For a time, it looked bad for the Kansas Jayhawks. They had fallen behind 11 points and couldn't…
The departure of Missouri to the Southeastern Conference obviously dismissed years of hatred and clashes between bitter rivals, but while the Tigers are now dealing with losses in a new league, the Jayhawks in-state rivalry with Kansas State benefits the most. For years, the Jayhawks and Wildcats have competed and while it's had a more family like atmosphere, it's promising to ramp up some heading into Tuesday's night showdown at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan. Kansas (16-1, 4-0) heads into the game ranked third in the AP poll and second in the coaches poll, while K-State (15-2, 4-0) under new coach Bruce Weber is 11th and 13th respectively. All those factors add up to what will be the most hostile environment the battle tested Jayhawks have faced so far this season. "It's a big game," senior forward Travis Releford said. "There's a lot at stake. We're excited to both be 4-0 in conference game, so it'll be a fun game, an exciting game, a very hyped game." The game will be the second consecutive road contest for Kansas, after Saturday's gutty 64-59 win at Texas. They'll look to get off to a better start against the Wildcats, who have quietly gotten better after a December loss at Gonzaga. Following that, they rolled off wins over Florida and have gotten off to a solid Big 12 start, including a win over Oklahoma, Saturday. While Kansas State shows characteristics of the team Frank Martin previously coached, the subtle changes under Weber are showing, most notably his motion offense. "They don't beat themselves," coach Bill Self said. "They play great defense, they're well coached and their motion, if you're not sound defensively, they can make you look pretty bad, because they do a really great job of reading and reacting to how you guard different types of screens, so they're just a really sound team." Added to the challenges will be the intensity of the Wildcats fans, which are right on top of the players. It'll be sure to invoke memories of classic battles between the two schools for fans on both sides. "I think Bramlage is as tough of a place as we've played," Self said. "Their environment two or three times that we've been over there, is as good as I've ever seen and I'm sure it'll be that way again tomorrow." With Missouri gone, the increased intensity of the rivalry for both teams will be at the forefront of the numerous storylines and will bear watching, going forward. "K-State has always been a rival, but it was always more of a respect rivalry then what Missouri's was, because of the size of the Missouri rivalry, there was a lot of hatred involved, it was very mutual" Self said. "I never felt that way against K-State. I don't know why, but I never did." Self does look forward to the changes that the rivalry will undergo, starting with Tuesday night and this season. "I think this will turn a little bit to become more heated as we move forward, because we don't have the Tigers around and they don't have the Tigers around, so I think it's very healthy, I think it's very healthy to have someone around that the fans look forward to playing and certainly the players do and this is that game for us."
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