Big 12 Tournament: Impact of missing Missouri less than expected
The Big 12 Tournament defending champions are no longer in the conference. But with strong crowds at the Sprint Center, the general sense in Kansas City was that Missouri fans were missing the tournament a lot more than the tournament was missing them.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Until late Saturday night, Missouri can still refer to itself as the defending Big 12 Tournament champions.
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But there will be no title defense. Not even an attempt.
The Tigers are in Nashville, Tenn., for the SEC Tournament. The conference foes they left behind remain back in Mizzou's home state — a state that now houses as many Big 12 teams as Alaska and Hawaii — battling it out for their crown.
But the collateral damage, at least in Year 1 of life without the Tigers, seems to have been the opposite of what most expected.
Throughout the week, there was a general sense that Missouri fans were missing the Big 12 Tournament a lot more than the Big 12 Tournament was missing Missouri fans.
“It's terrible,” Missouri fan and KC native Mark Cady said. “It's terrible without them. It just feels different.”
Cady came to the Sprint Center for Friday's night session expecting to be one of a few dressed in Tiger gold. Ended up he was the only one, as far as he could tell.
“It's sad,” Cady said. “I went upstairs, I'm like the only guy getting heckled. They showed me on the Jumbotron and the entire crowd booed.”
And it was a healthy boo. Because it was a healthy crowd.
Attendance has been steady for this year's tournament. At times, even better than in years past.
The Big 12 couldn't have scripted its winners any better.
Friday's semifinal matchups were Iowa State-Kansas and Oklahoma State-Kansas State. Those are the four closest fanbases, in proximity, to Kansas City and maybe the most basketball-rabid. It showed, with 19,160 showing up, a Big 12 Tournament single-session record.