Since the Jayhawks put together a nice offensive performance in a road win at Colorado things have been oddly quiet on the Jayhawk basketball front. Oddly quiet when you consider that in two days from now ESPN's College Gameday will be aired live from Allen Fieldhouse and oddly quiet when you consider that a team that presents itself as an in-state rival will also roll in to town.
Has there been a dip in the enthusiasm for this one? Why the change in enthusiasm? Two months ago this was looking like a battle of top 10 and maybe even top 5 teams. In fact ticket prices still pretty much reflect that feeling. But it seems like some of the air has maybe been taken out of the sails for what could have been a game that played a major role in renewing or perhaps building this rivalry.
Yes there is the old saying that for a rivalry to exist there has to be a back and forth. Yes Kansas won three of three meetings a year ago and yes Kansas has gone 49-5 since 1990. But the Wildcats were picked as the favorites in the Big 12. Kansas State was presented as the major threat this season. And Jacob Pullendeclared the Big 12 his to lose even stated that the title ran through Manhattan. That all changed a bit when what was expected to be one of the best seasons in Kansas State basketballs last 25 years has been slightly derailed.
The question is, does that completely change your perception and feeling about this game? From a personal standpoint Missouri always received my attention. The Tigers were hated because I was a Jayhawk fan, the Tigers were hated because I grew up in Illinois. Missouri was a game that in the depths of the Quin Snyder meltdown I still found myself just as fired up for whether it was a great Tiger team or a horrible one. In Kansas and for Kansans has that feeling existed toward the Wildcats?
Kansas State didn't win a game in my lifetime of watching sports until Michael Beasley. Some might ask how is that a rivalry? Well, that's where I've changed a bit. Even though Kansas State sits 14-7 overall and just 2-4 in the Big 12 and even though Kansas State clearly doesn't look like a Big 12 Conference contender, I want the Kansas Jayhawksto show that the title runs through Lawrence. I want the Wildcats to earn that by proving it on the court against Kansas.
Obviously when Texas won last week in Lawrence they took the edge in the race. If a team can come into Allen Fieldhouse and accomplish that then they deserve it. But Kansas State isn't there yet. Don't get me wrong Frank Martin is a coach that I do find entertaining. I think Martin is a coach that given the right type of player he gets a lot out of them. And I do believe this game will be tough with the return trip to Manhattan being even more difficult. But this year, at this moment, the rivalry is about Kansas having been there and Kansas State trying to get there.
Is it a rivalry week? Some would argue yes, some would argue no. What Saturday definitely is, is a game against a team that is aspiring to be like a Kansas and a team and a fanbase that always wants badly to beat us and a team that wants to return a program to a better time.
Competition is good for Kansas, competition is good in the Big 12. Kansas State will no doubt provide that on Saturday and truthfully I think they're style of play has an opportunity to give the Jayhawks some problems. I'd still call it a rivalry. Just one that I hope remains one sided for at least a little while longer.