COLUMBIA — Outside Mizzou Arena, students huddled in tents and wrapped themselves in blankets bracing against Friday's rainy weather while waiting for the best seats available for Missouri men's basketball game against Kansas on Saturday.
There was anticipation inside the arena as well. Television analysts in town for the airing of ESPN "College GameDay" said Saturday's game is one of the most important they've seen in years.
No. 8 Kansas (18-4, 8-1)
at No. 4 Missouri (20-2, 7-2)
WHEN: 8 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
RADIO: KTGR 1580 AM, 100.5 FM; KCMQ 96.7 FM
"What makes our 'GameDay' even more special is when it's a big game," Hubert Davis, a "GameDay" host and former North Carolina player, said. "To not put anything against the other games that we've done, but this is the biggest game we've done this year and the biggest game we've done probably in the last two or three years."
"To have two teams who are not going to play in this series next year — one going to the SEC and Kansas staying in the Big 12 — it even puts more importance on this game," Davis said.
That Missouri will not play Kansas next season and the importance this game has to the Big 12 standings adds to the already heated rivalry.
"There's a feeling here, I think, that this is a really special team and a special season," Jay Bilas, another "GameDay" host, said of Missouri. "With the conference realignment that's going on — with Missouri going to the Southeastern Conference — there's some feeling that this might be the last time in awhile that these two teams get to play and certainly the last time they get to play for a Big 12 championship. That adds to it. Most of the time with rivalries of this nature, you don't have to add anything to it, but this is all added in."
With the doors to the arena set to open at 7 a.m. Saturday, and "College GameDay" scheduled for a 9 a.m. Saturday broadcast, fans and hosts are eager for the festivities to begin.
"It's something special, especially since we're indoors and especially since these students have been waiting for this, it'll be a great time for two hours," Digger Phelps, who is also hosting "GameDay," said. "There's a lot of interesting situations that go on with a two-hour show, so you'll see it all tomorrow."