If national TV appearances are the surest sign that a program has earned a spot among college basketball's elite, then ESPN formally rolled out the red carpet to welcome Kansas State on Monday.
The network announced that the Wildcats will appear on the Big Monday schedule four times next season, the same number as rival Kansas and twice as many as any other Big 12 program. Kansas State appeared on Big Monday just once last season when it advanced to the Elite Eight.
Also making multiple appearances on Big Monday this season are Baylor, Missouri and Texas. The Bears and Tigers are expected to contend for the Big 12 title along with Kansas and Kansas State, while Texas will be trying to rebound from a disappointing second-half collapse last season.
Oklahoma State and Texas A&M will each make one appearance next season, but it's a tad surprising that a Colorado team hoping to compete for its first NCAA bid since 2003 was left off the schedule altogether. Perhaps league officials felt like Colorado won't be able to make enough strides to lure in TV viewers this season, or perhaps the Buffs' imminent departure from the Big 12 played a role in the decision.
Regardless, ESPN and the Big 12 did a good job making sure the conference's marquee games hit the national airwaves. The season-opening Martin Luther King Day double header featuring Missouri-Kansas State and Kansas-Baylor should be must-see TV, as should February rivalry games between Kansas and Kansas State and Kansas and Missouri.