A star is born and a damn fine game is played. Almost 3000 words about Kansas, Missouri, and basketball.
It’s becoming a tradition. Kansas-Missouri on ESPN, I do an in-game blog. Well, I guess it becomes a tradition tonight, as last year was probably the first year I did it. Marquette and Louisville are doing their job of finishing up in plenty of time for the Big 12 tip. I’ve got my lucky KU blanket (I say lucky not because I remember winning more games than losing when I’ve had it draped across my body, but because it just sounds better that way.) Some projects on the couch next to me. And, obviously, the PowerBook in my lap.

This game looks like a big mismatch on paper. KU is loaded, seems to be finding themselves, and have the home court. MU is adjusting to the Mike Anderson system, has struggled over the past few weeks, and heads into its biggest rival’s gym on national TV. Norm Stewart would make this game close, at least. Quin Snyder got run out of the gym in a few of these games. Mizzou and KU fans alike are waiting to see how Anderson handles a game like this. Of course, Mizzou fans hope that he quickly repairs the program so that these games aren’t mismatches on paper and the team is playing for more than pride.

ESPN opens with the Rock Chalk Chant. Not bad, but they cut off the end. It never works on TV because it’s too long and slow for viewers to understand what’s going on. I think a survey of all the inappropriate, anti-MU shirts and signs would have been better TV. “Hey Norm! Do you have an 80″ Pekka?”

9-7 KU at the first time out. About a 2000% better start for Mizzou than the last time these teams played in Lawrence. I think KU started on a 57-2 run in that one.

Good to see Mike Anderson has a very Tigery tie on tonight. I saw the quote from him in the paper saying people told him to be sure not to wear a blue tie tonight. He’s not an idiot, I’m sure he didn’t need those reminders. (Imagine a gravely, bourbon tinged voice. “Better not wear a blue tie Monday, Mike! HAHAHAHA!”)

This is the first time I’ve seen Mizzou this year. I admit, I thought it would be a crazy, up-and-down game because of their Arkansas-style pressing. They’ve yet to throw more than token pressure at KU. Is that normal? Or are they adjusting since KU likes to run and has so many ball-handlers?

Uh-huh, uh-huh. I said ball-handlers.

Wireless internet at Allen Fieldhouse?!?! Kids these days, talk about pampered. Back in my camping days, I had to lug along a bag full of books to keep me occupied while I sat and waited.

15-13 Mizzou, second TO. Who is this Matt Lawrence kid? Of course, I say that for about every player in the Big 12 anymore. He reminds me, in the face, a little of that Israeli guy who played at MU in the late 90s. Danny Allouche?

Ron Franklin. “He was allowed to release himself.” What??? You can talk like that on ESPN? Mic up the coaches!

Lawrence almost scored when he tried to throw the ball off of Darnell Jackson, missed, and the ball bounced nearly to the rim. Rivalry games, man…

Julian Wright throws down a nasty dunk and I’m extremely thankful that Vitale is not doing the game.

During an “ESPN Sportscenter In-Game” update, KU is shooting free throws, MU gets a defensive rebound, and brings the ball up the court. All while someone in Bristol is talking and the game is reduced to 30% of the screen. They just don’t care about the game or the fans, do they?

Out of nowhere, KU gets a huge burst of energy and suddenly looks like the much better team. They looked sleepy or disinterested for the first 8-9 minutes. I’m still trying to figure out why they do that so often. I’m wondering if it’s the coach. They’ve shown Bill Self a couple times and he’s just kind of sitting there, unconcerned. Ol’ Roy would have put in five freshmen from Johnson County by now. Self can pick his spots, but he seems like a pretty mellow coach a lot of the times. Maybe he figures he has enough talent, as long as they play to their abilities, they’re going to get things turned around and his job is to manage the bench and make adjustments in the second half. Or maybe I’m thinking about it too much and it’s got nothing to do with that.

ESPN keeps getting the fouls wrong. Surprise, Ron Franklin has called Brandon Rush Chalmers at least twice already. I was watching a game the other night where they gave five straight points to the wrong team. The Worldwide Leader seems stretched a little thin these days.

I’m sorry, Mizzou should not use the term 40 Minutes of Hell. They might as well start doing the Rock Chalk Chant and run out an Indian mascot if they’re going to do that. It wasn’t that long ago that Arkansas was probably Mizzou’s fourth biggest rival (MU fans, correct me. I figure in the early 90s it went KU, Illinois, OU, Arkansas.) Unless Todd Day, Lee Mayberry, or Scottie Thurman are on the court, that term needs to be retired.

Besides, this zone Mizzou has switched to has flipped the momentum back to them. That’s more Amoeba Defense than 40 Minutes of Hell. Is someone from Tarkanian’s staff on Anderson’s?

I’ve officially switched to CBS Sportsline to follow games on the Internet. Their stats package is light years beyond Yahoo’s. It’s also nice for supplementing ESPN, who will never tell you number of fouls, rebounds, assists, etc.

But ESPN will show two Sportscenter anchors who flew out for the game. You know, important stuff.

Tight. KU is suddenly tight again. Back-to-back turnovers off of knees or feet of the dribbler.

“Julian, what are you doing?” I said it, then Bill Self called a time out to say it. I could be a coach. Are there a lot of big time college coaches with master’s degrees in journalism?

Why won’t ESPN do any of that stupid 12 channel coverage and keep cameras right on the coaches so we can see what they yell at the refs?

40-39 KU at the half. Ugly half of basketball for everyone other than Matt Lawrence. Does ESPN show a replay that isn’t a dunk anymore? There were about five plays I would have liked to see again that they never showed us. (I’m watching downstairs, sans DVR.) Bill Self looked fired up going into the locker room. Perhaps the team will adjust their moods as well.

Mike Anderson sounds like I used to sound at 2:00 AM. I never understand how more coaches don’t completely lose their voices. I’d love to see a coach get in front of his team in the final minute of a tight game and just shrug his shoulders at them because he had been rendered mute.

Digger Fucking Phelps. “Worst thing that could have happened to Kansas is when they blew out Oklahoma State last week.” Yep, they should let OSU get closer than early in the second half.

With the need for replays in mind, I’ve moved upstairs. I’ve also put on my red-hooded sweatshirt and replaced the Adidas with slippers. None of this is because I’m superstitious, I’ve conquered pretty much all of my superstition demons. Although, I will admit I’ve become superstitious about not being superstitious, which is just as bad sometimes. It’s cold, it’s getting late, and I want to be comfortable. But it never hurts to shake things up a little. I remember a few KU-MU games in Lawrence that were close for 20 minutes then turned into blowouts. Anything I can do to help.

CBS Sportsline tells me it was a pretty even first half. 43% shooting for MU, 46% for KU. 19-19 rebounds. 8-8 fouls. 6-6 turnovers. KU has two more blocks and two more steals, but other than that, these teams are even through 20 minutes.

Well, ESPN’s stats are totally different. Still close, but totally different. Except for the score. That would be funny if there were the sports version of hanging chads and different outlets had different scores.

Mario Chalmers just slipped in a wet spot on the court in front of press row. Is this game being played in Columbia?

Russell Robinson and Stefhan Hannah just got into a tie-up and came out smiling. There’s no smiling in rivalry games!!! What in the name of Corey Tate is going on here?

16:55 second half, first Civil War reference. I’m sure Dr. King would be proud. You know, William Quantrill wasn’t Mizzou’s first football coach and John Brown didn’t recruit for James Naismith. It’s not like people from Missouri and Kansas got together in the 1850s and 1860s for sporting events, and it was only after the games that the murdering and pillaging began. I’m pretty sure comparing a sporting event to the enslavement of human beings and brutal murders of innocent civilians is just a little inappropriate.

Sherron Collins is taking this game over! Well, kind of. He’s quietly becoming a very solid player. I’m not always sure if the team is better when he’s on the court, because he has lapses that Russell doesn’t have, but he also has a much higher ceiling than Russell. He’s also the kind of point I’ve always hated, and KU has never had: a brutishly tough guy who relishes contact instead of shirking away and missing lay-ups just because there’s the threat of a hard foul.

There was a sequence in there where Sherron stole the ball, came barreling up court, somehow split a double-team, then lost the ball. The whistle blew, but Ron and Fran never bothered to tell us which MU player the foul was on. Is it that hard? They’re sitting at court-level, the scoreboard flashes when a foul is called. They have a spotter talking in their ear. It’s not that hard.

Just when KU starts to pull away, they force a bad pass, MU gets two offensive boards, and hit a three. What could have been 10-11 point lead becomes five. Hannah hits a shot and gets fouled. Free throw good, two point game. Maddening.

If you’re going to show Maria Sharapova, show her full screen.

10-0 Missouri run. KU is missing easy lay-ups, kicking the ball around and Mizzou just hangs in there and takes advantage. I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen from them so far. (Attempting reverse jinx, a difficult maneuver under the best of conditions.).

Speaking of guards I hate, Stefhan Hannah and that soft shot has taken Curtis Stinson’s place as the guard I hate most in the conference.

15-2 Mizzou run. I have 11 articles to edit tonight after the game, and they be poor efforts if this keeps up.

Vitale’s not doing the game, but they still managed to work Roy Williams into the game with his damn rocking chair for Norm.

This Julian Wright in the middle of the zone just isn’t working tonight.

Commence with the free throw missing in clutch time against Mizzou. Argggghhh. Would someone roll Don Fambrough into the locker room so he could explain the importance of the MU game to these kids?

KU takes the lead, Mizzou snatches it right back. 70-69 at the under 4:00 time out.

I’m sure I’ll learn to hate them both in time, but I have to say, Iowa State’s Greg McDermott and Mizzou’s Mike Anderson both seem like really decent guys. I enjoy their sideline demeanors. They both seem to take the game seriously, but not too seriously. I’ve seen both crack smiles during crunch time, not for effect, but because that is their personality. They may not be so happy-go-lucky once the programs are totally theirs and (they hope) they are ranked high and fighting for conference titles and high seeds in March. Anderson is certainly a huge change from the ever-frantic Quin Snyder, who usually came off as phony.

Ron Franklin. “71 all, again.” Actually, this is the first and only time the score has been tied at 71.

Sherron Collins hits a huge three, then KU is dumb enough to touch foul Matt Lawrence on a lay-up. Either tackle him or let him go. 76-75 KU. This is turning into a decent ballgame. Is Christian Moody on the court?

Hey, there he is! On the replay from last year. Nice seeing the MU cheerleaders trying to avoid being trampled. Those girls were running for their lives. (Turned out Moody was at the game, according to the KC Star.)

I just used the replay button. Darrell Arthur called for a foul that he got nothing but ball on. Freaking Big 12 refs. Horrible horrible call. Especially at home. (I later learned the foul was called on Russell Robinson. I’m pretty sure it was a shitty call anyway. What about home court advantage?)

Make up call on the other end as Sherron gets away with a charge.

Then KU throws the ball away when they can ice the game. Good grief, they just refuse to make it easy. 80-77 KU, 11.1 to play, Mizzou ball. Where’s Thomas Gardner? Guard that fucker. And that Lawrence kid, too.

Desperation three no good. KU wins, a lot of MU fans make money or earn free lunches. Heck of a last four minutes. Sherron Collins goes off for 23 and pretty much saves his heralded older teammates’ bacon.

Postscript: You hate to put too much into one game, but it sure seems like Mike Anderson has Mizzou headed in the right direction. I had some discussions today on whether we want Mizzou to be horrible or to be a consistently difficult game. Of course, people always point out that MU was pretty good in 1988 and that season turned out good for KU. A) I’ll be damned if we give MU any credit for helping us win a national title. B) MU won one more game in the tournament in 2003 than they did in 1988. Seems like if Mizzou’s health did affect KU’s tournament success, Nick Collison and Jeff Graves wouldn’t have missed all those free throws in New Orleans. Anyway, Anderson obviously is making a difference, and blowing an even bigger hole in the myth of Quin Snyder’s coaching abilities. I figure Quin hides out for 2-3 years before we start hearing Vitale blather about how he deserves another chance.

Typical KU v.2007. Flashes of brilliance. Moments where you wonder if they have played organized basketball before. I can’t figure it out, but I do wonder if it is because of youth. Fran Fraschilla said he thinks everyone will return next year. I can’t see Brandon Rush getting drafted. Unless Julian Wright goes nuts for an extended period, he is potential and nothing more. Darrell Arthur is becoming the prototypical high school phenom who came to college with the “One and Done” label. For every Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, there are about a dozen Darrells. Kids who are fine players with loads of talent and room to grow, but can’t dominate every night in college the way they did against 15-18 year olds. Right now, he looks like he needs another year. If Mario Chalmers was 6’4”, I could see him going. He’s 6’1”, though, and not a good enough shooter to attempt to become the next Gilbert Arenas. So all those guys improve a little, Sasha Kaun continues to improve his game, Sherron Collins is ready to take over the team next year, well…call me a typical KU fan, but we’re going to be sooooo good next year! There, I said it and have cursed us to a first round loss to Butler or Belmont or some other B school.