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The Big 12 basketball tournament is back in Kansas City this week. Here's what you need to know

A large printed display sits at right that reads "XII Gameday" while at left two people work near another display that shows a silhouette of a female basketball player and her height with the wording "How do you measure up?"
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Workers with Loud Production Group set up displays at Barney Allis Plaza on Wednesday afternoon preparing for the Big 12 womens' basketball tournament that will tip off across the street at Municipal Auditorium on Thursday, March. 9.

The 2023 men’s and women’s Big 12 basketball championships are getting underway at Kansas City’s T-Mobile Center and Municipal Auditorium, respectively. This week's tournament will bring plenty of great games, a lot of disruptions to downtown traffic patterns, and one Shaquille O’Neal.

Kansas City is once again hosting basketball fans from around the country as the Big 12 Conference basketball tournaments back into town. The action begins Wednesday, March 8, when the men's teams tip off inside the T-Mobile Center downtown.

Women’s teams begin playing Thursday, March 9, at Municipal Auditorium.

But even if you haven’t scored seats, there’s plenty happening indoors and out, with team rallies, watch parties, giveaways and concerts stretching over the five days of play.

And of course, there’s plenty of traffic disruptions that will come with it. KCUR put together this guide for what you need to know about the tournaments and festivities — whether you want to participate or avoid the crowds.

How can I watch the Big 12 games?

Tickets for all the Big 12 tournament games are still available. Fans can buy all-session tickets that allow entrance to every game or they can purchase single-session tickets. General admission prices start at $10 for the women’s games and $40 for the mens’ games.

If you’re not in the arena, locals can watch the games on the big screen at KC Live! or at any number of bars and restaurants.

ESPN networks will carry all of the men’s Big 12 tournament games either on the main ESPN channel or on ESPNU or ESPN+.

The first six women’s games will be broadcast on ESPN+. The quarterfinals will play on ESPNU and the championship game is on ESPN2.

Kansas City is also throwing fan fests for both tournaments, with hoops challenges, giveaways, team pep rallies and other activities. The women’s fan fest will be held on Barney Allis Plaza, while the men’s will set up on Grand Boulevard outside KC Live! Both are free to the public, Wednesday through Sunday.

What should I know about Kansas City traffic?

Obviously, the Power and Light District is going to be pretty packed this week.

Kansas City has already closed Grand Boulevard in front of T-Mobile Center between 13th Street and Truman Road. It will remain closed until 6 a.m. Sunday.

Traffic will be especially heavy on Thursday when KU and K-State hit the hardwood at T-Mobile. Plus, Kansas and K-State women will also be playing a few blocks away the same day.

Banners from Big 12 college sports teams hang from a large metal hoop above a semi-covered venue.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The banners of the Big 12 Conference teams hang above KC Live! venue in anticipation of fans showing up to cheer for their respective teams during the five days of women and men playing hoops at T-Mobile Center and Municipal Auditorium.

No street closures are scheduled around Municipal Auditorium, but officials say parking in Barney Allis Plaza garage and nearby lots will be tight. They advise that fans attending the games allow for plenty of time before arriving at the venue.

Several city parking garages can be found at locations within walking distance of Municipal Auditorium and T-Mobile Center. Motorists can access parking locations through Kansas City’s municipal website.

Drivers who aren’t attending the games should also be aware of Kansas City’s Big 12 Run on Saturday morning, March 11. The 5K and 12K races start at 12th and Grand.

The 5K route will cover a circuitous route traveling streets in the downtown area. The 12K path will take runners through the city to Kessler Park and back to 12th Street. Officials say residents should expect road closures near those routes until around noon, when the 12K race wraps up.

How can I get into downtown Kansas City instead of driving?

KC Streetcar, which is free to ride, has been running four streetcars on Saturdays during mid-day hours in anticipation of a heavy slate of activities in March and April.

Riders can catch the streetcar along Main Street, which has end points at Union Station and the River Market. It makes a stop at 14th and Main in the Power and Light District, which puts riders two blocks away from T-Mobile Center.

To get to Municipal Auditorium and Barney Allis Plaza, travelers can also hop off the streetcar at the 12th, 14th or 16th Street stops.

Motorists can park and ride using free weekend parking at three lots along the streetcar route at 7th and Main Streets, near the Delaware Street bridge.

Kansas City’s buses are also free to ride, and a great way to get into the downtown areas. According to RideKC, the Main MAX bus route will run every 20 minutes during the Big 12 men’s tournament.

However, RideKC will temporarily reroute some buses for the tournament. The northbound routes from Crown Center at Pershing and Grand, Westport, and the Country Club Plaza via Broadway will now make a stop at 12th Street and Grand after it goes around the closed portion of the street.

Southbound buses from 3rd Street and Grand in the River Market will stop at 11th Street and Grand.

An outdoor basketball court shows an "XII Championship" logo on the floor. Behind it is a large, shiny oval building with the sign "T-Mobile Center" on it.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
A makeshift basketball court is part of the fan fest set on Grand Boulevard between the T-Mobile Center and KC Live!

When are local teams playing?

On the men’s side of the tournament, the No. 1-seed Jayhawks take on the winner of Wednesday’s first-round match between West Virginia and Texas Tech at 2 p.m on Thursday. K-State (3) will face TCU (6) later that evening.

Men’s teams that work their way through the bracket will meet Saturday at 6 p.m. in the championship game.

Thursday begins the women’s side of the bracket. In the opening round, Kansas State (9) will meet Texas Tech (8) at 5 p.m., and KU (7) will play No. 10 TCU at 7:30 p.m.

The women’s finalists will play their championship game Sunday at 1 p.m.

What other festivities are happening this week?

Even non-basketball fans will find plenty to look forward to over the course of the tournament.

Members of the KC Current soccer team are planning a “takeover” of Saturday’s women’s semifinal game, along with their fans, the Blue Crew.

The Big 12 tapped the UMKC Choir, KC A Capella, and Kansas Trumpets with other local artists to perform the national anthem during the week’s games.

Grammy Award-nominated singer Jordin Sparks is singing the national anthem before the men’s championship game Saturday. Country artist Lanie Gardner will perform the anthem for the women’s championship game Sunday.

Hip hop artist Fat Joe will perform a VIP-only set on Friday. He last appeared in Kansas City during the AFC Championship halftime performance earlier this year.

To wrap up the men’s side of the tournament, who else but Shaq? The former NBA star will perform a one-hour DJ set Saturday, under his alias “DJ Diesel,” at Mosaic following the men’s final. Tickets for his performance will cost $20.

What if I can't attend at all?

Don't worry too much about missing out. The Big 12 tournament is now an annual event in Kansas City, and it's currently scheduledto come back every year through 2027.

As KCUR’s general assignment reporter and visual journalist, I bring our audience inside the daily stories that matter most to the people of the Kansas City metro, showing how and why events affect residents. Through my photography, I seek to ensure our diverse community sees itself represented in our coverage. Email me at carlos@kcur.org.
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