Border rivals Kansas and Missouri are playing for the highest of stakes entering the last week of the Big 12 Conference men’s basketball regular season.
“I think in conference play, you put yourself in position to have an opportunity. I’ve said, ‘We’re in the hunt for something.’ What it is, I don’t know,” said MU coach Mike Anderson.
His No. 11-ranked Tigers (24-4, 11-2) enter Sunday’s 1 p.m. contest at No. 15-rated KU (23-5, 12-1) tied with Oklahoma for second place — one game behind the Jayhawks.
“I think we’re going in the right direction, and of course, we all know there’s a conference championship that’s at stake,” said Anderson, whose Tigers handed KU its only league loss, 62-60, on Feb. 9 in Columbia, Mo.
“We control our own destiny. I think that’s that the biggest deal. With that being said, our approach never changes, and it’s the next game. Kansas is going to be our next game, and we’re going to get focused and get ready for it.”
KU will play MU on Sunday, travel to Texas Tech on Wednesday, then conclude league play a week from today at home versus Texas.
Following the KU game, Mizzou entertains No. 3-ranked Oklahoma on Wednesday, then finishes at Texas A&M a week from today.
OU (25-3) will travel to Texas Tech today and MU on Wednesday, then finish at home versus Oklahoma State a week from today.
The Sooners still are eying a possible No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
KU and MU have been mentioned as high as No. 2 seeds, no worse than 4 seeds, all depending on what happens in the final week of the regular season and the postseason tournament March 11-14 in Oklahoma City.
OU currently has a No. 4 RPI as listed by CBSsportsline.com. KU’s RPI is No. 7 and MU’s No. 13.
“I don’t know what people are thinking on the outside,” said KU coach Bill Self, a Big 12 and national coach of the year candidate along with OU’s Jeff Capel and MU’s Anderson.
“We have put ourselves in position we can have not a good year, but a great year —certainly a terrific year — based on the pieces we thought we had coming into the season compared to what we lost.
“I never thought I’d be thinking about seeding. We have a legitimate chance to get a really good seed,” Self added. “I did think we’d be thinking about winning the league (for fifth straight season). To me, the whole thing is not getting ahead of ourselves. We have a lot of work to do — three tough games starting with a team playing as well as anybody. We shouldn’t get giddy. We haven’t done anything yet, but we’ve put ourselves in good position.”
Nobody ever knows what the NCAA Tournament selection committee will do on Selection Sunday.
But with No. 2 seeds possible, both KU and MU have to be thinking about being awarded first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Many analysts still expect Oklahoma and Memphis to land spots in the K.C. event. Nothing is set in stone, especially if KU goes 15-1 in the league and wins at least two games in Oklahoma City. Heck, winning out might have the Jayhawks looking at a longshot possibility of a No. 1 seed.
“I told our guys we’re not going to even talk about the league race this week. We’re just going to talk about Missouri,” Self said, insisting his players take it “one game at a time.”
“I do think we’re in the equation (of landing a strong seed). I’m happy to be in the equation rather than on the outside looking in.”