Justin Hite - Scout

The Big 12 and the SEC will take a break from the conference schedule for its annual matchup

Spotlight Saturday is good for the league but coaches disagree on the scheduling

Look down the Big 12 Conference schedule this season, and there won’t be a built in bye week – that Saturday off that all coaches love and players need to get refreshed and rejuvenated.

It’s not there.

Instead, the Big 12 will spend a day battling for bragging rights against the SEC this coming Saturday.

Highlighted by a matchup between Kansas and Kentucky, a rematch of the 2012 national championship, the two conferences will face off for the third time. The Big 12 has won every time.

It’s a great weekend of exposure for the league, but there is mixed feelings among the conference’s coaches. 

“I don’t necessarily like it at all,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I don’t like the disruption of the league play. I think the majority of coaches would agree with that. For our league, I think it’s going to be great exposure. … It’s going to give major exposure on ESPN throughout the entire day, which is very good for our league.”

Here is the full schedule for Saturday:

11 a.m. – Vanderbilt at Texas (ESPN2)

11 a.m. – West Virginia at Florida (ESPN)

1 p.m. – Iowa State at Texas A&M (ESPN)

1 p.m. – Mississippi at Kansas State (ESPNU)

1 p.m. – Tennessee at TCU (ESPN2)

3 p.m.  – Texas Tech at Arkansas (ESPNU)

4 p.m. – Oklahoma at LSU (ESPN)

5 p.m. – Georgia at Baylor (ESPN2)

6 p.m. – Kentucky at Kansas (ESPN)

7 p.m. – Oklahoma State at Auburn (ESPN2)

Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said it will be an exciting day. West Virginia coach Bob Huggins called it “made for TV.” Self added that the positives for the conference, which is the No. 1-rated RPI league in the nation, outweigh the negatives.

Texas Tech Red Raiders coach Tubby Smith, who has coached for more than 25 years and in both the Big 12 and the SEC, said that he has never stepped out of conference play this late in the year. 

“Playing in the middle of the season like this, it can be a plus or a minus,” Smith said. “It’s a game. You have to play it. Certainly when you step outside the conference this time of year, it’s interesting. . . . It’ll be a unique situation for me and our program. It’s always a challenge when you’re playing someone from another power conference.”

The matchups are intriguing. Outside of two blue bloods facing off . . .

-       Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield and LSU's Ben Simmons will face each other in a potential Player-of-the-Year matchup.

-       Smith goes back to Arkansas, where he took multiple Kentucky teams as coach of the Wildcats.

-       Iowa State faces Texas A&M in a matchup of former colleagues. Cyclones’ coach Steve Prohm and Aggies’ coach Billy Kennedy were on staff together at Centenary from 1998 to 1999 – Prohm as an assistant and Kennedy in first head coaching position. The two led Centenary to a school record 24 wins and the program’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

“It’ll be a great Saturday. It’ll be a great weekend,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “. . .  The opportunity to do something special is good. Of course we give up that bye week, which all coaches like that from a standpoint of recovering and getting refreshed. It’s a good weekend, exciting games. Our guys are looking forward to it.”

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