Big 12-SEC Challenge: Better than expected

Freshman forward Dean Wade (left) and Ole Miss forward Marcanvis Hymon (right) eye the ball prior to the tipoff of the K-State and Ole Miss Big 12-SEC Challenge game on Jan. 30, 2016, inside Bramlage Coliseum. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

Last week I wrote a column about how I didn’t like the midseason conference clash between the SEC and the Big 12.

I’ve changed my mind a bit.

It was so much fun to watch as the games unraveled on Saturday. Between the unique matchups, ranked teams facing each other and draft picks going one-on-one, this year’s Big 12-SEC Challenge was one for the ages.

The Big 12 went 7-3 in the challenge. West Virginia, Texas Tech and Iowa State were the three teams that lost.

There wasn’t any question as to which conference had the better teams, but watching them battle it out really proved that the Big 12 is the best.

Kansas outlasted Kentucky in overtime, K-State beat Ole Miss, Oklahoma came back to defeat LSU, Baylor beat Georgia by 10, Texas controlled Vanderbilt, TCU defeated Tennessee by double digits and Oklahoma State took down Auburn on the road.

The reason why I loved this challenge so much is that it put a much-needed spotlight on the Big 12 that I don’t think the conference gets very often.

Saturday night, all of the major networks were talking about these games and what impact they will have later in the season, creating a big buzz for the conference. This is something that the Big 12 coaches wanted after league meetings about three years ago.

“The coaches did a great sale job that we were going to get a lot of publicity from this,” K-State head coach Bruce Weber said following Saturday’s game. “We felt that so much has gone to the ACC and the Big 10 even though we have been the highest RPI conference the last three years.”

The challenge was something that Weber said he thought was positive for the Big 12 last year. Now that the conference is really good, though, the challenge might not necessarily be needed.

“We came back to our meetings and said we don’t mind doing it, but maybe not at this time,” Weber said. “We just beat each other up and there are no easy games, and it takes a toll on our teams.”

It was a great weekend for these two conferences, and I applaud everyone who made it possible. This is something the Big 12 should do with other conferences, especially the ones that are well known for basketball.

I am already looking forward to seeing another great showdown between the Big 12 and another conference next season.