The stage is set, just like the promoters and the media drew it up. The two co-champions of the regular season, in-state archrivals Kansas and Kansas State, one school less than an hour’s drive from the Sprint Center in Kansas City, the other no more than two hours away. It will all be on the line Saturday evening, as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds and the two best teams in the Big 12 all season battle it out for the right to own the regular-season trophy as well as championship of the conference’s postseason tournament.
Kansas and Kansas State advanced to the tournament final with dominant wins in the semifinal round on Friday over Iowa State and Oklahoma State, respectively. This will be the third meeting of the season between the Jayhawks and the Wildcats. Kansas won both of the previous games: 59-55 in January in Manhattan and again, three weeks later, by 21 in Lawrence to snap an unprecedented three-game losing streak by the Jayhawks.
A record crowd of 19,160 packed the Sprint Center to the rafters for the two semifinal games Friday evening. Another capacity house is expected for the championhip game Saturday.
K-State will be counting on the old cliche that it’s hard to beat a team three tines in the same season, aqnd with the Jayhawks as their opponent, Kansas State won’t need much more motivation than that.
This will be Kansas State’s second trip to the Big 12 Tournament championship game and the Wildcats’ second in three years. In 2010, Kansas State played these same Jayhawks in the tournament final, won by Kansas 72-64. Kansas is making its 10th appearance in the Big 12 championship game in the 17-year history of the Big 12. The Jayhawks won eight of those.
Both of these teams are locks for the NCAA Tournament, but Kansas still has a good chance at receiving a No. 1 seed in this year’s Big Dance, which a third win over Kansas State and an Big 12 Tournament championship could help them secure. On the other hand, coach Bruce Weber’s Kansas State squad knows that a win over Kansas could also help improve their NCAA seeding.
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