Big 12 men's basketball coaches agree that playing an 18-game, round-robin league schedule against elite coaches and tradition-rich programs is a tremendous challenge.
They believe a conference that at times has owned the No. 1 national RPI will enhance the number of teams invited to the NCAA Tournament.
New rivalries will be formed.
The key question is whether coaches will soften their non-conference schedules.
"You still have to challenge your team," said Kansas State coach Frank Martin. "I still believe in playing those exempt tournaments. You get real good games, and you get to play extra games. If you have a good strength of schedule entering league play you'll have a good strength of schedule at the end of the season."
Kansas always schedules marquee non-league games.
"I don't think any coach is excited about playing 18 games," said Kansas coach Bill Self said. "I think we'd all prefer to play 16 league games. But the reality is we're going to crown a true champion. And it will create interest playing someone like Texas every year in our field house."
Teams haven't released 2011-12 schedules. Baylor coach Scott Drew said having a veteran team, he plans to schedule some challenging non-league games.
Travis Ford said this will be his most challenging schedule since he's been at Oklahoma State, playing in the preseason NIT in addition to road games at Alabama and Missouri State and a home game against New Mexico.