Keeler: Why Mizzou is smart to play hoops games in Kansas City

Missouri athletic director Mike Alden wants Kim Anderson and the Tigers to develop a consistent presence in Kansas City.

L.G. Patterson/AP

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Hawaii is 3,900 miles from the Power & Light District, give or take a lei. Oklahoma State’s campus is 318 miles.

So, hey, at least Mizzou is getting … well, closer.

"I choose to believe — and I think this is accurate," Missouri athletic director Mike Alden said Monday at Sprint Center, "those (Big 12) folks have a lot of respect for Mizzou. Mizzou has a lot of respect for those institutions."

Alden wants MU to play a men’s basketball contest in Kansas City annually, the way the Tigers do every year in St. Louis, an anchor game, a foothold on the western side of the state. To that end, Kim Anderson’s crew is returning to Sprint Center for a second straight season, announcing a Dec. 30 date in the P & L against an old, bitter, traditional conference rival.

No, no. Not that one.

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"I don’t really know the whole history of everything that’s gone on," Anderson said when Kansas, the elephant in the room now, forever, and always, was brought up. "Down the line, maybe, something will develop."

Over Bill Self’s dead body.

Still, just because it may not work — and it probably won’t; Self could win a staring contest with a stone gargoyle — doesn’t mean it isn’t a wicked idea.

The Tigers need to play a basketball game in Kansas City no less than once every season for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the gravitational pull of Southeastern Conference life tugs the program east and, naturally, um, south.

Jackson County is the SEC’s Alaska, that weird place way up north where the locals shoot at bears from helicopters and eat a lot of barbecue. But mostly the barbecue part.

"When I’d get up in the morning, I’d always see, ‘Hey, the Big 12 standings,’" said Anderson, a former Big Eight Player of the Year, a Big 12 lifer, a native son who bleeds Phillips 66. "'(And) the SEC standings.’ So I looked at it as an opportunity, maybe down the road, to play some other schools. And where that’s going to go, I don’t know."

It won’t go to Lawrence.


You keep swinging anyway.

If Kansas isn’t going to engage in the Border War, the next best thing you can do is walk up to the edge of your side of the fence, go all Peter Finch in "Network" and make as much damn noise as possible.

Today, the Cowboys. Tomorrow, the Sooners. Maybe Iowa State forgives, given enough months, given enough motivation. Maybe. Mizzou hasn’t been in the Big 12 for two years, having officially fled on July 1, 2012, walking out the door arm in arm with Texas A&M.

The Aggies, funny enough, are playing at Sprint later this year, too. Against Kansas State.

Time heals.

"Can’t say we would or wouldn’t be interested (in playing Mizzou)," K-State senior associate athletic director for operations Casey Scott told FOXSportsKansasCity.com on Monday. "We have successfully put on our own game in Sprint on a nearly annual basis and we like controlling the event."

Plus, the Wildcats and Tigers are both bound for the Maui Invitational in November. They’ll also be part of the 2015 CBE Classic at Sprint, which would be Mizzou’s third straight season with a date along Grand Boulevard.

Yep, yep, yep, yep. More of that.

With the Anderson hire, Alden has doubled down on nostalgia, on old-school, on the era when Norm Stewart, Billy Tubbs and Johnny Orr walked with the earth and left the scribes in stitches.

If he’s smart — Mizzou fans are divided, as they are with most things, on that particular presumption — Alden will reach out not just to the Cowboys and Wildcats and Cyclones of the world, but to the rest of the boys in the "Old Big Eight" club.

Think about it: Nebraska, the anti-KU, a football town and basketball afterthought for a generation, finally has something going under Tim Miles. Colorado’s program has been cooking for even longer under Tad Boyle, the ex-Jayhawk.

Imagine a one-day, four-team basketball "classic" at Sprint, featuring the Tigers, Cornhuskers, Buffaloes and Aggies, the mother of all reunion concerts.

Or, better still, some combination of Mizzou, the other three Big 12 defectors and a few of the league’s current members, arm in arm.

It won’t be KU-Mizzou. Nothing can be. Nothing ever will be.

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But it might rattle enough bones, move enough needles, to make that gargoyle crack. Even a little.

We already know Self will play Colorado, home-and-home.

This isn’t business. It’s personal.

"I do think folks … recognize the support Kansas City has for college basketball," Alden said. "And there (are) maybe some other schools we could talk to … (it) could be an Oklahoma State. (It) could be someone else."

Could it be Kansas?

"Could be, yes," Alden said. "I suppose."

Kansas City: Come for the barbecue and the bears. Stay to watch the ships pass in the night.

You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter at @SeanKeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com.