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Format change will help SEC-Big 12 Challenge succeed

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger
NCAA Basketball: Kansas at Florida
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Dec 10, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators guard Scottie Wilbekin (5) reacts after he made a basket in the act of getting fouled by Kansas Jayhawks during the second half at Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Florida Gators defeated the Kansas Jayhawks 67-61. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

The first edition of the Big 12-SEC Challenge generated little buzz for either league last season because the 10 games were spread throughout a six-week window.

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Credit organizers for learning from their mistakes in year two.

The 10-game slate announced Wednesday afternoon takes place from Dec. 3-6, a much tighter window that allows fans of both leagues to become interested in the battle for bragging rights between the two leagues. Spacing the games so far apart hampered the event last year because only the most hardcore fans realized all 10 of the games were part of a challenge between the two leagues.

What will also help the Big 12-SEC Challenge next season is that both leagues did a good job making sure their marquee teams face one-another.

Likely preseason No. 1 Kentucky will host a Texas team that returns its entire rotation and adds top recruit Myles Turner. Ten-time defending Big 12 champion Kansas will host a Florida team that beat the Jayhawks in Gainesville last season and should begin the season in the top 10 once again this year. And an Iowa State team headlined by returning standout Georges Niang will host an Arkansas team with the talent to possibly make the NCAA tournament for the first time in Mike Anderson's tenure.

Of course, the Big 12-SEC Challenge would be a better event if the SEC were stronger from top to bottom. Missouri is headed for a rebuilding year, which makes its game with Oklahoma less appealing. Same for Tennessee, which hosts Kansas State.

It's also mildy disappointing the SEC couldn't find a way to include Georgia in the Challenge. With the core returning from a team that went 12-6 in the SEC last year and reached the NIT, the Bulldogs have the potential to be one of the better teams in the league next season and would have been a more appealing entrant than, say, Ole Miss, Auburn or South Carolina. 

Regardless, this format is a step in the right direction. The SEC-Big 12 Challenge lacks the prestige or tradition of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, but at least it feels like a battle for bragging rights now.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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