By Riley Gates, Sports Radio 810
The lineup for the fifth-annual Big 12/SEC Challenge was announced on Thursday morning. Among the slate of games, Kentucky is traveling to Morgantown to play West Virginia, Oklahoma is going to Alabama and Florida plays host to Baylor. All pretty even matchups.
Unfortunately, with the number of teams in the SEC (14), four teams do not get to partake in the challenge since the Big 12 only has 10 teams. Among the four teams left out is Missouri.
Missouri. The same team that has the seventh-best recruiting class in the country, according to Rivals.com. The same team that has an energetic fan base after landing four of the top 150 recruits in the 2017 class, including Michael Porter Jr., the No. 1 recruit.
No, the Tigers have been left out of the challenge for the third straight year.
The conferences could have put Missouri up against Kansas State and sparked an old Big 12 rivalry that has been dead since Missouri left for the SEC. No, instead the Wildcats will host Georgia. Last year, Georgia went 19-15 overall, 9-9 in the SEC and finished eighth in the conference. K-State went 21-14, 8-10 in the Big 12 and finished sixth in the conference. Yawn.
What about Kansas? Missouri and KU have a long history that ignited the two fan bases while the Tigers were in the Big 12. Many would love to see the two teams start that rivalry again, especially with how much potential the Tigers have this season.
No, instead the Jayhawks — who have won at least a share of 13-straight Big 12 titles — will host Texas A&M, who went 16-15, 8-10 in the SEC and finished ninth in the conference.
The whole idea behind the Big 12/SEC challenge is to generate interest on television, thus generate more revenue for the conferences and schools. For that reason, it is easy to see why TCU is travelling to Vanderbilt, or why Oklahoma State is going to Arkansas.
The big problem with these matchups, though? While the scores of those games might be close, they do not entice the casual fan before tipoff. Nobody will tune into those snoozefests.
What would get the casual fan to switch their TV to ESPN for a 1 p.m. tip on a Saturday? Missouri vs. KU, K-State vs. South Carolina and former head coach Frank Martin, Texas vs. Texas A&M. The list goes on.
Cuonzo Martin has Missouri basketball fans and the entire country excited to see what happens in 2017-18. After an abysmal 8-24 season under former coach Kim Anderson, Martin has brought life and energy to Columbia. But apparently that isn’t good enough for this challenge.
Is it a guarantee that Missouri is going to be one of the country’s top teams? No. There’s always a chance that the recruits do not pan out and the Tigers struggle once again. But the chances are more likely that they do pan out and Missouri basketball succeeds this season.
For that reason, it is absolutely insane that Missouri has not been included in the Big 12/SEC Challenge this season. And it is for that reason that, once again, the Big 12/SEC Challenge will garner no real interest.
Until the conferences decide to go for intrigue over competitive balance, the Big 12/SEC Challenge will be a joke.