When ESPN started their tip-off marathon six years ago it was touted as 24 hours of wall-to-wall hoops for the college basketball junkie. Since then it has evolved into the “unofficial official” start of the college basketball season.
This year however the marathon has become more of an Ironman for those that want to caffeine load and attempt to catch all of Hooptopia. With the addition of two opening acts the 24 hours is now 29 hours of hoops heaven.
The fun begins at 7pm on November 11 when Kent State travels to Philadelphia to battle Temple and finishes with the Champions Classic doubleheader with Kentucky/Michigan State and Duke/Kansas facing off beginning at 7:30pm on November 12.
In between we have games involving teams at various stages of rebuilding, possible NCAA bubble teams with marathon tilts that could become very important come March. Here is a rundown of what is in store.
Kent State at Temple (7 p.m. EST on Nov. 11)
Despite losing Khalif Wyatt among others, Fran Dunphy’s Owls are looking to get off to a good start as they join the American Athletic Conference with other stalwarts Memphis, UConn, Cincinnati and defending champ Louisville. Kent State is looking for revenge after Scootie Randall dropped 31 on the Golden Flashes last season.
Colorado State at Gonzaga (9 p.m. EST)
This is a game between a couple of rebuilding squads as Colorado State lost all five starters from last season’s NCAA team and Gonzaga finds itself in transition back to a perimeter oriented squad with the departures of Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris.
BYU at Stanford (11 p.m. EST on Nov. 11)
Here is your first bubble battle of the season. Both BYU and Stanford were knocking on the door of the NCAA tournament at times last season. This year they both look to take that next step. The Cougars are led by Tyler Haws and junior Matt Carlino and the Cardinal boast guard Chasson Randle and forward Josh Huestis.
Western Kentucky at Wichita State (1 a.m. EST)
While Western Kentucky has conquered the Sun Belt a couple of times recently, this game is all about last year’s Final Four participant, Wichita State. Cleanthony Early will now lead Gregg Marshall’s Shockers as the new top dog in the Missouri Valley with Creighton off to the Big East.
Akron at Saint Mary’s (3 a.m. EST)
Here is another game between two teams that will be learning to play without their stars. Akron is now without big man Zeke Marshall and St. Mary’s begins life AD, after Dellavedova, Matthew Dellavedova.
New Mexico State at Hawaii (5 a.m. EST)
Hawaii in its typical 5am timeslot and the most intriguing aspect of this game is being able to watch New Mexico State’s 7-5 center Sim Bhullar.
Hartford at Florida Gulf Coast (7 a.m. EST)
Hartford travels to sunny Florida for an early morning tip against the darlings of last March, Florida Gulf Coast. The Eagles may have a different coach in Joe Dooley after Andy Enfield took Dunk City to USC. But FGCU returns the core of its team that captured the attention of the country including playmaker Brett Comer.
Quinnipiac at La Salle (9 a.m. EST)
Quinnipiac leaves the Northeast Conference for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and are looking to continue the growth they experienced in the NEC. La Salle had a revitalization last season that ended with a surprise trip to the Sweet 16. With most of the same crew returning could expectations be even higher for the Explorers?
LSU at UMass (11 a.m. EST)
This is another game with probable March implications. LSU has slowly been improving in the SEC and this season has NCAA aspirations. UMass has been in the same boat seeing their tournament bubble burst one or two wins shy of receiving a bid. If they want to make the tournament this is a game that could help boost their resume.
West Virginia at Virginia Tech (1 p.m. EST)
This is the 2-hour block where you might want to catch some Z’s if you want. A young Virginia Tech team doesn’t have the leadership and scoring of Erick Green and Bob Huggins hopes to have better success with the Mountaineers after jettisoning the enigma that was Aaric Murray.
South Carolina at Baylor (3 p.m. EST)
This is another game between two rebuilding squads, but at different stages of their rebuild. Frank Martin and South Carolina are still looking to find their way in the SEC while Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears still has plenty of talent to overcome the loss of point guard Pierre Jackson.
NC State at Cincinnati (5 p.m. EST)
In a game between NCAA Tournament teams, Cincinnati’s senior guard Sean Kilpatrick has an early showcase to prove he can lead the Bearcats back to the dance.
VCU at Virginia (7 p.m. EST)
An in-state battle in the commonwealth with a great contrast in styles. The methodical paces of Joe Harris and the Virginia Cavaliers go head-to-head with Shaka Smart’s VCU and their havoc style of defense. For hoop fans this will be a fun match up to watch.
Champions Classic: Kentucky vs. Michigan State followed by Kansas-Duke (7:30 p.m. EST start)
What doesn’t this doubleheader have? Four of the most rabid fan bases in the country, four NCAA basketball bluebloods, four of the greatest coaches the college game has ever seen and oh yeah; Julius Randle, James Young, Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Gary Harris, Adreian Payne, Keith Appling, Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood, and Andrew Wiggins.
Florida at Wisconsin (9 p.m. EST)
Here the Gators, who should still be a contender in the SEC despite losses to graduation enter the Kohl Center where the always tough Bo Ryan Badgers rarely lose.
There you have it, this year’s version of the ESPN Ironman. If you are able to complete it consider yourself a hoop junkie of the highest order (and crazy). The menu does offer something for everyone and yet again a good platform for people to get a look at a lot of different teams.