Great day of basketball spoiled by end of game and of rivalry

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Darren Hellwege, Sports Commentator

While I had a wonderful time in Lawrence last weekend, a great city that I will miss with the Tigers move to the SEC, like most associated with Mizzou, I left with a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth. For three reasons, this greatest of games was less satisfying that it might have been.

First off, the end was deeply frustrating. The Tigers making a bad decision, getting off a bad shot, heaving up a brick, tossing it over the backboard, passing to that goofy looking new mascot of KU’s, anything would have been better than what we got — an entire team which seemed to forget that the entire game, that effort they’d given for the last couple of hours which cannot be described as anything less than inspirational, was all for naught if they didn’t get a shot off in eight seconds.

And they didn’t. The buzzer sounded with the ball still stuck in the hands of Mizzou players. And this is a little troubling. There have been several games where decisions at the very end of the game were a problem, from going into what looked like an old Dean Smith “Four Corners” offense and nearly giving away a lead at Baylor to flinging up nine 3-pointers, many of them desperate, off-balance shots that were painful to watch, this team has to work on it’s poise late in games. For a team full of intelligent seniors and the best coaching job we’ve seen in a lot of years in Columbia, this is one area in which the Tigers better tighten up the screws before they start playing with the nation watching. Yes, this was the most ferocious atmosphere I’ve ever seen in more than 40 years of haunting gyms, but this team is capable of better, and it’s a pity this loss that didn’t have to be didn’t get a better final effort out of MU.

The second reason is one I really don’t want to dwell upon much, for any number of reasons, not the least of which being there’s so little that can be done about it. I’m not sure why the officiating cannot be improved in college athletics. And while it would be patently absurd to say officials lost the game for Mizzou, but it’s a damn shame that both the shot that could have won it for the Tigers at the end of regulation and the foul that did win it at the end of OT for Kansas were such truly lousy calls. One can hope the SEC does a better job of addressing these issues, because it’s been a black eye for the Big 12 for far too long.

And finally, the one true shame of the day — that it’s the last time we get to do this. While this was far beyond the typical MU-KU battle, there was something very special about Saturday, and it’s so disappointing that egos in Lawrence are getting in the way of something that’s just so good for college basketball. There’ve been some asinine comments made over the course of this discussion, but the one recently from Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, quoting Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger, takes the cake: Keeping the rivalry going would be like a man divorcing his wife, then asking if they can still date.

Now, the governor is doing some two-fisted pandering here (and the line was far funnier when the much less prudish Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said it months ago) but it also raises a big question.

So, Kansas will never play against one of these traitors which left the Big 12, will never again “date” a divorced former partner? Take a gander at the spring soccer schedule, which shows on March 10 a match between the Jayhawks and the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

So is this a game between the JayTramps and CornHussies? Or are the clocks in Topeka set to Jayhawk Double Standard Time?

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