Basketball fans in Kentucky are reveling in a dream Final Four matchup. Two basketball titans in the Louisville Cardinals and Kentucky Wildcats meet in New Orleans. Rivalries are stoked as traditional power Kentucky will try to dispatch upstart Louisville.
The Missouri Tigers men's basketball program is known for rivalries against Kansas and Illinois. When the team moves to the Southeastern Conference next year, there will be new rivalries to stoke in border states.
Yet Missouri has no true in-state rival. The solution is to foster competitions with the other four Division I schools in the state. St. Louis University, Missouri State, UMKC and Southeast Missouri State are the other schools on that level.
The difficulty is that Mizzou is on another level. No other school regularly makes the NCAA tournament. SLU is the closest school in terms of quality basketball. The Billikens made the 2012 NCAA tournament as well. Plus SLU plays in the Atlantic 10 conference, one of the higher mid-major conferences.
Missouri State plays in the Missouri Valley Conference. MSU is the second-largest state-supported school in Missouri behind Mizzou. The Bears haven't been to the big dance since 1999.
SEMO is a staple in the Ohio Valley Conference. Murray State has been the powerhouse in the OVC. UMKC has never made the NCAA tournament.
Missouri can't regularly play other Missouri squads because they may be really bad one year. That means a downturn in the RPI. Missouri doesn't have a great rivalry like Texas-Texas A&M, Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, Kansas-Kansas State, Oregon-Oregon State, North Carolina-North Carolina State and Washington-Washington State.
Missouri simply doesn't have such a prominent rivalry. Perhaps the best way to settle the in-state rivalry is to have a four-team tournament. The four lesser schools can play a single-elimination format for the right to play Mizzou in one game. That game can be played in Columbia at Mizzou Arena.
Perhaps a regular state champion in basketball can stoke a rivalry in Mizzou's backyard. It can only make basketball fever even more prevalent in the Show-Me State. Basketball is one of the few big-name sports Missouri can have some competition. Mizzou is the only Football Bowl Subdivision school in the state.
William Browning is a lifelong Missouri resident originally from St. Louis. He attended the University of Missouri in the late 1980s and is a fan of all Mizzou Tigers sports. He currently resides in Branson.