Monday, August 16, 2010
Twenty-four hours of hoops? Yes, please
By Eamonn Brennan
ESPN's college hoops kickoff Nov. 16 would be great in and of itself. After all, it's a hard road to the return of the college basketball season. By the time November rolls around, any basketball is welcome. We watch anyway.
What's awesome about looking up and down this list of games -- ESPN's third annual College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon -- is that we're not just getting hoops on Nov. 16. We're getting good games. Lots of them. It's what's great about college hoops, rolled into one ecstatic 24-hour span: Quantity and quality don't have to be mutually exclusive.
If you want to plan your entire 24 hours around the action, you can kick it off at midnight with Miami vs. Memphis, which will give us a first good look at Memphis' impressive 2010 recruiting class. Then there's Steve Lavin's St. John's debut at 2 a.m. ET; the Red Storm will take on the now Omar Samhan-less St. Mary's. There are two very good reasons to stay up late.
The meat of the action comes that afternoon, and it starts with Virginia Tech-Kansas State. (Though you can make a case for La Salle vs. Baylor, what could be our first good look at new Bears recruit Perry Jones.) Can the Hokies make an early case for an NCAA tournament bid? Will K-State be as dominant as its hopes of a Big 12 title require? At 5:30 p.m., Villanova kicks off the post-Scottie Reynolds era. At 6 p.m. Ohio State goes to Florida for a matchup of two potential top-15 teams (not to mention the 2007 NCAA tournament final). Defending national champion Duke will showcase Kyrie Irving and its new high-speed attack with a 7:30 p.m. game against Miami (Ohio). At 8 p.m., Final Four runner-up Butler travels to Louisville. At 10 p.m. South Carolina gets a shot at the third Final Four team in this batch in Michigan State, and at 11 p.m. the West Coast game of the night -- San Diego State vs. Gonzaga -- will give us an early idea of whether the Aztecs are good enough to challenge BYU and New Mexico in the Mountain West. (All times Eastern, naturally.)
And those are just the highlights.
It's a lot to take in, but the bottom line is this: Almost every game on the kickoff slate either features one of last year's Final Four teams, two top-20 squads or NCAA tournament résumé implications. Sometimes, we get all three.
Mark your calendars, and stock up on caffeine. Nov. 16 is going to be awesome.