The Big 12-SEC Challenge enters its ninth playing in the 2021-22 season, and here we rank the contests from best to worst. All games are on Jan. 29
Tennessee at Texas
You want a great game? Well, you’ll probably get it. You want drama? You’re going to get that, too. Why? Tennessee’s head coach is Texas’ former head coach. Rick Barnes led the Longhorns for more than a decade before he and program parted ways. He took the Longhorns to new heights, the heights that Longhorns fans hope their new head coach, Chris Beard, takes them to this year. Yes, THIS year.
Baylor at Alabama
Baylor, of course, is the defending national champion. Alabama is coming off an Sweet 16 trip last season. Scott Drew is the gold standard for turning a program around. Alabama boss Nate Oats is turning the Crimson Tide into an SEC basketball power. That’s going to take some getting used to for the faithful in Tuscaloosa. But they’re sure to sell this one out.
Kentucky at Kansas
The Wildcats and the Jayhawks are two of the game’s true blue bloods, so what are the odds? Well, remember that Kentucky was epically bad last year, going 9-16, while Kansas went to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The folks at the SEC and the Big 12 better be right about Kentucky turning things around. Either way, it’ll draw eyeballs.
West Virginia at Arkansas
This one should be tons of fun. You have Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers on one side, a team that always plays with a chip on its shoulder. Then, you have resurgent Arkansas on the other, led by head coach Eric Musselman. The Mountaineers exited the NCAA Tournament in the second round. The Hogs reached the Elite Eight. Who did Arkansas lose to? Baylor.
Oklahoma State at Florida
This should be an evenly matched game, and I’m high on Oklahoma State’s opportunity to take a step forward this season without Cade Cunningham. I think his presence in Stillwater, just for one season, made everyone better. Florida reached the second round of last year’s NCAA Tournament, just like OSU.
Mississippi State at Texas Tech
Nationally, this game won’t have a lot of appeal. But, you have two teams coming off winning seasons in the Bulldogs and the Red Raiders. Texas Tech reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament and changed coaches, elevating Mark Adams to the first chair after Beard left for Texas. MSU won 18 games last year and this should end up being a solid game.
Oklahoma at Auburn
The Sooners are coming off a trip to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. But they’re also breaking in an new head coach in Porter Moser and basically a new roster. The Tigers were 13-14 last year, but under Bruce Pearl they should be better this season. This feels like an evenly matched game.
Kansas State at Ole Miss
The Wildcats are young, but they’ve taken in some transfers that should allow them to grow up a little quicker. Meanwhile, Ole Miss won 16 games and head coach Kermit Davis is turning this program into something respectable. Ole Miss reached the NIT last season.
LSU at TCU
The Horned Frogs are basically a new team this season under head coach Jamie Dixon, as the transfer portal decimated what he had built. But at least guard Mike Miles is still around. Unfortunately, the Horned Frogs have been paired with LSU, which won 19 games last year and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Missouri at Iowa State
At least the Cyclones don’t have to go anywhere. You know the deal — ISU won two games last year, changed head coaches and they’re rebuilding. Mizzou won 16 games last year and reached the NCAA Tournament before losing to Oklahoma.
Heartland College Sports Big 12 Basketball Preview
Top 25 Returning Players: No. 25 Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua| No. 24 Christian Braun | No. 23 Rondel Walker | No. 22 Umoja Gibson | No. 21 Matthew Alexander-Moncrieffe | No. 20 Nijel Pack | No. 19: Marcus Santos-Silva | No. 18 Mike McGuirl| No. 17 Jalen Bridges | No. 16 Kalib Boone | No. 15 Kevin McCullar | No. 14 Isaac Likekele | No. 13 Adam Flagler | No. 12 Jalen Coleman-Lands | No. 11 Sean McNeil | No. 10 Taz Sherman | No. 9 Matthew Mayer | No. 8 Jalen Wilson | No. 7 Courtney Ramey | No. 6 Mike Miles
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.