There is no historical bad blood between Kansas and Iowa. The states don’t share a border.
But could Iowa State and Kansas work up some rivalry intensity in men’s basketball, filling at least part of the gap left by the dissolution of the Border War with Missouri’s departure to the Southeastern Conference and KU’s refusal to schedule the Tigers?
The Jayhawks’ 89-76 victory over the Cyclones on Monday in an amped Allen Fieldhouse had some wondering.
Two days earlier, KU had polished off Kansas State in a game that was never in doubt, and rarely is when the basketball teams meet in Lawrence, just as the football games almost invariably tilt the Wildcats’ way.
But since Fred Hoiberg’s second year at Iowa State, 2011-12, the KU-Iowa State games have provided great competition and theater.
Iowa State handed Kansas one of its two conference losses during its run to the national title game in 2012.
Ben McLemore banked in a three-pointer to send the first meeting of the 2013 season into overtime. In the rematch, controversy surrounded Kansas’ overtime victory in Ames, which ended with an Iowa State fan confronting Bill Self.
Last season, KU won both regular-season games before Iowa State ousted the Jayhawks in the Big 12 Tournament semifinals in one of the event’s great atmospheres at the Sprint Center.
The Cyclones made it two straight by beating Kansas in Ames last month.
And although Kansas leads the Big 12 series with Iowa State 32-10, no league team owns more victories over the Jayhawks, and the Cyclones’ five-game winning streak over KU from 1999-2001 is the longest by a conference opponent since the early 1980s.
Self was asked where Iowa State stood as a hoops rival after Monday’s game.
“It’s cyclical right now,” he said. “You could make a case several years ago that it was Texas because we had so many good games with them.
“But right now, the way it sits, K-State is our biggest rival, and you can make a case that Iowa State has emerged as our other rival.”
Self’s right about the cycles. In his 12 years, Texas and Oklahoma State have been perhaps KU’s top rivals outside of K-State, Missouri and Iowa State. Not coincidentally, the Longhorns and Cowboys are the only Big 12 teams in the last eight years to win in Lawrence.
The Border War may return some day, but as a nonconference encounter it can never be what it was.
For Kansas, Iowa State brings a competitive fierceness, but no day after bragging to or hiding from your co-worker or State Line Road neighbor.
Missouri spoiling Kansas’ season, or the Jayhawks silencing the best crowds of the year in Columbia defined Border War hoops. There is no replacement for that.