KC’s college basketball identity will survive realignment

This Kansas City Star article talks about the effects the realignment madness could have on Kansas City’s college basketball culture, especially if Kansas, K-State and Missouri end up in different conferences:

If the schools wind up in different conferences — or in the same league that wouldn’t bring its basketball tournament to Kansas City — the region’s sports identity could take a big hit.

But I don’t think the breakup of the Big 12 will have that drastic of an effect on the college basketball scene in Kansas City, even if the three area schools end up in different conferences. It will continue to thrive for the following reasons.

Kansas basketball will always be relevant, even if they are in the Missouri Valley Conference (Side note: I’m not saying this is likely, I’m just imaging a worse case scenario). The history won’t just vanish. Kansas City is a Kansas stronghold, and therefore a college basketball stronghold by default.

The Sprint Center. It's not going anywhere and neither is college basketball's hold on KC. Image courtesy of fannation.com.

As for games played, all three schools could play at least one non-conference game in the Sprint Center every year, if not more. That would be most likely good for three near-certain sellouts.

If the teams were to split up, playing one another in the Sprint Center would be a hugely-popular event. Could you imagine a Missouri-Kansas game in early December in downtown Kansas City?

The Braggin’ Rights game between Missouri and Illinois has been filling up (or close to it) the Scottrade Center in St. Louis for years. And this has happened despite an almost-unbelievable run of nine straight Missouri losses that ended two seasons ago.

You could conceivably have three such games a year in the Sprint Center should all three schools end up in different conferences. While that scenario is a longshot, anything seems possible right now.

I don’t know about the contract, but the CBE Classic presumably wouldn’t disappear either. In recent years the tournament has brought Syracuse, Duke, UCLA, Gonzaga and others to Kansas City. While non-conference tournaments don’t generate the same buzz as conference tournaments, bringing name programs to the Sprint Center will draw a crowd. And that’s regardless of what conference any of those programs are in.

And most importantly, the lack of the Big 12 conference shouldn’t prevent the Sprint Center from being chosen to host NCAA tournament games. From 1940-2009, Kansas City hosted 122 NCAA tournament games, more than any other city. The next closest was Salt Lake City at 83. Even Indianapolis, the cradle of basketball, had hosted less at 79.

The big tournament, and college basketball in general, has been in Kansas City’s identity for decades, long before the Big 12’s present and recent editions were in existence. The tournament is set to return for first and second round games in 2013, and I see no reason why it wouldn’t continue to do so.

Kansas City is a basketball town and in a perfect world deserves a conference tournament that includes Kansas, K-State and Mizzou. But as long I’m not missing something, I don’t think Lawrence itself is picking up and moving across the country. And if KU ends up in the ACC I don’t think you’ll be seeing a mass exodus of alumni and fans to North Carolina.

The same can be said for Columbia and Manhattan: the people who support those three schools will continue to populate the Kansas city metro area. Their basketball fandoms won’t change, even if the conference logo on their school’s court does.

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2 Responses to KC’s college basketball identity will survive realignment

  1. Craig T says:

    Great point on KC’s location: the schools themselves don’t “go” anywhere even if they move leagues.

    Also, you’re exactly right Kansas City used to play the role Indy has as the NCAA’s favorite basketball city for big events. That part won’t change back, but now that Sprint Center has replaced Kemper Arena, it should be a regular host for at least the NCAA early rounds.

    • GPM says:

      Thanks. Since the NCAA insists on playing their Final Four games in awkward football domes the days of KC hosting the final games won’t come back. But you’re right, the early rounds should still be played there. Three fan bases, one great arena, centrally-located and great BBQ: pretty nice deal.

      But you do know I am a KC homer…

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