A break from the conference race
The Big 12/SEC challenge has existed for only two seasons, but both conferences already think change is necessary in order to jazz up the basketball series.
Starting next year, all 10 games in the challenge will be played on Jan. 30, allowing ESPN to give them maximum exposure with one big marathon broadcast.
From a publicity standpoint, the change from Big 12/SEC games being played over the course of a week in early December makes total sense. That’s why Big 12 basketball coaches voted unanimously to make the switch. Problem is, a late January game will break up conference play for both leagues. Now that Big 12 coaches are in the heart of conference play, they are beginning to question the date change.
“When they proposed it to us two years ago, I think we were all against it,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “Last year, they proposed it again and we feel it is a great opportunity for exposure for our league. Hindsight, though, I’m not sure I want to stick that game in the middle of our league, especially with where the league is at right now.”
Added Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford: “I understand why it is, but I prefer it not to be.”
Moving the games to late January does seem like a peculiar plan. The point of conference challenges is to help teams schedule attractive games without jumping through the hoops of typical nonconference scheduling. Put every game on the same day or same weekend during nonconference play, and it can be a success like the Big Ten/ACC challenge.
The Big 12 briefly held a basketball challenge with the Pac-12, but it never took off because the games were spread out. Moving them to the same date in November or December would have been a wiser choice. Though Jan. 30 will give both leagues exposure, will it seem as interesting? Perhaps if Kansas is matched with Kentucky.
“It’s good for our league,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “It forces everyone to schedule a hard game. (But) the timing is bad. So what you have to look at is, ‘Does the good offset the negative?’ I think the answer is yes.”
But what about K-State vs. Vanderbilt? Or Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State? Or Baylor vs. Missouri? All would be above-average matchups before January, but will they draw bigger ratings than standard conference games?
We’ll soon find out.
“It is not going to be easy,” Weber said, “but I hope, in the long run, it will be good exposure for our league.”
The Big 12 season has reached the midway point. Here’s a rundown of where each team could end up in the postseason.
NCAA Tournament: Kansas, Iowa State, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas, Oklahoma State.
NIT: Kansas State.
Players of the week
Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler was named Big 12 player of the week on Monday. Iowa State guard Bryce Dejean-Jones won newcomer honors. Spangler averaged 16.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in a pair of victories over Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Dejean-Jones averaged 17 points against Texas and TCU.
Quote of the week
“They are the best pressing team we have seen, by far.”
– Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith after the Red Raiders lost to West Virginia, which has used a full-court press to surge into second place of the Big 12 standings.
1. Kansas (18-3, 7-1): Brannen Greene is heating up.
2. Iowa State (16-4, 6-2): Cyclones need to beat Jayhawks in Lawrence to keep title hopes alive.
3. West Virginia (18-3, 6-2): Bob Huggins’ press can be overwhelming.
4. Oklahoma (14-7, 5-4): Nice win at Oklahoma State.
5. Baylor (16-5, 4-4): Bears are hot and cold. But when they’re hot, they are dangerous.
6. Kansas State (12-10, 5-4): Wildcats need to win their next two to stay in NCAA hunt.
7. Texas (14-7, 3-5): Vintage disappointing season for Rick Barnes.
8. Oklahoma State (14-7, 4-5): Cowboys starting to get swallowed up by a deep league.
9. TCU (14-7, 1-7): Lots of close losses for the Horned Frogs.
10. Texas Tech (11-11, 1-8): Could soon be first Big 12 team with a losing overall record.