The Big 12 tournament gears up for a big night - KCTV5

The Big 12 tournament gears up for a big night

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Thousands of fans are gathering in downtown Kansas City for the Big 12 basketball tournament.

"This is an awesome environment," one fan told KCTV5. "Even if you don't have tickets, you need to come on down here."

Friday at 6 p.m. Kansas faces Baylor and Iowa State faces Oklahoma in the late game. Both games promise to be intense. Kansas swept Baylor in a pair of very close games, while Iowa State pulled off a miracle comeback against the Sooners. The Cyclones erased a 21-point OU lead, in knocking Lon Kruger's team out of the Big 12 regular season race.

If the Sooners have revenge as a motivator, the Cyclones have a home-court advantage. As usual, Iowa State fans have come to Kansas City in huge numbers. They were clearly the loudest, most passionate fans at the Sprint Center during Thursday's quarterfinals.

Of course, Kansas will also pack the building, but Jayhawk head coach Bill Self called Thursday's crowd one of the deadest KU groups he's ever seen. Not that he blames the fans. He didn't like the way his team played in sneaking past TCU.

The Big 12 regular season champions did not look the part, only winning by five points.

KU was playing without leading scorer Perry Ellis, who was resting a sprained knee. The 6'8" junior is expected to play against Baylor.

On paper, the Jayhawks will need him. Baylor is one of the nation's top rebounding teams, and has great depth. Plus, Kansas has not shot the ball well from the perimeter in recent games. In fact, KU missed all eight of its three-point attempts against TCU.

Baylor is certain to pack in its zone defense, and dare KU to beat it with jumpers. The inside scoring of Ellis could be key to the Kansas attack.

If the TCU match-up failed to fire up the KU players, coaches and fans, they should have no problem gearing up for Baylor.

Self does not appear to be a big fan of Bears coach Scott Drew, and KU's players are all too aware of how close Baylor came to sweeping both regular season games from the Jayhawks.

While Baylor is not a rival, the Bears will have the fans' attention tonight, a big difference from its approach to doormat TCU.

The beautiful weather is adding to the party atmosphere in the Power and Light, making downtown, "the" place to be.

"There are fans here from all over," one KU fan said. "You get to mesh with different people in the Big 12."

It looks like a night of great basketball, and great fun at the Sprint Center. The only question: where's Missouri?

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