Yes it’s, true. Kansas has dominated Missouri in the past, leading the rivalry 171-94. Kansas has been in 13 final fours, Missouri zero. Kansas has won five national championships, Missouri- zero.
You can talk history all you want, but Mizzou basketball is a team playing for the future. Moving to the SEC and hiring Frank Haith, the less than accomplished head coach from Miami is all in attempt to wash out the bitter taste of Missouri’s basketball history.
And there wouldn’t be a better time than now. This Saturday will be the last time the rivalry is played in Colombia. The stage is set for Mizzou. Beat No. 8 Kansas, exit the Big 12 with a boom and make a statement “Hey, we’re for real”.
Haith came to Mizzou underestimated and disrespected. Fans were in shock of the new hiring, which came when head coach Mike Anderson landed in Arkansas as the new head coach. Haith proved everyone wrong. He turned around Anderson’s underachieved and selfish basketball team into the No. 4 team in the nation. His squad is seven players deep, fitted with five guards– the shortest team in the Big 12. But Coach Haith uses what’s at hand.
Kansas will be the biggest test Haith and Mizzou’s biggest test of the year. In a “rebuilding year”, Kansas has lost four games, two coming from No. 2 Kentucky and No. 6 Duke. Leading the team is Thomas Robinson, who is debatedly the player of the year. With Mizzou’s small size, look for Robinson to be a big presence on the inside for the Jayhawks.
Now I’m optimistic. Mizzou’s guard play has been exceptional this year, possibly the best in the country. Players like Marcus Denmon, Michael Dixon and Phil Pressey can do it all and give me reason to be optimistic. They’re quick, can shoot or drive. Kim English, usually a perimeter shooter, is also playing inside, and getting more rebounds than you might think, he is averaging just over four rebounds per game. All of these guys have to have outstanding games on Saturday. But more so, the big guy Ricardo Ratliff has to match up to Robinson’s physical play. It will be key for him to grab rebounds and not give KU second chances.
At the end of the day, this is a different Mizzou basketball team. They have a chip on their shoulder and are ready to prove everyone wrong once again. It’s not Mike Anderson’s team playing for Frank Haith. It is Frank Haith’s team. No past, just looking toward the future.
***The Tigers play the Jayhawks at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, MO at 8 p.m. Saturday evening.