Greed always ends up costing somebody. And in the world of sports, it is inevitably fans who end up footing that bill.

College basketball fans are the victims with Monday’s announcement that ESPN is discontinuing the ACC/Big Ten Challenge after 23 successful years. It will be replaced by a new ACC/SEC Challenge.

This isn’t happening because anyone is clamoring to see North Carolina play Mississippi State. It’s happening because the Big Ten is abandoning its longstanding relationship with ESPN for a new media rights contract with FOX, CBS and NBC.

In return, ESPN is telling the B1G, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

B1G commissioner Kevin Warren hardly can be blamed for pursuing that deal. The Big Ten is going to make $1 billion per year on media rights alone, dwarfing the SEC’s $300 million annual media rights contract that runs through 2033.

But nobody has ever made that kind of money without selling at least a little bit of their soul. And in many ways, basketball is at the soul (soles?) of Big Ten athletics.

Outside of Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and perhaps Wisconsin and Iowa, many Big Ten sports fans would probably identify as basketball-first. Or at the very least, fans devote an equal share of attention to the two primary men’s athletics programs.

Basketball may not be in the driver’s seat, but it usually rides shotgun.

That’s even true for the Big Ten’s newest expansion members. USC is obviously a football school, but UCLA is basketball-first.

Yet it’s quite evident that basketball was given next-to-no consideration in the Big Ten’s plan to exist from sea to shining sea.

Travel to and from the West Coast isn’t terrible if you’re only doing it once every couple of weeks. But football is the only sport in which that’s possible. Every other sport is left to fend for itself in scheduling.

And in the case of basketball, a staple of that schedule is being removed.

Can the ACC/Big Ten Challenge be replaced?

The reason the ACC/Big Ten Challenge resonates is because these are the two conferences with the most college basketball tradition. Regardless of whether an ACC or B1G team is hosting, you’re guaranteed to get a full arena for the event’s marquee matchups.

It also hits at the perfect spot on the sports schedule.

Football season is essentially over for most programs. In many instances, basketball schedules have been filled with lightweights. This is the first opportunity to see what most teams are really made of in the current season.

With the ACC moving on, the onus is on the Big Ten to create a new marquee inter-conference event.

The Gavitt Games against the Big East are a decent substitute, but still a bit like eating Tofurkey on Thanksgiving. With only 11 teams in the Big East, there’s not enough room to guarantee every Big Ten team a game like there is with the ACC. Once the B1G adds UCLA and USC, 5 teams would be left out.

The Big 12 represents the most suitable replacement for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Like the B1G, the Big 12 is partnerless now that the much less ballyhooed SEC/Big 12 Challenge is being discontinued after this season.

And although traditionalists may not want to admit it, the Big 12 actually represents an upgrade over the ACC in terms of strength. It’s conceivable that all 10 teams can reach the NCAA Tournament this season. That’s unprecedented, but that depth is nothing new.

The Big 12 has rated as the strongest conference in the country on 8 of the past 10 years. The ACC hasn’t been a top-3 league since 2019.

For the next 2 seasons, the Big 12 will actually have 14 teams. That aligns perfectly with the Big Ten next year, though starting in 2024 there will be teams left out of the picture.

Losing the tradition of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge stinks. But remember that that tradition was borne from thin air as a made-for-TV event. The opportunity exists to begin another.

Few programs have the same gravitational pull as Duke and North Carolina, but Kansas is one of them. Baylor and Texas Tech have played for a national championship more recently than any Big Ten program. Pretty much any Big Ten vs. Big 12 matchup can be made appealing.

College basketball may be treated as an afterthought in the new media rights landscape, but it should not be ignored. Not if you’re paying attention to what your fans actually want. And given the choices, Big Ten and Big 12 fans should want an event of their own.