COLUMBIA — Thousands of fans cheered when the doors to Mizzou Arena opened about 13 hours before Saturday night's basketball game between No. 4 Missouri and No. 8 Kansas.
The fans, many who had endured the previous night's rain, and some who even spent as many as three nights waiting outside the arena, could finally go inside. The sun wasn't even up and fans were already in the arena, decked out in gold and chanting "M-I-Z Z-O-U".
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
By 9 a.m., an estimated 5,000 fans were inside Mizzou Arena for the start of ESPN's "College GameDay," being broadcast for basketball from Columbia for the first time.
Just as they did when "College GameDay" made its first visit for football in 2010, fans welcomed the show with enthusiasm. They filled the lower level behind the "GameDay" set and more than half of the upper level.
Many fans brought signs with various slogans, such as "Faith in Haith" and "God Bless America except Kansas." One fan waved a black flag with a big white Q on it — referencing William Quantrill, a Confederate guerrilla leader who led the raid of Lawrence, Kan., in 1863.
"That was as passionate of a crowd as any we've had," "GameDay" analyst Jay Bilas said.
"GameDay" host Rece Davis agreed.
"It joined the likes of Kansas and Kentucky and some of the great places we've been," he said. "I'd never been to Missouri before, and it certainly made a favorable first impression."
During the show, the fans were active, cheering loudly every time the analysts touted Missouri — there were many instances — and booing just as loudly every time they mentioned Kansas. They reserved their loudest ovations for an appearance by Missouri coach Frank Haith and a brief showing by the Tigers players during a commercial break.
Bilas, and fellow "GameDay" analysts Digger Phelps and Hubert Davis, frequently pleased the Missouri crowd with glowing reviews of the Tigers. All three picked Missouri to beat Kansas on Saturday night, and all three picked at least one Tiger player for their team during a mock draft.
They also stated opinions that major rivalries like the Missouri-Kansas rivalry should continue even if the teams play in different conferences. With Missouri moving to the Southeastern Conference next season, Kansas coaches have said they have no interest in continuing the series. Missouri fans agreed with the analysts, chanting "Kansas won't play" twice during the show.
"I completely support Missouri or any other school's right to change conferences," Rece Davis said after the show. "That's nobody's business but Missouri's. But it is the fans' business that they keep playing their rivals."
During one segment, fans were treated to video from the 1961 brawl and other classic games won by Missouri in the rivalry.
With this probably being the last Missouri-Kansas basketball game in Columbia for years to come, Rece Davis called Saturday night's game, "as big a game, if not the biggest, that we've had 'College GameDay' at."
Missouri (20-2, 7-2) and Kansas (18-4, 8-1) tip off at 8 p.m. at Mizzou Arena in a game that will also have major Big 12 Conference title implications.
"I don't think we're gonna be able to hear ourselves think tonight," Bilas said.