Fans from Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Baylor got a first look at the obstacles in their schools' paths toward a possible Big 12 title on Tuesday when the conference released its schedule for the 2010-11 season. Here are five early observations:
• Baylor may not like being stuck in the same division as Texas and Oklahoma in football, but it should help clear the Bears' path to a potential Big 12 basketball title next season. Whereas fellow top contenders Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri will face off against each-other twice in conference play, Baylor will only have to see each of those teams once.
• New Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg might think he's back in the NBA when he takes a look at the February gauntlet his team must run. In a span of 17 days from Feb. 5-22, the Cyclones will host Kansas State, travel to Kansas and Texas A&M, host Missouri and travel to Texas, not exactly an ideal late-season stretch for a program that sustained heavy losses from a team that wasn't even competitive a year ago.
• Anyone who complained that Kansas was on national TV too much last season isn't going to like this stat: Every one of the Jayhawks 16 league games will be nationally televised next season, though four are only on the Big 12 Network. All of Kansas State's games are nationally televised as well, with five relegated to the Big 12 network.
• If you don't live within driving distance of Ames or Lincoln, you probably won't be seeing a whole lot of Iowa State or Nebraska. Both those schools appear on national TV only once during conference play, aside from games on seldom-seen ESPNU or the Big 12 Network. ESPN2 picked up Iowa State's Big 12 opener against Kansas on Jan. 12 and strangely decided to televise Nebraska's home date against Colorado six days later.
• We'll find out if Kansas State is truly good enough to win the Big 12 title and contend for a Final Four berth during a brutal four-game stretch beginning on Jan. 17. The Wildcats travel to Missouri and Texas A&M, then host Baylor before visiting Kansas on Jan. 29 for an in-state showdown that should draw draw plenty of interest beyond Sunflower State borders. A 3-1 record in that stretch would solidify Kansas State's resume, but even 2-2 would be impressive.