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Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship: What a Difference a Year Makes

Today, it’s Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Truly what a difference a year makes. A year ago, Tuesday, March 10, 2020 I boarded my flight to the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri for what was supposed to be a week of Big 12 basketball and all that goals along with it.

Thursday, March 12, 2020 the sports world came to a screeching halt. Twenty minutes before Texas and Texas Tech were set to tip off in the Sprint Center, the conference tournament was canceled. Now, a year later, the West Virginia Mountaineers look to truly complete some unfinished business from last year.

The Mountaineers had some ups and downs during the 2019-2020 regular season, hitting their stride in the last few weeks leading up to the conference tournament. On the day West Virginia was set to make their tournament debut, the sports world stopped spinning on its axis and everyone was sent home. A full year later, the Mountaineers have been ranked in the AP Top 25 all season, and are coming off a grueling week of four games in eight days again looking to head to Kansas City with something to prove.

When the tournament shut down last year, many members of the media and fans alike were literally just getting into town. Some had come a few days early (myself included), while others literally flew into Kansas City mere hours before Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby took the stage to cancel the tournament. Flights back home for many (again myself included) were oddly ominous when looking back. The tension in the Ubers, security lines and terminal gates was filled with a sense of looming dread.

Many did not think that COVID-19 would still be an integral part of the sports world, or the actual world, a year later. In the fall of 2020, the Big 12 announced their COVID-19 positive protocols for the ten conference teams, as well as ongoing mask rules, fan capacity limits and pauses in team activities due to positive test results within programs.

Now, the ten teams of the Big 12 return to Kansas City hoping to erase the memories of the abrupt ending last March and a hopeful return to a somewhat normal month of March basketball.

The Mountaineers face a rematch with the Oklahoma State Cowboys Thursday morning in Kansas City, with an 11:30am tip off.

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