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In the three years since the short-lived Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series ended with a whimper in 2010, it doesn't appear as though one of the leagues involved has learned from all its mistakes.The Big 12 has entered into a similar 10-game challenge with the SEC that will begin next season, but the 2013 format leaves a lot to be desired.
Much like the games in the Big 12/Pac-10 series were annually spread over the course of a month, next season's Big 12-SEC challenge games span a six-week window from Nov. 14 to Dec. 21. Spacing the games so far apart hampers the event's chances of creating early-season buzz because only the most hardcore fans will even realize all 10 of the games are part of a challenge between the two leagues.
The only way a series between two leagues can truly capture the attention of fans is if the format is similar to the highly successful ACC-Big Ten Challenge, a battle for bragging rights that spans only two days. The Big 12's release announcing the event mentions that scheduling conflicts were the reason the event is so spread out next season and pledges to work with ESPN to schedule the games across consecutive days in the future.
Hopefully schools in both leagues commit to juggling their future schedules and making this event a two-day blockbuster because it does have potential if it's organized properly. The other problem with the inaugural version, however, is the matchups don't seem to have been chosen with much imagination.
Besides a potential top 10 showdown between Kansas and Florida and an already existing neutral-court game between Kentucky and Baylor, the rest of the slate is far from inspiring. Some of that is a result of the weakness of the bottom half of both leagues, but some of it is also a product of poor matchup choices.
Why is Big 12 title contender Oklahoma State hosting rebuilding South Carolina when it could have drawn an NCAA tournament contender like Ole Miss, Tennessee or Alabama? Send Frank Martin's Gamecocks to play his former team, Kansas State, and give Marshall Henderson and the Rebels a chance to try to shoot down the Cowboys.
One of the other factors that held back the Pac-10/Big 12 series was the insistence of the leagues that the same teams play each other in back-to-back years to make it easier to give each school one home game and one road game. Organizers lacked the flexibility to create the most appealing matchups each year because teams who were contenders one season often weren't the next.
It seems for now the Big 12 and SEC have avoided falling into that trap again. Perhaps in year two they'll clean up some of the other format issues so that their annual event can reach its full potential.
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