If national TV appearances are the simplest way to pinpoint the preseason favorite in a major conference, then ESPN's newly announced Big Monday schedule reflects the parity in next year's Big 12.
Seven-time defending Big 12 champion Kansas will appear a conference-high four times, but Texas and Texas A&M both play on Big Monday three times and Baylor and Missouri twice apiece. The only three schools missing from the Big Monday schedule are rebuilding Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Iowa State.
It's hard to determine the must-see Big 12 games next season since the conference is in such flux, but credit ESPN for selecting some enticing matchups. The Martin Luther King Day doubleheader, in particular, is intriguing since it features four teams likely to begin the season in most preseason top 25 polls.
Kansas loses the Morris twins and Josh Selby and lacks its usual elite recruiting class, but a deep backcourt and the projected emergence of Thomas Robinson as a conference player of the year candidate should keep the Jayhawks from falling far. Questions abound about Baylor's point guards, but the Bears have a deep and talented frontcourt highlighted by sophomore Perry Jones and highly touted freshman Quincy Miller. And Texas A&M and Missouri both must adjust to new coaches but return the core of their NCAA tournament teams from a year ago.
If there's anything to complain about from the Big 12's Big Monday schedule, it's that ESPN opted not to take either of the Border War games between Missouri and Kansas. Surely those will be televised nationally regardless, but it remains the conference's top rivalry and it deserves a showcase.
Of the three teams who make no appearances on Big Monday, it's most disappointing that Iowa State won't be more visible. The Cyclones are an intriguing team next season as a result of four soon-to-be eligible transfers including Royce White (Minnesota) and Chris Allen (Michigan State).