Did you know that KU, K-State and Wichita State haven't been to the NCAA Tournament in the same year since 1988. That's the year that Kansas won the national championship after beating KSU in the regional finals in the Pontiac Silverdome outside of Detroit. The Wildcats had beaten the 'Hawks twice during the regular season, as had Oklahoma—which was beaten by KU in the national championship at Kemper Arena in Kansas City. It was the last time that KC hosted the Final Four—however, with ten, Kansas City has still hosted more Final Four's than any other city. The chances of KC hosting again are slim, as a domed stadium has hosted college basketball's showcase for the last 16 years.
It's more than the end of an era, it's the end of a tradition—as Missouri get's ready to join the Southeastern Conference. The 'Border War' has been one of the most fiercely contested rivalries in the country for 105 years. During the Civil War in 1863 rebel guerrillas, lead by Bill Quantrill, rode across the border from Missouri and burned Lawrence to the ground—45 years later KU and Missouri joined the Missouri Valley Conference and they've been competing ever since.
Interestingly, this is only the fourth time in the series history that the two teams have met as members of the top ten. Mizzou beat the Jayhawks 74-71 a month ago in Columbia, when KU was outscored 11-0 over the last three minutes. KU lead most of the way behind 25 points and and 13 rebounds from Thomas Robinson and 21 points from Tyshawn Taylor. MU's Marcus Denmon was brilliant in the comeback, scoring a game 29 points as Missouri beat KU for the first time in six meetings.
The Tigers are an interesting lot. With five seniors they're one of the Big 12's most experienced team, but with no starter over 6'8”, they are one one of the conference's smallest. That's become an asset for first year head coach Frank Haith who likes to run all five guys on the court. Missouri is the best shooting team in the Big 12 and that's their key—KU must defend all five guys on the floor, as they're all capable of big nights.
Kansas has yet to lose at home, but they've been pushed three or four times. Still, the Phog should be thick in their this afternoon. KU has only lost seven games in nine years at Allen Fieldhouse, none of them to Missouri which they've beaten 12 straight times in Lawrence. It's hard to imagine KU being denied no less than a share of their eighth straight Big 12 title, it would be especially pleasing to come at Missouri's expense.
Iowa State at Kansas State
K-State goes after its sixth straight twenty win season today at home against Iowa State. The 'Cats start the day two games back of Iowa State and Baylor in fifth place of the Big 12. Their consecutive road wins at Baylor and Missouri give then three wins against top 10 opponents and virtually assures them a place in the NCAA tournament, but the Wildcats need all the seed improving efforts that they can get—Iowa State provides that opportunity.
The Cyclones beat K-State by two in Ames, IA three weeks ago and in Royce White they have, what KSU coach Frank Martin calls—the toughest match up in the Big 12. White, a sure all-Big 12 first -teamer, is the only player in the conferences top 15 in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. In one form or another he can play all five positions. I would think that Jamar Samuels will start on White, but I wouldn't be surprised to see K-State send a bunch of guys at the sophomore in an effort to wear him down.
Most coaches will tell you that the beauty of any basketball game is directly proportional to the number of shots you hit. Kansas State is coming off its second best shooting night of the season at Missouri and have enjoyed improving performances from freshman Angel Rodriguez and Thomas Gipson. But the big key is getting Rodney McGruder back on track with 39 points in the wins at Baylor and Mizzou. Like most teams, the Wildcats are much better with a consistent scoring threat. They'll need one today in a tough game.
Drake at Wichita State
It wouldn't be a whole lot of fun cutting down the nets at Koch Arena today after a loss to Drake. The Shockers have a chanced to atone for an overtime loss at Drake(one of only four all season), to celebrate an already wrapped up Missouri Valley Championship with their fans—and to send off five seniors in style. Watch out Drake, there's a train coming down the tracks.
The Bulldogs are a decent story. Head coach Mark Phelps has done a nice job with this team and in Rayvonte Rice and Ben Simons(just back from injury) he has two of the Valley's four leading scorers. Wichita State didn't shoot the ball well three weeks ago in Des Moines, but still should have won. They missed the front end of a one and one, turned the ball over in the last 12 seconds and couldn't get a defensive rebound off a miss at the buzzer –all of which lead to three overtimes and their fourth(and last loss of the season. This is a good matchup for the Shockers, especially at home. Drake is trying to avoid the playin round at the Valley tourney, my guess is that they won't get a lot of help from the Shockers.
By the way, there are 32 potential tiebreakers in play for the MVC tourney in the final day of the regular season. Drake, like everybody save WSU and Creighton at the top and Southern Illinois and Bradley at the bottom—could finish between third and eighth.