Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Welcoming" the Jayhawks to Columbia

As the 2010-11 college basketball season rolls into the final week of the regular season, it is clear that Missouri, like many teams, has a very hard time winning on the road. That point was driven home further last Saturday with Missouri’s 80-70 loss to Kansas State in Manhattan, the Little Apple.

Foul trouble limited the Tigers’ big men, forcing the Tigers to often play with forward Laurence Bowers and four guards. The Wildcats took it to the Tigers inside late, pulling away even with star guard Jacob Pullen on the bench with foul trouble of his own.

Missouri (22-7, 8-6 in Big 12 play at week’s end) has won all seven of its Big 12 home games while going 1-6 in conference road games through the loss at Kansas State.

But it’s also clear, as the season rolls into the final week of the regular season, that Missouri is very, very good at home. The Tigers have won 52 of their last 54 home games dating back to the last game of the 2007-08 season. To put it another way, Missouri has only two home losses in the last three seasons, going unbeaten at home in 2008-09, 16-2 in 2009-10, and 17-0 this season heading into the final home game.

That final home game is against the Kansas Jayhawks, a team you may have heard Missouri fans talk about some. Tiger fans know how different their team is at home and on the road, so it seems entirely likely that Missouri can avenge its 17-point loss at Kansas in February.

Kansas will quite possibly come into Mizzou Arena on Saturday (11 a.m. on CBS) as the No. 1 team in the nation. But Missouri has frequently thrived in the underdog role against Kansas in Columbia. In the brief, six-year history of Mizzou Arena, Kansas has been the Big 12 champion or co-champion each year. Missouri has finished 8th, 11th, 6th, 10th, 3rd and 5th in these six years. And yet, the Tigers have rose up and gone 3-3 against the Jayhawks in the six Mizzou Arena meetings.

Again this year, Kansas is tied for first in the Big 12, and Missouri is tied for fourth, but expect a frantic effort from the Tigers and yes, their fans.

The Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball always seem to try to be a bit faster against Kansas. The loudest Mizzou Arena crowd each year is against Kansas. Students camp out for tickets to the game against Kansas. In great seasons and poor seasons, memories are made when Missouri wins at home against Kansas.

Missouri’s struggles in the Jayhawks’ vaunted Allen Fieldhouse are well documented. But the Tigers have clearly given the Jayhawks sensational fights in Columbia. Missouri is 7-7 at home against Kansas in the Big 12 era, despite the Jayhawks winning at least a share of the league title in 10 of those 14 seasons. Legendary Missouri coach Norm Stewart was 19-13 against the Jayhawks in Columbia.
The last time a top-ranked Kansas team came to Columbia, in 2002, Kansas won by three over an unranked Missouri team that would advance to the Elite Eight. The time before that, in 1997, another unranked Missouri team this time knocked off the top-ranked Jayhawks, 96-94, in double overtime.

After a long winter, March has arrived. And what better way to start the Madness than with Missouri-Kansas in Columbia?

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