KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For more than 100 years, dating all the way back to the 1906-07 season, the Kansas Jayhawks and Missouri Tigers have played each other in basketball.
That will change this season — barring the twist of some NCAA Tournament fate. Kansas will seek a ninth straight Big 12 title as Bill Self enters his 10th season in Lawrence. And Missouri will hope for a smooth transition to the Southeastern Conference in coach Frank Haith’s second season.
But both teams won’t likely grace the same gym. So Tuesday night, when Self and Haith joined forces at the College Basketball Experience for the annual Coaches versus Cancer Season Tip-off, the one-night Border War reunion would have to do. First-year K-State coach Bruce Weber and UMKC coach Matt Brown were also on hand. And the talk mostly focused on raising money for a worthy cause and planning for the upcoming season, with teams being able to begin practice on Friday evening.
The Jayhawks, Tigers and Wildcats all have intriguing storylines underlining their respective seasons. But there’s at least one change that connects all three local major programs. When the Big 12 returns to the Sprint Center for the conference tournament next March, Self and Weber will return. But Haith will not. And Missouri, a program that has been loaded with Kansas City-area talent during the last few years, will not play a game in Kansas City this season. (Again, barring some NCAA Tournament fate.)
“We want to have a presence still here in the city,” Haith assured. “And we would love to continue to play games in the Sprint Center.
“It becomes something you gotta really work at. Because we have the game in St. Louis. We have a certain number of games we wanna get on our campus, and then you’re playing those preseason tournaments. But we do wanna have a presence in Kansas City.”
On the flip side, KU will play three regular-season games at Sprint Center — including two in the CBE Classic, which MU competed in last season — and the Jayhawks could play as many as eight in town if you count the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments. K-State will also play Florida in a regular-season game at Sprint Center in December.
“That’s great for us,” Self said. “But it’s also great for the CBE, and it’s also great for the (National Association of Basketball Coaches).”
Haith said he hoped that Missouri might be able to schedule some old Big 12 schools at Sprint Center, with K-State appearing as an option. And Self and Weber said they’d both heard the speculation that the Big 12 could soon look for a partner for a cross-conference challenge — similar to the ACC-Big Ten challenge or the short-lived Hardcourt Series between the Big 12 and Pac-10.
But with Haith in the same building, Self restated his stance that Kansas won’t be playing Missouri anytime soon.
“My feelings haven’t changed at all,” Self said. “I’ll miss playing them. But this is above my head, too. I’ve got a chancellor and an athletic director, and I actually feel strongly about it myself. We’re not part of their future, and they’re not part of ours. So why get hung up on when we gonna play?”
Self then paused and smiled. Well, Kansas and Missouri won’t be scheduling each other anytime soon. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be playing.
“The NCAA selection committee has a strange sense of humor,” Self said, “so I wouldn’t be surprised if it does happen. Because they’re gonna be really good in basketball and hopefully we’ll continue to be OK.”