The announcement of ESPN's Big Monday schedule for the Big 12 next season proves the old adage that the victors receive the spoils.
Kansas will appear on Big Monday a league-high four times next winter, a fitting reward for a program in search of its ninth consecutive Big 12 title.
Four other Big 12 teams will make multiple Big Monday appearances: Three apiece for Baylor, Texas and newcomer West Virginia and a pair for Kansas State. The only two Big 12 teams left off the nine-game slate are bottom-feeding Texas Tech and fledgling TCU, neither of which have either the talent or panache to merit a primetime national TV appearance.
It's hard to know in advance whether ESPN selected the right matchups, but the network's choices appear pretty enticing on paper.
The Jan. 14 opener between Baylor and Kansas probably pits the Jayhawks against the top contender for the Big 12 crown. Both teams lost multiple key players to the NBA draft, but Baylor returns the league's best backcourt headlined by guards Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip and Kansas has three starters back from last year and finally adds highly touted freshman Ben McLemore.
Three appearances by newcomer West Virginia also was a smart choice by ESPN because the presence of the Mountaineers ensure some fresh matchups this year. Kansas' Jan. 28 visit to Morgantown is the first meeting between the schools and West Virginia's Feb. 18 trip to Kansas State will mark Bob Huggins' return to the school he briefly coached.
Maybe the best atmosphere of all, however, will be the Feb. 25 matchup between Kansas and host Iowa State. The Cyclones haven't appeared on Big Monday since 2006, so expect Hilton Coliseum to be ready for this one. It's too bad ESPN didn't give last year's Iowa State team that finished third in the Big 12 more airtime, but this year's appearance will be a worthy consolation prize.