Matchups for the annual Big 12/SEC Challenge were announced Wednesday morning with one of the more loaded 10-game slates in the history of the event on deck to ring in the ninth annual showdown of the two power conferences on Jan. 29, 2022.
Kentucky at Kansas is the headline-grabber as both programs rank within top 15 in Gary Parrish’s updated Top 25 And 1. Yet there’s incredible games throughout, including reigning national champion Baylor facing Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Rick Barnes and Tennessee drawing his former employer in a road match and much more. Here’s a look at the schedule in full with some key storylines to watch following below.
TV info and tip times will be released at a later date.
Rick Barnes returns to Texas
Rick Barnes and his Tennessee team will face Texas and new head coach Chris Beard for this challenge — the first trip back to Austin for Barnes since his ouster as Longhorns coach in 2015. Barnes coached the program for 17 seasons and has found a strong footing with the Vols, going 123-73 in six seasons. The 2021-22 team has a chance to be one of his most talented yet, but the matchup with Texas comes as Beard has restocked the talent this offseason with a team good enough to be a Big 12 title threat in his first season.
Another Self-Calipari showdown
Every time Kentucky and Kansas square off, the stakes seem to be high. And that goes double for when two Hall of Famers like Bill Self and John Calipari go head to head. The two coaches have twice faced off for the national championship, splitting the difference with Self getting the better of Calipari’s Memphis team in 2008 and Calipari getting the better of Self’s Kansas team in 2012.
Calipari is 4-7 coaching against Kansas after falling to the Jayhawks 65-62 last season in the Champions Classic. Self is 7-5 coaching against Kentucky with four wins in his last five matchups against the Wildcats.
Reigning national champ faces reigning SEC champ
Baylor went 28-2 last season and destroyed undefeated Gonzaga in the title game to win its first-ever national championship. And while the Bears are expected to lose star guards Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell to the NBA Draft, they return Matthew Mayer and a core equipped to defend the crown. That sets up for what might be the best game of the Big 12/SEC Challenge as they face Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The Tide are set to bring back four of their top seven scorers from last season, and are enrolling five-star JD Davison, four-star Charles Bediako and former top-40 recruit Nimari Burnett, a transfer from Texas Tech. Bama had a top-three defense and Baylor a top-three offense last season, potentially setting this up to be a war among two of college basketball’s best-coached clubs.