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Kansas State Collegian

Kansas State Collegian

The independent student news publication at Kansas State University

Kansas State Collegian

New site of women’s Big 12 tournament shows uptick in the sport

The growth of women’s basketball gains support from T-Mobile Center
Avery Johnson
A young K-State fan holds up a sign, showing support for center Ayoka Lee at the most attended session since 2013. The Wildcats beat West Virginia 65-62 in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament located at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Missouri on March 9.

For years, the Big 12 women’s tournament moved locations, most often held at the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Missouri. The arena stands less than a mile from T-Mobile Center, the longtime home of the men’s tournament. This year, for the first time, the women’s tournament was held in the revered T-Mobile Center.

“It’s really just that college basketball atmosphere in March, which is a little bit different than Municipal,” Kansas State center Ayoka Lee said after Kansas State’s 65-62 tournament win over West Virginia.

K-State’s session with West Virginia, which also included a matchup between Kansas and Texas, was the most attended session for the tournament since 2013, when it was held in American Airlines Center in Dallas.

All five Power 5 conferences set records, according to Front Office Sports. For the Big 12, the K-State vs. West Virginia session was the peak of attendance records in its first year in a new arena. For K-State head coach Jeff Mittie, who grew up in Kansas City, he hopes the tournament is fully supported in the city as the other tournaments were in theirs.

“I grew up going to tournaments, like the NAI tournament at Kemper [Arena] and that was an all-day event,” Mittie said. “What I want to see Kansas City do is embrace this tournament. I want to see all the businesses embrace it so they can give the days off to the workers to go to the games.”

The sport of women’s basketball is growing fast, with more and more stars finding the spotlight. The move to T-Mobile Center, and its placement as the home of the tournament through 2031, is just the start for the Big 12.

“[It’s a] testament to the Big 12 tournament and just women’s basketball and how the game is growing,” K-State guard Serena Sundell said about the tournament playing in the T-Mobile Center. “It is something that more people are wanting to watch and come see.”

Mittie believes the game is expanding beyond the norms of previous years.

“The growth of our game is not just going to come from what it used to be — families — it’s going to come from males that enjoy watching women’s basketball more and more,” Mittie said.

As the sport continues to grow, the T-Mobile Center has the chance to be a big part of it. Nevertheless, no matter where it is held, women’s college basketball is dependent on support to rise higher as the spotlight shines brighter.

“Playing at T-Mobile doesn’t do it though, but crowds like last night do it,” Mittie said, referencing K-State vs. West Virginia. “Just playing here, if you’re playing in an empty building, we’ve done that before. … We’ve done that in other cities. We did that in Dallas. We did that in Oklahoma City. That’s why this tournament can be special here in Kansas City.”

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About the Contributors
Luke Lazarczyk, sports writer
Sports editor for 2023-24. Previously sports editor for 2022-23 and writer for 2021-22.
Avery Johnson, multimedia editor
Multimedia editor for 2023-24. Previously photographer for spring 2023.
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