Recent fuss over potential KU-Mizzou reunion in Big 12/SEC Challenge much ado about nothing
Thursday, the college basketball world on both sides of the Kansas/Missouri state line became a little more fired up than it normally is in late May.
See, Thursday was the day when the folks at ESPN announced the match-ups for the 2018 Big 12/SEC Challenge — 10 games between the two leagues on Jan. 27 — and because the Big 12 has just 10 members, compared with 14 for the SEC, four SEC schools were left out, as has been the case each year.
One of those four schools was Missouri, based on the Tigers’ woeful 2016-17 season (8-24 overall, 2-16 in conference) and finish at the bottom of the SEC standings.
Makes sense, right? Why would ESPN want to put a team like that on television when the whole goal of the challenge is to attract viewers and make money?
According to those on the Missouri side of things, the easy answer is this: Thanks to the addition of No. 1 overall recruit Michael Porter and a couple of other highly ranked and highly rated Class of 2017 prospects, the Tigers are no longer that team.
They’re talking NCAA Tournament over there now and I’ve even heard mention of the words national championship and Final Four. Good for them. That’s how it should be and that’s what they should be striving for.
Now that the Tigers figure to be at least decent again, the interest in renewing the rivalry is ramped up. Makes sense. I mean, much in the way that Kansas football would have been stomped by Mizzou during the first few years of MU’s time in the SEC, the Jayhawks would’ve handed the Tigers a couple of 30-point losses in the past few years in basketball had the two schools played each other. And what’s the fun in that for either side?
So the claim from the Mizzou side is that ESPN missed an opportunity to revive the Border War and pit Missouri against Kansas in the made-for-TV showcase, a move that no doubt would have injected some serious life and excitement into the region and created a game that would have been nearly as hyped and anticipated as the past two Kansas-Kentucky match-ups if not more in some ways.
But let’s face it; adding a player like Porter or even a coach like Cuonzo Martin, who already seems to be well on his way to turning things around in Columbia, is no reason for the rivalry to all of a sudden start back up.
Sure, it’s plenty of reason for folks on the Missouri side. And who could blame them for feeling that way?
But nothing has changed for Kansas. The powers that be in the Kansas athletic department, from AD Sheahon Zenger to basketball coach Bill Self and on down the line, is (and always has been) that it was the Tigers who left the Big 12, sold out their brothers and ended the Border War. Kansas did not do that and, therefore, does not feel responsible for the end nor obligated to clamor for a new beginning.
Besides that, Kansas does not actually need Missouri. That may be a harsh reality for two programs who share so much history and have created so many great moments throughout the past several decades, but it is the truth.
The Jayhawks, especially in basketball, are a national brand and stand to gain very little by playing the Tigers again. Sure it would fire up both fan bases and there could be some money to be made in terms of marketing, T-Shirt sales and that kind of thing. But it’s not as if KU is struggling to pay its bills. So instead of taking the quick cash grab, the Jayhawks appear to be content standing on principle.
You left us, they say, and we don’t need you back. Seems fair. Seems logical. Whether fans on either side like it or not, seems like it’s the way it’s going to be.
So all of this fuss about how KU and Mizzou should have been paired up in the 2018 Big 12/SEC Challenge is little more than white noise. For one, the rules of the challenge do not allow for it because of where Missouri finished in the SEC standings last season. For two, it really was never an option because Kansas is not interested.
That’s nothing new and the reasons have been clearly stated for the past several years.
If you’re one of those who wants to see it and is still holding out hope that it’ll happen, Bracketology’s your best bet for now.
And, hey, never say never. Kansas and Wichita State finally played a couple of years ago, right?