Big 12-SEC Challenge provides breather for men’s basketball

Junior forward Wesley Iwundu keeps the ball from Missouri forward Kevin Puryear during the first game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic between K-State and the University of Missouri at the Sprint Center in Kansas City on Nov. 23, 2015. (File Photo by George Walker | The Collegian)

The Big 12-SEC Challenge is fantastic, and the fact that the powers that be decided to move it to January is genius.

No, I’m not being sarcastic.

The Big 12 does a lot of dumb stuff that I don’t agree with, but despite the coaches’ chagrin, I really like that we get a little breather in the middle of conference play with one day of fun matchups against another Power 5 conference.

The SEC is not nearly as competitive or grueling as the Big 12. Out of 14 teams, two are ranked, one is ranked in the top 10 and five teams have overall records that are .500 or worse.

The Big 12 has five ranked teams, three of which are in the top 10, and two teams have a .500 or worse record.

I’m not saying SEC leader and No. 5 Texas A&M isn’t good, because the team definitely is. K-State fans can say that firsthand because A&M soundly beat the Wildcats in December in College Station, Texas, in a game that would’ve been a blowout had it not been for junior forward Wesley Iwundu’s second-half explosion.

What I am saying is that I’m sure Aggie fans don’t miss having to travel to Ames, Iowa; Lawrence; Norman, Oklahoma; Manhattan; or even Lubbock, Texas.

Big 12 teams should accept this game with open arms. It’s sweet, sweet relief in the desert that is Big 12 play.

Do you think TCU isn’t excited to play Tennessee instead of traveling to Morgantown, West Virginia, or Manhattan? Do you think that, deep down inside, Bruce Weber isn’t just a teensy bit glad he gets to play 13-7 Ole Miss instead of 15-4 Baylor?

Yes, the game could be considered an unneeded distraction in a season where all focus needs to be on getting that next elusive conference win.

But at the same time, Big 12 teams need to enjoy this game. The Big 12 has won the past two series with a record of 13-7.

The SEC has some great players. Ben Simmons at LSU, Stefan Moody from Ole Miss, and Skal Labissiére and Tyler Ulis from Kentucky are all dynamic players. But as of now, the only team they have is Texas A&M, with South Carolina showing some signs of real growth.

The Big 12 has teams. Teams one through nine are all dangerous in the Big 12.

Sure, Buddy Hield, Georges Niang and Wayne Selden Jr. are all also Player of the Year candidates, but they’re all backed up by a pretty good supporting class that’s made the Big 12 so good this season.

Will the Big 12 pull off a clean sweep? As impressive as that would be, I think it’s rather unlikely. But even just barely squeaking out a win against the SEC would continue to do wonders for the Big 12.

Plus, playing these games pays dividends come March.

Celebrate the fact that the conference managed to not screw something up because eventually, they’ll get back to not expanding the Big 12 and banning depictions of other schools’ mascots on your field, and what will you be left with?

Tim Everson was born in Wichita, KS in 1994. Before fifth grade he moved up to Manhattan for one year before settling in Riley, KS where he graduated from Riley County High School in 2012. Tim has worked for the Collegian since spring of 2014 and took over as Sports Editor during the summer of 2015. Tim loves sports, music, movies and good food when he can get it.