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March 15, 2013

Tailor made semis

It's a good day to be a ticker scalper - er, broker - in KCMO.

The resellers of real estate for roundball rumps could not have drawn up a more perfect scenario for their business ventures. The four best basketball schools in the Big 12 - that also happen to be the four closest schools to Kansas City - have advanced to the conference semifinals and created the quintessential seller's market.

Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State. Four of the five surviving members of the Big 8 Conference have made it a throwback weekend. If Kemper Arena could hold the crowd, they could move the whole menagerie 2 miles southwest and really get into the retro spirit. Kansas is wearing Zubaz shorts and Fred Hoiberg is wearing ISU gear. Someone set the wayback machine to 1992, but semifinal tickets are most definitely going at 2013 prices.

And not only the scalpers are smiling. Pretty much all of Kansas City is smiling. The community couldn't distance itself fast enough from Missouri's to-the-SEC decision, knowing how important it was to stay in the mix for hosting the Big 12 basketball tournament. Many voices were saying that the event should no longer be held in a state where there was no conference school. But Kansas City's situation is unique.

Yes, it's in Missouri. But it borders on Kansas and the Sprint Center is literally two miles as the crow flies from Kansas soil. If the tournament was still at Kemper, it would be a stone's throw from the Sunflower State. Kansas University is much closer to KC than the University of Missouri, and Kansas State is equal distance away. As the electronic sign on the scorer's table at the Sprint Center proudly proclaims this weekend, "This is Big 12 Country." Kansas City can't afford it to be anything else.

Old Big 8 fans love that it's an all-Big 8 semifinal night. The only remaining Big 8 school eliminated in the quarterfinals was bounced by a fellow charter member of the conference when Iowa State rallied to top Oklahoma. In three head-to-head games where good ol' days met financial reality of today, it was a Big 8 sweep: Kansas over Texas Tech, Kansas State over Texas, Oklahoma State over Baylor.

Large traveling fan bases that love their basketball get to stay in Kansas City for at least one more day. Small traveling fan bases that see basketball as a moderately interesting bridge between football seasons are headed home and can now turn their full attention to spring grid practices.

Even though football is the economic engine that is the sole reason the Big 12 exists in the first place, there are basketball schools in the conference and all four of them are alive and well in Kansas City. No matter which teams prevail in two games Friday night and in the final on Saturday, basketball fans and Kansas City are big winners this weekend. Oh yeah, and scalpers. Especially scalpers.


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