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“I’ve never experienced anything quite like this. It’s honestly been overwhelming at times,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said of the injuries. “We continue to have to adjust on the fly, but our guys have stayed very positive and we’ve continued to compete.”

Everyone will get at least one more chance to compete in Kansas City.

Some have better chances than others.

The Jayhawks are considered the favorites behind Big 12 player of the year Thomas Robinson, a bruising 6-foot-8 forward oozing pro potential. He’s complemented by all-conference guard Tyshawn Taylor and a savvy group of veterans who have been through the wringer.

“We have to be ready to play,” Taylor said. “We kind of understand it’s not going to be easy and we have to go out there and play, and we have the guys to do that.”

Kansas will face 12th-ranked Baylor, which has spent most of the season in the nation’s top 10, or Kansas State, which gave the Jayhawks all they could handle a couple weeks ago and has won four of its last five games heading into the conference tournament.

“We got a lot of young guys that haven’t been through it,” said Jamar Samuels, the Wildcats’ senior forward. “The tournament time is coming _ the conference tournament, the NCAA tournament _ and they haven’t been here. But I think the last few weeks has helped them out a lot.”

The Tigers don’t have it any easier on their side of the bracket.

If they get past the quarterfinals, their semifinal game will be against Texas or No. 25 Iowa State, arguably the biggest surprise of the conference season. And if chalk holds true all the way to the finals, the Tigers just might get another crack at the Jayhawks.

The Tigers rallied in the final minutes to beat Kansas in Columbia, only for the Jayhawks to come from 19 down for an overtime win in Lawrence. That was the final scheduled regular-season meeting between programs that have been rivals for more than 100 years.

Perhaps it would be fitting for them to meet again in Kansas City, just off the interstate that connects their two campuses, with a conference tournament title at stake.

“We’re going into it with a chance, we believe, to validate what we’ve already done in the regular season,” Self said. “If you’re going to play in it, you might as well win it.”

There’s nothing controversial about that.