The Big 12 men's basketball tournament hasn't sold out yet. And that has to be a first in college-basketball-loving Kansas City. At press time, all-session nosebleed tickets remained available through sprintcenter.com for $195 apiece (plus fees) — bad news for conference officials, KC Big 12 supporters and scalpers, and a reminder of the University of Missouri's Southern secession.
Then again, maybe University of Kansas fans just can't stomach paying to see the Jayhawks wear those ugly Zubaz shorts. Nah. Blame this on Mizzou.
Even without a potential Border War matchup, though, the 2013 Big 12 Tournament has plenty of intrigue. KU and Kansas State share the regular-season crown, and a Sunflower Showdown finale looms as an odds-on possibility.
Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Baylor look to play spoiler to the crimson-and-blue vs. purple-and-silver party. The Cowboys spent the season perfecting a hard-nosed defense. The Cyclones have come on with a dizzying 3-point attack. The Sooners hit KC in need of a win to boost their NCAA tourney résumé. And even the Bears, resting on the thinnest of NCAA Tournament bubbles, might have a shot. And because a tournament championship is a Wonka-like golden ticket to the Big Dance, even Texas, Texas Tech, Texas Christian or West Virginia could turn into Cinderella by somehow pulling off an upset.
If it's individual performance that excites you, the next few days offer what might be your last NCAA glimpses at two of the best players in the nation. Ben McLemore and Marcus Smart could realistically go No. 1 and No. 2 in this year's NBA draft.
All of which means that, even without the gold and black, the Power & Light District should be packed. In honor of this year's tournament, then, The Pitch has compiled its second-annual unofficial Big 12 program. Read on for stats, opinions, and suggestions on where to watch if the Sprint Center sells out.
21 Players to Watch
Jeff Withey, Kansas
The Jayhawks' shot-swatting senior provides interior defense like no other player in the league.
Pierre Jackson, Baylor
The preseason Big 12 Player of the Year is a mighty mite. The senior scores at will (a league-high 19.4 points) but also unselfishly dishes (also a league-high 6.57 assists).
Angel Rodriguez, Kansas State
The shifty point guard became a leader for the Wildcats in his second season. He's also one of the league's top passers (5.48 per game).
Melvin Ejim, Iowa State
The Cyclones' undersized double-double machine leads the conference in rebounding (9.3).
Elijah Johnson, Kansas
Rock Chalkers have had a love-hate relationship with the senior guard, but it's all love after a 39-point effort and win on the road against Iowa State.
Myck Kabongo, Texas
The 6-foot-1-inch sophomore guard was MIA for the majority of the Longhorns' season (missing 23 games due to an NCAA suspension for receiving impermissible benefits) but has returned with a vengeance, averaging 15.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.9 steals, and hooking a 5–3 record.
Romero Osby, Oklahoma
The 6-foot-8-inch senior forward leads the Sooners in scoring (15.7) and rebounding (6.9), and he's playing his best basketball late in the season.
Tyrus McGee, Iowa State
The Cyclones' sixth man is a deep, deep threat from beyond the arc. If McThree gets hot, Iowa State has a shot.
Markel Brown, Oklahoma State
The Cowboys' junior guard may not get the headlines of teammate Marcus Smart, but he led Okie State in scoring (15.6) and has been a consistent force.
Rodney McGruder, Kansas State
The 6-foot-4-inch senior guard leads the Cats in points (15.1) and rebounds (5.2), showing why he is an All–Big 12 selection.
Le'Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State
The 6-foot-7-inch sophomore wing has all the tools to be a future pro, if only he could put them together more consistently.
Steven Pledger, Oklahoma
The 6-foot-4-inch senior guard doesn't have to carry the scoring load like he did last season. His points may be down, but he's still wreaking havoc. And OU is better than it was last year.
Will Clyburn, Iowa State
The lanky 6-foot-7-inch senior forward has pro potential but struggles to score on the road. Still, he can put up points in bunches and leads the fourth-best scoring team in the nation with his 15.2 points per game.
Kyan Anderson, Texas Christian
The hapless Horned Frogs' only hope is this 5-foot-11-inch sophomore.
Travis Releford, Kansas
The 6-foot-6-inch senior guard should be right at home in the Sprint Center. The Kansas Citian is making 57.9 percent of his field goals and averaging 11.9 points.
Jaye Crockett, Texas Tech
The Red Raiders' 6-foot-7-inch junior forward is the best scorer (11.9 points) on the second-worst-scoring team in the Big 12.
Chris Babb, Iowa State
Welcome to Babb Island! The Cyclones' defensive stopper makes opposing players feel stranded.
Shane Southwell, Kansas State
Look out if the junior guard gets hot.
Eron Harris, West Virginia
The 6-foot-2-inch guard is trying to provide scoring to an offense that ranks 210th in the nation.
Cory Jefferson, Baylor
The 6-foot-9-inch power forward is second only to Jeff Withey in shot blocking.
Amath M'Baye, Oklahoma
The 6-foot-9-inch transfer forward was picked as the preseason Newcomer of the Year. He's helping the Sooners win, which is all that matters.