ACC/SEC Challenge for men’s, women’s basketball to debut in 2023-24; ACC/Big Ten Challenge to end

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A new ACC/SEC Challenge for men’s and women’s basketball will begin in the 2023-24 season, the conferences and ESPN announced Monday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The challenge’s 28 games (30 starting in 2025-26) will each air on an ESPN platform and each conference will host an equal number of home games. The schedule will be announced at a later date.
  • The ACC/Big Ten Challenge will end this week for both men and women; the men’s event began in 1999.
  • The SEC/Big 12 Challenge, which started in the 2013-14 season, will also end this season.

Backstory

The ACC leads the men’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge 12-8-3 after winning the first 10 years. But the conference has only won two of the last 13 years (2016, 2017), and tied in three seasons (2012, 2013, 2018).

The ACC is 10-1-3 in the women’s challenge, which began in 2007.

Why the new challenge was created

The biggest reason, as ever, is money, and in this case specifically the recent wrangling between TV networks over the rights to broadcast Big Ten sporting events in the coming years. The Big Ten’s latest (seven-year, more than $8 billion) broadcast deal with Fox, CBS and NBC didn’t include ESPN, which has been the home to the ACC/Big Ten Challenge since its inception in 1999. The new event will also be broadcast by ESPN, which has preexisting deals with both conferences, including their own in-house networks.

So it’s not exactly surprising news. But it is a bit of a sad, harsh reason to end an event that will inspire at least some nostalgia in most hoops fans of a certain age (ahem), one that fostered a minor, long-term regional rivalry between the two leagues and pioneered the format in the first place. But such is the way of the college sports world. – Brennan

Best matchups to come in the ACC/SEC Challenge

Most seasons, you’d expect, the leagues’ men’s basketball schedulers will put one of Duke or North Carolina up against Kentucky (even if those teams have often met in nonconference events in recent seasons). But there are good potential matchups up and down the league standings, especially considering the recent rise in strength of the SEC — where Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas are all enjoying extended streaks of elite-level basketball year in and year out.

Two decades ago, the ACC would have been bringing a lot more to this party. These days the SEC is arguably the stronger, more consistent league. – Brennan

What they’re saying

“We look forward to showcasing the talented men’s and women’s programs throughout the ACC and SEC in the years ahead through this exciting new collaboration with both conferences,” Nick Dawson, ESPN vice president of programming, said in a release. “Since establishing the very first interconference challenge in 1999, these events have been a staple of our college basketball schedule for more than two decades. We thank both the Big Ten and Big 12 for their partnership in the final year of our existing events and look forward to finding more ways to creatively partner with both conferences in 2023-24 and beyond.”

Required reading

(Photo: Jasen Vinlove / USA Today)

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