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Kansas and Missouri Renew Border Hostilities in the Top Ten Tonight

In 2004, the name of the Kansas-Missouri sports rivalry was changed from Border War to Border Showdown. This year, however, brings up old sentiments as the teams square off as Top Ten teams in basketball, and the Jayhawks make a final visit to Columbia before Missouri leaves for the Southeastern Conference.

Those feelings, of course, go back to right before the Civil War, to a time when Jayhawkers and Bushwhackers raided and pillaged along the Missouri/Kansas Border over issues of Free State versus Slave State. They go back to William Quantrill burning and massacring the citizens of Lawrence as a signature moment in the violence.

Nowadays, the sides are far more homogenous than either fan base would want to admit, with the primary distinctions being whether one bleeds Blue or Black from birthright or college choice. However, the rivalry is certainly one that remains heated and engenders plenty of bitterness.

That bitterness will play out as two teams that rely heavily on their stars meet in a vital matchup for Big XII title hopes, and #1 seed consideration for the NCAA tournament. Both teams rank in the bottom quarter of all of Division I teams in bench minutes. The Jayhawks go with Tyshawn Taylor, Travis Releford, Elijah Johnson, Jeff Withey and player of the year favorite Thomas Robinson, with only Conner Teahan getting substantial minutes off the bench.

Missouri counters with a starting lineup of Phil “Flip” Pressey, Marcus Denmon, Matt Pressey, Kim English, and Ricardo Ratliff, with Michael Dixon providing the spark on the outside off the bench, and Steve Moore providing the only inside depth.

This game presents contrasts, because Kansas has the significant height advantage, but will need to match Missouri’s quickness and avoid turnovers. This presents a case of an immoveable object and irresistible force. Missouri leads the country in 2-point field goal percentage, a product of good shooters, excellent quickness and passing to get easy lay-ups in half court sets, and the ultimate garbage man, Ratliff. Kansas is fourth in two-point field goal defense thanks to ball pressure and the interior duo of Robinson and Withey.

The keys to this game are going to be turnovers, Robinson/Withey keeping Ratliff from getting “bunnies” off movement when Missouri spreads it on offense, and whether Missouri can slow Kansas down on the inside. Missouri is among the most efficient at creating and avoiding turnovers in the country. If Kansas has a weakness, it is at times committing turnovers. If any of the bigs get in significant foul trouble it could also swing the game, as neither team plays with any depth.

Kansas is 8-1 in league play, while Missouri is one game back at 7-2. However, Missouri already has the road win at Baylor, and has played at Kansas State, while the Jayhawks have both of those games remaining. This one is huge for a lot of reasons.

[photo via Getty]

 

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