Bill Self called it “the most anticipated exhibition game in the history of exhibition games.” More than 18,000 fans filled the seats at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, and 18,000 more paid $40 to live stream it.
Kansas and Missouri finally got back on the basketball court together on Sunday, with the Jayhawks winning 93-87. It served as another reminder that:
1) This is one of college basketball’s great rivalries
2) We need it back for good.
Kansas and Missouri played basketball games every year from 1907 to 2012. Then Mizzou left the Big 12 for the SEC. Self promptly decided renewing the rivalry would be no benefit to his program. “The Border Showdown” has been dormant since, until Sunday.
The two schools came together in the name of charity
And it was a huge success. Between ticket sales and pay-per-view purchases, the game generated nearly $2 million — and that’s not counting additional donations the programs were asking for.
This is what it's all about. #ShowdownForRelief pic.twitter.com/KTZZPvCRO7— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) October 22, 2017
Per the Kansas City Star, the donations will be spilt equally among the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, Florida Disaster Fund, Rebuild Texas Fund, Juntos y Unidos Por Puerto Rico, and Fund for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
There are plenty of other similar charity games happening around the country, but this was the one everyone was excited for.
That’s because this rivalry is great, and we need it back
Certain fans...cough..kU... cough.. didn't care about this game. Yet our mentions beg to differ. Seems @MizzouHoops struck a nerve.— Mizzou (@Mizzou) October 22, 2017
Missouri and its fans have been hungry to restart the rivalry. The only person standing in the way appears to be Self.
“We’re going to do what’s best for us,” Self said after the game when asked about the possibility of an annual series. “We’re not interested in doing what’s best for Missouri or what’s best for Missouri fans.”
From Self’s perspective, there’s nothing to gain from playing Missouri. The Tigers won 23 games under Frank Haith in each of their first two seasons in the SEC, but the program has been a disaster ever since. Over the last three seasons, Mizzou has finished 27-68.
It looks like that’s about to change.
Mizzou has the chance to be really good this year. That’s because Cuonzo Martin has replaced Kim Anderson on the bench, and he brought Michael Porter Sr. along with him as an assistant. That meant Porter’s two sons were coming with.
Michael Porter Jr. might be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft. He’s a dynamic 6’10 wing who should be one of the best players in the country from the onset of his freshman season. His younger brother, Jontay, joined him in August when he reclassified up a year to become college eligible immediately. Jontay is a top-25 recruit in his own right as a sweet-shooting 240-pound big man.
Mizzou will get only one year of Michael Jr. (regardless of what he says), but it certainly seems Martin has the program moving in the right direction, at least before they play a game that counts. If the Tigers’ rebirth proves to be sustainable post-Michael Porter Jr., Self owes it to the world of college basketball to resume the rivalry.
At their core, college sports should be all about the fans. It’s clear from this exhibition that fans on both sides still care about Kansas vs. Missouri quite a bit. Now end the standoff, and let’s make it count for real.