tigers has been somewhat surprising, the impressive play of Marcus Denmon has not been. Denmon is leading the Big 12 in a number of categories. He is first in points per game, total points, free throw percentage, and three-pointers. While charismatic Kim English is the vocal leader of the Tigers, Denmon is the quiet leader. He can drop 15 points in the first half, and unless you’re filling out the score card, you won’t even notice.

So, who will get the nod as the Big 12 player of the Year? It’s tough to say, especially without knowing the final record of each team and the final statistics of the players. Both players mean a great deal to their team, and have put the entire roster on their back at times and carried them to victory. However, as of now, I’d give the trophy to Kansas’s Thomas Robinson. Robinson has put up some absolutely stellar numbers in certain games, yet has been more consistently good in every game. While Denmon has been brilliant this season, I think Robinson’s output and leadership means more to his team. The season is still young, though, and there will be many more games ahead where one of the two Big 12 stars can separate himself from the other.

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