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Missouri’s SEC play brings out the anger in Bill Self


Mike Miller

Conference realignment excels at two things: Creating confusion and creating anger. Kansas coach Bill Self has finally embraced the latter.

After months of downplaying the Big 12’s future demise despite schools doing their best to ditch the conference, Self finally had enough Tuesday night when news of Missouri openly declared its intentions to chase after the SEC.

He’s ready to end this rivalry. Kinda.

As he told the Lawrence Journal-World’s Gary Bedore, the Kansas-Missouri game is “one of the best in college basketball without question,” but he’s not interested in playing the Tigers once a year. Not when they might be in the SEC and there’s no home-and-home every season. A neutral-court game like Missouri plays with Illinois – which Self took part in while coaching the Illini – doesn’t appeal to him.

He doesn’t completely slam the door on playing Missouri, but it’s close. From the paper:

“I could probably change my mind (but) trust me, we would have no trouble finding another nonleague game to play. I love the rivalry (uninterrupted since 1907 with KU leading 171-94). Playing home and home in the league is great and all those things ... (but) I can’t imagine, why would we continue playing?

“If they choose to be somewhere other than with us and with the other schools that they’ve been a part of and could jeopardize the future of the other schools ... I’m not going to make a commitment now that we’d ever play again. I’m not saying we won’t. I’m certainly not going to pretend that we would.”

This isn’t about basketball. This is about emotion. It’s about giving the finger to a school that’s trying to leave you high and dry. I get that. Why continue doing business with a person who’s sticking it to you?

Well, there is the tradition aspect (and these factors). Kansas and Missouri have played every year since 1907. That’s longer than most schools have been playing college hoops. That’s hardly insignificant. It’s easy to see why Self doesn’t view Missouri as a true rival. He’s 14-3 vs. Missouri as Kansas’ coach. Texas and Oklahoma State are more competitive.

But this is fuel for stoking the rivalry. This would add some much-needed spice to a game that’s become one-sided. Take it out of the “rivalry week” spots in February and March. Schedule it in early December, get it on national TV and make the game matter nationally again.

(Though, until Missouri rises to Kansas’ continued hoops success, that’ll be hard to do. Giving Missouri hoops a boost is a big drawback in Self’s view. I think a one-off game is overrated in terms of national significance, exposure, recruiting.)

Not that this’ll influence Self. From the Journal-World:

“I’m not saying it would be bad or won’t be bad (playing once on neutral court). I will say this ... the media is not going to dictate who we play. I’ll dictate who we play as long as I’m coaching here,” Self said. “I have no ill will toward Missouri at all, but to do something at a time that could be so damaging and hurtful to a group, I can’t see us just taking it and forgetting. I think that would be something that’d be talked about with our administration and we’d make a decision that’s best for our place. They are making a decision that’s best for theirs. We’ll make a decision on a schedule that’s best for us.

“I am not going to schedule Missouri just to schedule Missouri. I’m going to schedule what’s best for us, period. That’s how it’s going to be.”

Fair enough. Self’s earned the right to run Kansas how he likes. It seems overblown than Missouri leaving might kill the Big 12 when Texas and Oklahoma aren’t going anywhere, but you can appreciate his honesty.

Just remember, ultimately this isn’t about bitterness or fairness. It’s about basketball. And basketball is supposed to be fun.

Well, and maybe a little contentious. But that hasn’t hurt Louisville-Kentucky ...

From Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star:

Have we forgotten that? There has been so much scandal and talk about revenue sharing and grants of rights and TV contracts that maybe the whole reason we watch and care about college sports is buried.

College sports at their best — and we haven’t seen their best in a while, it seems — are emotional. They are my school against your school, bonds tighter than professional sports can ever create, and there isn’t a place in the country that can claim a deeper and more meaningful rivalry that the one between Kansas and Missouri.

The most fun games of the year for both schools are the ones against each other, and stop it with the Tweets about the games not meaning anything without a conference title on the line. How often is a conference title on the line between those schools in either football or basketball?

Do the (non-bitter) fans and alumni a favor. Keep it going. Would that be so bad?

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