The Border War looms

Phog.net's Kristi Setaro previews Saturday's clash of top five teams at Allen Fieldhouse, as the Kansas Jayhawks and Missouri Tigers prepare to fight the Border War for perhaps the last time in the storied rivalry's history.

You can feel it in the air.

This one is going to be special, maybe even like no other – and that's saying a lot with a building and a program with this much history.

"I haven't been here that long, but this is my 10th year counting the year I was here with Larry (Brown) and I don't think there will be anything that compares to it," KU Head Coach Bill Self told reporters on Friday. "The only night I can think of that would be close to as energized would be the inaugural event, the opening of the building. I would think that would have been a special, special night when KU played K-State to open the building."

As soon as you walked on campus you could feel it. The anticipation is growing by the minute. You just had to glance at the guest list at practice to know this is not your average game. Xavier Henry stopped by for the scouting report and threw his hand in the KU huddle. Wayne Simien was there and so was former KU coach Larry Brown (who was also at Weds. game vs. Texas A&M). Even PGA TOUR player Gary Woodland made the trip back to see his beloved Jayhawks.

"I think it will the best that I've seen it in my four years here. It's going to be crazy, but I'm excited and I'm ready for it," said senior Tyshawn Taylor who has just two home games left.

"There's a lot on the line," said Jeff Withey who failed to score in the first contest vs. Mizzou. "If we win this game we put ourselves in a really good position to win the Big 12. It's against Missouri and that is always big for the university (of Kansas)."

With the NBA on All-Star break tomorrow you can expect to see Cole Aldrich, the Morris twins, Xavier Henry and others among the crowd. Kansas will also be wooing a bunch of recruits. Three of the eight players expected to attend are on official visits (Jakar Sampson, Tony Parker, and Shabazz Muhammad). Muhammad is the nation's top-ranked recruit from the class of 2013 with Sampson and Parker also residing among the top 10.

"It should be a great recruiting tool," Self pointed out. "Recruiting tools like this are really good if you are successful, but not good if you aren't successful."

It would be tough to imagine these recruits ever experiencing an atmosphere like they'll witness tomorrow. KU Assistant Coach Barry Hinson said the decibel level could be unprecedented. Hinson took a friend of mine on a tour today asking if he'd ever been in the Phog, and we both agreed, you can't describe what's going to happen in this building tomorrow night, you just have to experience it, but even after you won't be able to describe it.

Most of the college basketball world will be will be watching just ask KU Assistant Athletics Director for Media Relations. Theisen told Phog.net that there are over 230 credentialed media for this game.

It's not a surprise when #3 ranked Missouri heads to Phog Allen Fieldhouse to take on #5 Kansas and the Jayhawks with a ton on the line. KU has a chance, get this, to win their 8th straight conference title and win it outright.

Amazing.

It really is truly amazing. The Big 12 is one of the nation's best conferences year in year out so to own it for this long is a testament to the strength of the program and the ability of Head Coach Bill Self and his staff.

But to win that coveted eighth title outright the first step for Kansas is to avenge a stinging 74-71 loss that occurred earlier this month in Columbia a game, which for 34 minutes, Kansas controlled. Add in the fact that this just might be the last time these two border rivals play and you've got massive hype and anticipation.

"We're talking more about them beating us last time," said Taylor. "We need to play better this time and that's it. The end of the rivalry hasn't really dawned on us yet and we haven't paid too much attention to it. We just want to play."

That's probably why the Jayhawks won't need to do much to get over the sour taste left in their mouths after nearly blowing a 21-point lead to Texas A&M on Wednesday. They're over it already.

"This game coming up will not have anything to do with focus from the last game," Self said. "These kids will be fired up to play, for a lot of reasons. They have a chance to get a ring, at least a piece of it, a chance to play Missouri, but more importantly, a chance to play a team that beat us the first time we played. That would be plenty to focus (on)."

With the finish against the Aggies in the rear-view mirror Kansas practiced a little over 2 hours today after thoroughly going through Missouri's sets and then headed to a film session.

The much ballyhooed atmosphere could be a concern for coaches trying to make sure that players don't get too wrapped up in their emotions.

"I thought we did a really good job with that the first time. We were enthusiastic, but focused," Self continued. "I certainly anticipate a maturity level being the key intangible in whoever plays the best. You have to put blinders on, you can't look left and you can't look right. You always wonder why race horses, when they get in the stalls, why they have them (blinders) on, so that way they can't get distracted. Players have to do the same thing as well."


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