If only ESPN could schedule Kansas and Kentucky every year in the Big 12/SEC Challenge.
The game posted a 2.0 national rating, the highest for a college basketball broadcast on an ESPN network this season.
But the teams can’t meet in the challenge next season because they’re scheduled in another event televised by ESPN, the Champions Classic. The Jayhawks and Wildcats are set to meet on Nov. 14 in Chicago.
The KU-UK home-and-home was an anomaly for the Challenge. In the four-year history of the series, there have been just two other back-to-back games: KU-Florida and Oklahoma State-South Carolina, both in 2013-14.
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Who will Kansas play in next season’s event, which has an eight-year deal with ESPN?
A guess is either Florida or South Carolina. Both opponents have appeal. The Gators are a perennial power, an Elite Eight program four times since 2011 and Final Four team in 2014.
South Carolina is a program on the rise under former Kansas State coach Frank Martin. The Gamecocks are ranked No. 19 in this week’s AP poll.
Missouri seems likely to return to the Challenge after a two-year absence. But Kansas coach Bill Self has expressed disinterest in meeting the former rival, most recently last August after vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine, the Virginia senator who grew up in Overland Park and attended Rockhurst High and Mizzou, said he would broker a deal to reinstate the Border War.
West Virginia or Baylor could be Kentucky’s opponent. The Wildcats played the Bears and Texas in their first two years in the series.
What is known about the Jayhawks’ non-league opponents for 2017-18 besides the Champion’s Classic are games at Nebraska, against Stanford in Sacramento, Calif., and Syracuse in Miami, as the final game of the Hall of Fame Classic, which will feature three earlier games in Lawrence.