I had a Reaching for the Stars post lined up for today, but one huge sports story has me skipping to throw down some sports thoughts on your heads.
Kansas – Missouri Basketball is Back
Well this was a total surprise. I have a few birdies out there who occasionally drop hints that big news is coming. None of them shared even a whiff of this coming out before last night’s announcement.
My initial reaction was that it was dumb that KU caved and agreed to this. I liked holding this petty grudge against Missouri for their role in breaking up one of the best conference rivalries in college sports. And since we Kansas fans like to think the rivalry means more to MU than to KU, that made it even more fun.
Alas, the teams were going to get together in the regular season eventually. There would be too much money offered at some point not to do it. I will assume that is the case here. I always hoped it would be because of the next round of realignment that found KU and MU in the same conference again.
I think the timing is very interesting. In the seven years since the teams played, KU has been much, much better than Mizzou in basketball. Now, with KU facing probation, a potential loss of scholarships, and a sure hit in recruiting for a year or two, it seems like an odd time to open the series up again. I’m not saying KU is going to turn into TCU in basketball. But there would seem to be a, hopefully momentary, dip in the talent level coming to Lawrence.
I wonder how much the NCAA situation had to do with KU agreeing to this. KU is going to be pouring a lot of money into the legal fight against the NCAA. And then there is the possibility that the NCAA may ban the Jayhawks from the tournament for a year or more. Is this an attempt to find some more revenue when expenses will be up and revenue potentially down in the near future?
It makes sense that football is not included. There’s no reason to play that game. KU can’t compete right now and Missouri gains nothing by giving KU the chance to pull an upset. Plus, both schools are scheduled out for several years. I figure football will get added down the road as spots open up in each school’s calendar.
I think the first year will be great. I wonder about after that. There are plenty of fantastic, non-conference rivalries out there. Missouri has had one with Illinois forever. But what made the KU-MU games of the past so great was because they meant something. The last basketball game, in 2012, featured two top four teams fighting for the conference title and a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Our generation grew up on KU and MU fighting for the Big 8/12 title. And even if one team was out of the title race, there was nothing better than beating your arch rival and knocking them out of the title race.
For us old folks the rivalry will still mean plenty. But for the younger folks, will it ever grow to what it used to be when it’s just another fun, non-conference game in December? Does losing to your rival mean the same thing when you still have two months of conference games coming after? When KU has had big conference wins over Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, etc in previous Novembers/Decembers, those were a lot of fun. But the games against Iowa State, Texas Tech, and Baylor were always more important.
I wasn’t going to write about it, but since I’ve opened up the notebook, some effort by the Jayhawks in Austin on Saturday! I have a KU buddy who lives in Austin who told us beforehand he was not going to the game. As KU hung around in the first half, I began texting him to get his butt over so he could watch history take place.
Jokingly, of course.
But, man, they gave it a good run. I had three non-KU friends text me when the Jayhawks converted the two-point conversion to take the lead late in the game to get my thoughts. Each got a variation on the same response: We left plenty of time to blow it.
1:11 was exactly enough time, as it turned out.
Still, a fine effort. With the state of KU football, you totally take moral victories.
And I have to share some love for Carter Stanley, who played his ass off and had the Longhorn Network announcers ripping their own players for getting “trucked” by him. The guys who have stuck with KU football over the past decade have been through some shit. It’s nice to see guys like Stanley have a moment where it works. It’s a shame the previous coaches put the program in a state where these moments are rare and a surprise. It’s also a shame he had to wait until his senior year to finally enjoy some success.
Another nice win for the Colts, another excellent coaching day for Frank Reich. I’m starting to get worried about the bet I made back in September that the Colts were, at best, an 8–8 team. I may have to pay my buddy the Miller Lite he put on the line for saying they would go 10–6.
The Pacers tip off their season tomorrow against Detroit. Most experts have the Pacers making the playoffs since the Eastern Conference is so weak. Seems about right.
But we have no idea what to expect from this team. Victor Oladipo is engaging in light practice, but not anywhere close to returning from the quad injury that ended his 2019 season. And when he comes back, it will likely take him months to get back to where he was. This feels like a season where the Pacers are stuck between competing and dropping into the lottery. Really, it is one where they need to teach the new parts how to play together and then get ready to make a run next year.
The team did make news yesterday when they extended Domantas Sabonis. Word on the street was they were exploring trade options. But, as these things tend to do, a last-minute deal was worked out to keep the power forward on the squad. Now they have to figure out how to get him and Myles Turner to be able to play together. They have too much money wrapped up in them to not have them on the court as much as possible.
The Pacers have some really nice parts, when fully healthy. I wonder if the parts fit together, though. And whether a fully healthy Oladipo is enough to compete in the East.