Within the space of six days, the #2-ranked Kansas Jayhawks (18-1 overall, 5-0 conference) will have faced off against two of their archrivals – or one archrival and one that would like to be, anyway.
The Jayhawks slapped around Missouri on Big Monday, 84-65, in the
friendly confines. KU's bigs came up, well, big. Cole Aldrich, Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris combined for 39 points and 36 rebounds and
sent Mizzou back home to their adult book stores, fireworks stands,
meth labs and walnut bowls. I don't know if those three could play a
better game – the first half, in particular.
Iconic 80's pop star Eddie Money sang the National Anthem. Bob Knight
called it for ESPN and never once complained about missing the early
bird dinner special. Bill Clyde Gillispie, late of Texas A&M
and Kentucky, was in the house. Hell, there was even a Chinese lady
acrobat spinning plates on sticks at halftime. What more could you
want? Granted, it wasn't Donnie Von Moore chasing a mortified Jim
Kennedy out an Allen Field House tunnel and administering a beat down
in the hallway. But it was still pretty cool.
I was a little disappointed and a lot shocked that the Missouri team I
was raised to hate played so soft. Sure, they were scrappy and fought
hard, but then, so is a puppy with a sock in his mouth. They didn't
rebound. If you blinked while a Mizzou player set a screen or pick, you
missed it. Finally, they were scared to go into the lane for fear of
Cole Aldrich swatting their shots right back at them.
MU seemed content getting off those faux picks and screens to run out
to 24 feet so they could clank yet another contested three-point shot
off the iron. I know Missouri coach Mike Anderson is recruiting players
who are supposed to be suited to his "40 Minutes of Hell" system, but
I'm not sure I'm seeing it. Missouri used to be so hard-nosed and
physical. All I can say is, these are most definitely not your father's
Missouri Tigers. Disappointing all around.
Now we have Saturday and the resurgent Kansas State Wildcats to look
forward to. The Grapes probably have every right to play the
Dangerfield card despite still being ranked 11th/13th in the country.
Even after a convincing win over then-#1 Texas, people seem to be
waiting for their bubble to burst. They almost got it with a home loss
to a pedestrian Oklahoma State team and a two-point win Tuesday night
at Baylor. At 4-2 in the Big 12, two games behind Kansas, they're
holding on by their fingernails to any conference title hopes. I don't
think anyone would be surprised if they didn't win the Big 12, but they
can still have a season that I don't think anyone thought was possible.
KSU's Frank Martin may be the most entertaining coach in the Big 12.
Bill Self is entertaining, sure, but in a cool, smooth way. Frank
Martin is entertaining in a crazy-eyed, I-could-win-on-Survivor way. If
they were singers, coach Self would be Frank Sinatra, circa 1967. Frank
Martin would be Ozzy Osborne, circa 1981.
The shoulder pads on Martin's suits have gotten a little smaller, but
his personality and passion for the game certainly haven't. Neither has
his mouth, and that's a compliment. I would imagine that if you're
close to coach Martin, you always have a pretty good idea where you
stand. That's a good thing. It also makes for terrific news conferences.
Speaking of passion, the same Kansas State students whom Jacob Pullen
had to beg to come to games last year are back with a vengeance. The
energy and excitement at Bramlage will be the best it's been all
season. ESPN College Game Day will be in town. Digger Phelps' tie and
highlighter will match. I'll ask Jay Bilas if it's true that he was
going to come to KU until a young coach named Krzyzewski called him and
said, "You don't really want to play for Ted Owens, do you?"
It'll be huge. Not "Eddie Money, plate-spinning acrobat, Billy Clyde"
huge, but it'll be fun just the same.
If Steve Perry sings the anthem, though, all bets are off.
Bill and Jim's Excellent Adventure
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