The feeling will be there at Mizzou Arena tonight.
The history between Missouri and Kansas assures at least that much.
A nationally televised game, check. Likely the biggest and loudest crowd of the year, check. Pressure placed on each coach to please the administration and alumni with a win, check.
These elements will always surround this game.
There are some extra nuances, though, to this year’s 6 p.m. matchup at Mizzou Arena, aside from just the turnover of players. The rivalry has always made this game important, but last year’s Tigers victory on March 6 at Mizzou Arena didn’t factor much into the Big 12 Conference race or sway either teams’ postseason lives.
Missouri’s 72-68 win in each team’s final conference game brought the Tigers to 7-9 in conference, tied for eighth. The loss dropped the Jayhawks to 12-4 in conference, tied for first. After they played, Kansas was still a lock for the NCAA tournament and Missouri still needed to win the Big 12 tournament to get a bid.
Tonight’s game is different, though. Both teams are unranked and come in not knowing much about the other this early in the season. What is known is that both teams must finish near the top of the conference to get a bid to the NCAA tournament, and this game will factor into that.
Snyder said this year’s game has bigger consequences.
“It’s just different, I don’t think our guys looked at the league as being decided (last year),” Snyder said. “I think we were playing real well at that point and finishing the league strong, and I think we wanted to continue that. But it certainly affects your season differently in that it’s early and there’s a lot left to be played and determined.”
A win for Missouri (9-5) would push it to 3-1 in conference, placing it in good position with tough games against Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and the Jayhawks out of the way A loss would leave the Tigers at 2-2, muddled with a slew of teams who think they can finish near the top of a young and unpredictable league.
A loss for Kansas (10-5) would drop it to 1-2 in conference, leaving it above only Baylor in the conference. The program would be reeling after losing last week at home to Kansas State, a conference opponent it had a 31-game winning streak against, and loosing two straight to the Tigers. A win would elevate the Jayhawks to 2-1 in conference, giving a young Jayhawk team confidence that they can win tough road games without the likes of Keith Langford, Aaron Miles, and Wayne Simien, who all graduated last year.
Both program’s are coming off of tough home losses, but Snyder said he doesn’t expect that to change the way either team plays.
“I don’t think this game needs any more hype, I know for our team, it’s Kansas, that’s enough,” Snyder said.