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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Get ready for ESPN hoops marathon

For college basketball fans, ESPN’s Tip-off Marathon might as well be a national holiday. Each year, the network chooses the first Tuesday of the season to air nonstop hoops action for 24 hours.

Technically, the games got underway Monday night when women’s basketball powerhouses Connecticut and Stanford faced off. Gonzaga and SMU followed up with a mid-major showdown.

Pac-12 Conference schools Oregon and Colorado also played on the ESPN networks late Monday. The Ducks, picked to finish eighth in the conference, faced Detroit for a 9 p.m. start, while Colorado students stayed up until 11 p.m. to see the Buffaloes take on Auburn.

Even a game ending at 1 a.m. isn’t too bad for college students, but the fun really takes off with the early-morning matchups.

At midnight PDT, 1 a.m. here in Tucson, Saint Mary’s hosted the New Mexico State Aggies in a game that could bolster both team’s NCAA Tournament resumes.

Next up, Hawaii hosted High Point at 3 a.m. MST, although it was only a modest midnight start time in Honolulu.

For those hoping to make it through the whole marathon, the toughest stretch begins in the early hours of Tuesday morning, and not just because of the insane game times.

If staying up past 5 a.m. isn’t hard enough, try doing so while watching Iona and Wofford. To be fair, both teams had strong seasons last year and Wofford even made it to the NCAA Tournament. Yet there’s not a whole lot of appeal to this game, particularly at such an ungodly hour.

As many UA students wake up for the Tuesday school day, Northern Iowa and Stephen F. Austin will offer some breakfast viewing pleasure with a 7 a.m. start time. Both mid-majors are perennial threats to win their respective conferences.

Things really pick up starting 9 a.m. as Manhattan and Massachusetts face off on ESPN2. This game will draw attention as UMass junior Derrick Gordon came out as the first openly gay college basketball player this year. The guard is off to a good start this season, too, averaging 16 points per game.

At 10 a.m., Baylor and South Carolina begin a stretch of three intriguing games on ESPN. Baylor is looking to rebuild from a stellar past season while the Gamecocks hope to turn the corner this year.

Wichita State, which went undefeated last regular season, plays Memphis at noon. It should be noted that the Tigers lost an exhibition game to a Division II school, so their chances of knocking off the No. 11-ranked Shockers are slim.

The game that should be the most intriguing to Arizona fans is the 2 p.m. matchup between San Diego State and Utah. The Wildcats could possibly face the Aztecs in Maui, Hawaii, next week, while the Utes will be one of the top challengers in the Pac-12.

Toledo plays VCU at 4 p.m., preceding the first marquee game of the evening between Michigan State and Duke. This one may not be as close as it appears, considering the Spartans lost much of their talent from last season while the Blue Devils bring in the nation’s best recruiting class, featuring center Jahlil Okafor.

At 5:30 p.m., Marquette faces Ohio State in a Midwest battle, but the Kansas-Kentucky game at 7:00 p.m. will overshadow anything else.

It’s a top-five match up between two bluebloods and the first test for a Kentucky team predicted by most to win the national title. If Kansas can pull off the upset, it would put an exclamation mark next to another long-yet-exciting Tip-off Marathon and set the college basketball world into early chaos.
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Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.

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