Jeff Herr, a finalist in the 2011 Big Gig Contest on 610 Sports Radio, was born and raised in Kansas City. Following the Chiefs, Royals, and Jayhawks all his life has led him to blog about all three extensively at the-jeff-report.blogspot.com. He has also spent time covering the Royals for the blog site kingsofkauffman.com as well as serving for a period as the lead editor of throughthephog.com a blog covering the Kansas Jayhawks. When not writing about the local sports scene, he pays the bills by serving as an accountant.
Jeff Herr: Kansas City Madness
by Jeff Herr,posted Mar 5 2012 6:42PM
I will start by asking everyone to keep in mind that I am not trying to say this will happen. I am asking that everyone indulge in an incredibly fun hypothetical scenario with me. The ending of the regular season this past weekend and the turn of the calendar to March means one thing: March Madness. The best sporting event in all of sports makes its annual appearance as the first rite of spring.
Looking forward to what March will bring are two very happy, very optimistic fan bases in Kansas City. Both MU and KU fans are rightfully dreaming of making noise in the coming weeks.
In the case of Kansas it would be a great show of Bill Self’s coaching talents to see this team make a Final Four in what was supposed to be a “down year.” Losing three players to the NBA, including two lottery picks, the Jayhawks were supposed to have a rare rebuilding year. They didn’t and are currently favorites for a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Missouri took what was supposed to be a “transition year” with a new coach and turned it into one of the best seasons in school history. In his first year on the job Frank Haith took a team that wasn’t his recruits, had a divided locker room before he got there, and finished the previous season with a whimper, only to have them contending for the Big XII crown throughout the season.
Both schools have had their past successes and failures come March. Missouri can go all the way back to 1976 with their first ever trip to the Elite Eight. They lost that game and have since lost three other regional final matchups denying them any Final Four in their history.
The heartbreak doesn’t end in the Elite Eight either. The fanbase is constantly haunted by memories of the second round matchup in 1995 when Tyus Edney of UCLA drove the entire length of the floor in five seconds to drop in a layup for the victory. It’s these moments that reinforce the “snake bit” mentality many MU fans have.
Kansas as a program has had a Number 1 seed more times than most other programs in the country. Unfortunately, this leads to nearly as many seasons winding up as a disappointment. Going back to the last couple of years where the Jayhawks suffered an Elite Eight loss to a VCU squad that barely made the tournament in 2011. You only need to go back another year to see Kansas getting upset in the second round as the tournament’s overall #1 seed in 2010.
For both teams March brings a little bit of anxiety for different reasons. While some of that remains, it has taken on a bit of a different flavor in 2012. Both teams have spent the majority of the year in the top 10, and the bulk of that time was spent in the top five.
With the possibility of both teams being #1 seeds going into the tournament the scenario is there in which they are both legitimate picks to make the Final Four. This is where the hypothetical comes in: what would happen in Kansas City if both teams make the Final Four?
Now, all of this is conjecture at this point, but it’s something that we have to allow ourselves to think about. After all, sports talk and sports blogging is nearly all conjecture anyway, so why not have some fun with it.
We could forget the controversial first and second matchups. The refs got too much credit for helping Missouri in game #1 when Kansas couldn’t hold an eight point lead with barely over 2 minutes to go. The same thing happened when Missouri couldn’t hold a 19 point second half lead in Lawrence. Both games only fueled the fire, but they wouldn’t compare.
Forget the possible Big XII championship matchup. A Missouri win would give them a win in their last ever Big XII game. They would hold the trophy high above their heads as they marched out towards the conference to the south.
A Kansas victory would send KU fans trumpeting about their historical dominance versus MU. Jayhawk fans would stand tall as they would send Tiger fans packing to a traditionally weaker basketball conference. Either way, it would only deepen the hatred and rivalry between these two teams.
And it still wouldn’t compare.
It seems as though this year has been on a collision course for this type of a scenario. With the schools splitting victories in the regular season neither one can truly call themselves the better team.
If the NCAA has any sense it will place them either on opposite sides of the bracket or at least in opposing regions on the same side. Anything less than a Final Four matchup for these two teams in this year would be a disservice.
A Final Four matchup would make both fanbases a little jittery. Missouri would have finally gotten over the hump and made their first ever Final Four. No longer would KU be able to hold that over MU fans. No doubt, it would not be on any Kansas fans wish list to lose that bit of leverage.
On the other side Missouri fans would have that little man in the back of their heads telling them not to get too excited. Of course Missouri would finally make it to the Final Four only to encounter their nemesis from across the border.
The only thing standing in the way of Missouri getting their first ever National Championship appearance in one of the two major college sports would be their eternal blood rival. It’s poetic.
For the remainder of this rivalry the winning team would be able to say they won when it counted most. KU fans will trumpet their Final Four appearances and multiple National Championships, but if they lose Missouri fans will always have that one day in April when all that didn’t matter.
With a Kansas victory, Missouri fans will say they’re off to bigger and better things. KU fans can retort that no matter which conference they go to, their lasting memory of this rivalry and conference will be losing on the grandest stage of them all.
I have lived in Kansas City my entire life. I am as familiar with this rivalry as can be. While I hate to see it go I understand why it’s leaving. Personally, even as good as the games have been this year I feel it would be watered down with both teams in different conferences.
Never again will these teams meet in the regular season as they’ve met this year. Never again will it have the prominence and impact that it did this past February. It seems only fitting that it would all be capped off with a meeting in April. In what could possibly be the last meeting ever it would only seem right that it would hold more significance than ever before.
I am not sure how crazy this city would get. What I do know is that I would be unbelievably glad I’m here to watch.