Here’s why tonight’s Sunflower Showdown isn’t on ESPN

01/22/2013 12:09 PM

05/16/2014 8:52 PM

Many not fortunate enough to be among the 12,528 stuffed into Bramlage Coliseum for tonight’s Sunflower Showdown between Kansas and Kansas State will find the game on TV, only it won’t be televised by the usual destinations for showcase Big 12 basketball games, ESPN or CBS.

The game, which tips off at 7 p.m., is part of the Big 12 Network, which is aired on stations in most major markets, including KMCI-TV, Channel 38, in Kansas City.

Shouldn’t this game get the maximum exposure, a Big Monday on ESPN or a Saturday afternoon on CBS?

In most years, a game between the league’s two highest ranked teams — Kansas is third in the Associated Press poll, the Wildcats 11th — would get that treatment.

But a few things occurred for this game to land where it did on the calendar and dial.

Games for television are assigned in July. KU at K-State is typically great theater in any year, but the uncertainty of the Wildcats’ strength likely played a role in keeping it off Big Monday and the major networks. Kansas State was picked to finish fifth in the preseason Big 12 poll.

Also, Kansas is the league’s top draw most years and ESPN likes the Jayhawks on the road for Big Monday: A better chance of upset drama.

Putting this KU-K-State game on Big Monday would have given KU three Big Monday road games this season. It has happened before, but it’s not a preferable situation.

The most important factor is the Big 12 Network needs quality inventory to sell the entire package. Usually, the best matchups are snapped up by CBS, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU.

But the league wants all of its games on television, and the Big 12 Network completes the picture by carrying 32 games.

Having the occasional high-quality matchup helps the Big 12, through its agreement with ESPN Regional Television, sell its product in markets throughout the nation. Nine TCU league games are televised by the Big 12 Network, but so are four Kansas games, including tonight's.

“If you’re an affiliate in Kansas City and you’re going to get four Kansas and five Kansas State games over the course of nine weeks, you’re more willing to accept the entire package,” said Big 12 senior associate commissioner Tim Allen. “It helps us build the Big 12 Network.”

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.

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