The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Rivalry loss ruins Saturday afternoon

A few weeks ago I received what seemed to be a fairly innocuous invitation to a fan page called “I BET MIZZOU CAN FIND 100,000 FANS BEFORE KU CAN!” from a friend attending the University of Missouri back in my hometown Columbia. Thoroughly imbued with local pride, I confirmed and asserted Mizzou’s Facebook supremacy in basketball over our (and I will continue to use the first-person plural despite my total lack of involvement) abhorred rival, the “University” of Kansas. Fans from both teams traded barbs on the pages, with such witty, gay-bashing repartee as “MIZ-GAY,” or “MU could beat GAYU any day so sux it GAYU,” dominating the discourse. It sucked to be reminded that a lot of people on the Internet are homophobic neanderthals, and I’ll admit I let the semi-literate, bigoted and frequently nonsensical trash-talking get to me. I had a visceral reaction to reading KU fans’ baseless insults defaming the land of my birth (and those of such luminaries as Edwin Hubble, Walt Disney, Maya Angelou, Tech N9ne, Walter Cronkite, etc.) as an incestuous, slavery-loving meth den. It was also hard to see fellow Missourians take part in the hate, especially in the wake of a bias-motivated incident at Mizzou’s Black Cultural Center, though, sadly, it wasn’t very surprising. Our page got 100,000 fans before Kansas’s, but I knew the only possible catharsis would come from a victory not on the prestigious Internet, but indeed in the actual physical world. 

That victory, as you may know, never came. March 6, 2010’s Border Showdown in Columbia, the second clash this season between the rivals, was the Tigers’ chance at real redemption, and they blew it in spectacular fashion. After keeping the game close and even leading early, the Tigers gave up a 16-0 run to KU that put the halftime score at KU 40, MU 24. Mizzou closed to within five points midway through the second half, but that was the closest we got. Half-dazed, I stuck out the game until its excruciating final seconds. Final score: KU 77, MU 56. Ouch. A la Bill Simmons, I disgustedly threw off my Mizzou Basketball t-shirt, taking minimal solace in that fact that it was at least a more private humiliation than my Tigers had just endured. I felt like Levi Johnston at Bristol’s baby shower—hopelessly trapped in a frothing pit of despair and hardship for all eternity. And knowing that on Facebook nearly 100,000 people all joyfully sneered at me only made it worse. I’ll be honest with you, lone remaining reader—I had hit rock bottom. I was Nixon getting onto Air Force One for the last time. I was Kenny Powers walking into Jefferson Davis Middle School. I was my friend who pooed his pants at school in 9th grade.

But shining through the clouds of despair came a great ray of hope, and it came to me in the following phrase: Sideways Canada. Kansas is Missouri’s Great White North to the west. Basketball is to Kansans what hockey is to Canadians—they’ve got nothing else. Kansas (the basketball team) is awesome, but Kansas (the place) is defined by suffocating austerity and questionable politics (Senator Sam Brownback introduced the Human-Animal Hybrid Prevention Act of 2009, which is officially my favorite title for an act since the Smoot-Hawley Tariff). If KU ever endured prolonged futility in basketball, the state would rise to Montana-esque heights of entertainment dearth. Kansas has no major professional teams (other than the Jayhawks! Just kidding. Except Xavier Henry.) The two largest cities in Kansas combine to have a population of barely more than the Des Moines metropolitan area. I can understand why they need to brag so much even though the program is still riding accomplishments from the 1920s. In this new light, I can almost bring myself to forgive the arrogance. To be sure, today’s Jayhawks, to steal Molly Ivins’s classic George W. Bush jab, were born on third and thought they hit a triple. But they need it more than Missourians. 

That, my friends, is why I am kind-of proud to announce my pick for the 2010 NCAA Tournament Champion, the Kansas Jayhawks. Clearly the best team in the nation from top to bottom, I think the Jayhawks have what it takes to take home another title. They’re dominant inside with C Cole Adrich averaging 11 points, 10 rebounds, and nearly four blocks per game. Senior G Sherron Collins provides the team’s emotional spark (in the faux way that J.J. Redick always used to, if you ask me). He also leads the team in scoring with 15 ppg, which isn’t eye-popping, but that’s just because everybody scores for KU. The offensive balance the Jayhawks have shown is what makes me so confident in their tournament chances. If Collins is off, F Xavier Henry can step in and make buckets. Henry’s too busy talking to his agent? Then F Marcus Morris or G Tyshawn Taylor can fill it up. Kansas is impossible to defend because every player on the floor can make you pay if your defense isn’t flawless. I reckon the title game will pit the ‘hawks against the Orangemen of Syracuse, another team with very few weak spots. The Orange also feature a balanced attack, but their frontcourt is too thin to defend the likes of Aldrich. Forwards Arinze Onuaku or Rick Jackson will get into foul trouble, forcing Coach Jim Boeheim to rely on seldom-used freshman DaShonte Riley inside. Game, set, match—another banner for the Beakers to brag about. 

My other (less obvious) teams to look out for as potential contenders in March Madness are, in no particular order, West Virginia, New Mexico, Georgetown, Kansas St., Wisconsin, Tennessee and Villanova. Each team has demonstrated at some point this season that they can compete with, and sometimes beat, the very best competition. My very preliminary Cinderella pick is red-hot North Texas. The Mean Green just wrapped up the Sun Belt Conference title in their 11th straight W. Besides, if there were one place in the country that is worse than Kansas, it would have to be North Texas.

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