The ESPN programming department committed a scheduling gaffe that even Bill Self, saddled with a team on par with the Topeka YMCA, had to find amusing.
The network included the Sunflower Showdown in its rundown for “Rivalry Week.”
In part two of the biannual series between the Lawrence Sunflowers and Manhattan Shrinking Violets, Kansas righted a dismal three-game losing skid using just the right tonic: a matchup with its personal piñata, fellow in-state “rival” Kansas State.
As most non-rivalries and superficial rivalries go, the game was overwhelmingly one-sided. The Jayhawks jumped out to a 23-10 lead midway through the first half and spent the next 30 minutes piling on. If this was a prizefight, Coach Self would have raised his arm at halftime.
The ambush wasn’t anything personal. Save that language for real rivalry talk. It was merely therapy long overdue for a two-week slump that knocked KU from No. 1 to No. 13 in the coaches’ poll. Objective met.
Kevin Young was unchallenged at the rim all night. Ben McLemore dropped an effortless 30 points in celebration of his 20th birthday. Jeff Withey used Jordan Henriquez as a dunking prop, then broke Greg Ostertag’s school record for career blocks moments later. Naadir Tharpe even looked like a point guard. And while the Jayhawks got to the basket at will, the Wildcats struggled just getting past midcourt.
The Sunflower Showdown hasn’t captured a true rivalry on the hardwood since the 1970s, when K-State was last consistently relevant. Since that decade, Kansas owns a decisive 70-17 advantage in head-to-head competition, as if the school’s 2:1 winning ratio all-time wasn’t lopsided enough.
Kansas is 46-3 since January 1994 against its in-state stepbrother and 11-1 over the last 12 meetings. That’s no more of a rivalry than hammer versus nail.