Monday, November 16, 2009
24 things for the 24-hour marathon
By Andy Katz
National title contenders Texas, North Carolina, West Virginia and Kentucky won't be on display during the 24-hour college hoops marathon that tips off at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday and runs through the midnight hour into Wednesday.
But what you will see -- if you're daring enough to watch every minute -- are a number of potential national and league contenders, as well as a smattering of storylines that should prove worthy of watching throughout the season. (For the full schedule, click here.)
Here's a look at 24 things to know before settling in for Tuesday's marathon:
1. Men's title contenders: Kansas, Michigan State and Duke. KU will play Memphis in an in-name-only rematch of the 2008 national title game. This time the teams will meet up in St. Louis (ESPN, 10 p.m. ET) as part of the Hall of Fame Showcase. One player to keep a particular eye on is Xavier Henry, the freshman who scored 27 points in his debut Friday. He originally signed with Memphis but was let out of his letter of intent when John Calipari bolted for Kentucky.
Michigan State will host Gonzaga at 8 p.m. in what should be a guard-dominated affair, led by MSU's Kalin Lucas, who was named Big Ten preseason Player of the Year. The Spartans are getting healthier as Raymar Morgan (ankle) played a few minutes to get loose in Friday night's opener against Florida Gulf Coast.
Duke likely will play Charlotte in the second round of the NIT Season Tip-Off at 6 p.m. The Blue Devils may seem like more of a reach for a title, but it would be foolish to dismiss them. Duke has one of the top players in the country in Kyle Singler. The full Devils team won't be on display, though, as freshman Mason Plumlee is out with a wrist injury.
2. Women's title contender: Connecticut. Everyone is playing on UConn's playground at this point. The top-ranked Huskies absolutely obliterated Northeastern 105-35 in their opener (is that fair?) but will face a much tougher test in San Antonio against No. 14 Texas at 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2). It's not unrealistic to think the Huskies could run the table again with Maya Moore, the top player in the game.
3. A living legend: Tennessee's Pat Summitt. The sport's record holder for wins opened the season on Sunday with victory No. 1,006, an impressive 74-65 triumph over No. 4 Baylor. Her ninth-ranked Lady Vols will face Texas Tech at 7 p.m. in the early game from San Antonio.
4. Player you've never heard of but should: Matthew Dellavedova. A number of coaches told me about this latest Australian at Saint Mary's and said he could be as significant a get as Patty Mills was during his Gaels tenure. We'll see about that, but Dellavedova did have quite an entrance with 19 points, four assists, one steal and no turnovers in a 100-68 win over New Mexico State on Friday. The Gaels host Mountain West contender San Diego State at 2 a.m. on ESPN.
5. NBA draft early entrant who got no love: Malcolm Thomas. The junior college transfer declared but didn't get a sniff, so he went to play for Steve Fisher at San Diego State. It didn't take long for him to assert himself. He tipped off his Aztecs career with 20 points and nine boards and made 8 of 11 shots for SDSU in its opening win over UC San Diego. It's also worth noting that the Aztecs start former Illinois center Brian Carlwell, who resumed his career with a quality nine-point, five-board effort in the opener.
6. Best freshman backcourt not at Kentucky: Illinois' D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul. At least one Big Ten coach told me the Illini are back to getting elite talent like they had in the middle of the decade. Well, so far, so good after one game. Paul scored 22 points, including 11 of the Illini's first 21, in an opening win over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. He made four of six 3s, while Richardson helped out with 14 points. Kentucky's freshman backcourt tandem of John Wall and Eric Bledsoe is getting much-deserved praise. But the Illini's tandem, which will face Northern Illinois at 8 p.m. on ESPN360.com, will get its share soon enough.
7. The top foreign starter you may not know: Gonzaga's Elias Harris. The German national flew under the radar during the summer. He played on his national team but didn't get much pub stateside. Harris started his college career with 18 points in Gonzaga's opening win over Mississippi Valley State. Expect him to be a major player for the Zags against Michigan State.
8. The best shooter in the country? Rotnei Clarke, Arkansas. With several teammates suspended, Clarke delivered an epic performance in the Razorbacks' opening win over Alcorn State on Friday. He scored a school-record 51 points, made an SEC-record 13 3s and converted 15 of 21 shots. Clarke likely will be chased all over the court in St. Louis when the Hogs take on Louisville at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2.
9. The national debut of the coach with the toughest job in the country: Josh Pastner, Memphis. He already has made an impact with his 2010 recruiting class, which is ranked among the nation's top two or three. Pastner won his first game over Jackson State. Now he gets to match wits with Bill Self of Kansas. Pastner is humble, but he has never lacked confidence.
|Heralded freshman Xavier Henry will make his KU national TV debut on Tuesday night. He will face the school he originally signed with.|
10. Two of the best big men in the country: Georgetown's Greg Monroe and Tulsa's Jerome Jordan. Monroe put up 18 points and 11 boards in the Hoyas' season-opening win at Tulane. He'll strut his stuff against Temple at 4 p.m. on ESPN. Jordan blocked six shots, grabbed seven boards and scored 12 points in Sunday's win over FIU. Tulsa will host Arkansas-Little Rock at 2 p.m. on ESPN.
11. The big-conference player who isn't getting discussed enough: Clemson's Trevor Booker. He wasn't dominant in the Tigers' opener against Presbyterian (11 points, eight boards), but he didn't need to be. Expect more from Booker in the post when the Tigers go to Liberty at 10 a.m. on ESPN. Give Clemson coach Oliver Purnell credit for playing a road game against a Big South team.
12. The depth of the MAAC and Colonial: Drexel at Niagara and Northeastern at Siena. These should be two of the better games on Tuesday's slate. Drexel went to overtime at Saint Joe's before losing, while Auburn needed an 11-0 run at the end of the game to take down Niagara. The 8 a.m. tipoff at Niagara hopefully won't limit either team from playing to its potential. Northeastern should be in the thick of the CAA race with Drexel, favorite Old Dominion and VCU. Siena is the first-round darling after beating Vanderbilt and Ohio State in successive NCAA tournaments. The noon tip on ESPN shouldn't affect play in upstate New York.
13. The endurance test: Monmouth at Saint Peter's. Just try to think of this as a Temple practice under John Chaney, because the teams will play at 6 a.m. in Jersey City, N.J. How different is the game-day routine when game day begins before sunrise? Should be interesting, to say the least.
14. The imploding program: Binghamton. This almost feels like slowing down to see the damage left by a wreck on the side of the road. After six of the Bearcats' best players (who accounted for 89 percent of the scoring) were thrown off the team in September, just three bodies remain of the defending America East champs, and the roster includes six walk-ons. Former Temple star Mark Macon got his first win as interim coach when the Bearcats beat Division II Bloomsburg 54-49 on Saturday. But trying to beat Pitt at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN2 is a different story.
15. The next DeJuan Blair: Dante Taylor, Pitt. Taylor has the physique but doesn't muster the Blair effort just yet. He scored 13 points and grabbed five boards in Pitt's comeback win over Wofford on Friday night. The Panthers will need a consistent effort out of Taylor.
16. The new Rick Pitino: Pitino told me at Big East media day that he'll laugh a lot the rest of his life. He said he's determined to put his past behind him and go forward. That's a must for Louisville to succeed after a turbulent offseason.
17. The Cardinals minus Earl Clark and Terrence Williams: The Arkansas game will be a good test for Edgar Sosa and Peyton Siva because they'll have to chase Rotnei Clarke around the court. The Hogs have some beef to combat Samardo Samuels. This looks like a pretty good game on paper.
18. The most cerebral coach in the game: Arizona State's Herb Sendek. The Sun Devils will close out the marathon with an 11:30 p.m. tip on ESPN2, likely playing TCU in the second round of the NIT Season Tip-Off. If Sendek pulls a postseason out of a group that lost James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph, he will continue to be an underrated mastermind.
|Greg Monroe and the Hoyas look to rebound from the shocking 6-14 spiral that ended last season.|
19. The new-look UCLA: The Bruins have been beat up in the preseason, but this is the first national look at a team that doesn't have Darren Collison, Josh Shipp or Alfred Aboya for the first time in four years. UCLA is rebuilding but doing it with players whom plenty of programs would covet. The Bruins tip off the marathon against Cal State Fullerton at midnight on ESPN.
20. A player you haven't heard of unless you're in the Hawaii Time Zone: Roderick Flemings deserves his 15 minutes, and he'll get more than that if you're up at 4 a.m. on the East Coast. Flemings started out the season with a 23-and-12 outing for Hawaii. His Warriors host Northern Colorado at Honolulu's Stan Sheriff Center, which always has been one of my favorite destinations. I covered the WAC for nine seasons and always loved that trip.
21. The return of the fighting Bobby Lutzes: Well, not in a true sense, but this is one of my favorite Rece Davis lines. This is an important season for Lutz at Charlotte. The 49ers, who should be Duke's opponent for the NIT preseason Tip-Off second-round game, need to be (and should be) relevant again in the Atlantic 10. Look for BC transfer Shamari Spears, who will make his debut after being suspended for the opener.
22. The one way to sell the Duquesne-Iowa game: Melquan Bolding. It's hard to make a case for the Hawkeyes after they lost to UT-San Antonio on Sunday. But Duquesne, the surprise runner-up in last season's A-10 tournament, does have a scorer worth watching in Bolding. The 6-foot-3 guard lit up Nicholls State with 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting in the opener. He'll be the player to watch in this 9 p.m. game on ESPNU.
23. See Temple now so you can say you did when the Owls make another March run: I know the Owls aren't supposed to be an NCAA tournament team because Dayton, Xavier, Richmond, La Salle and Charlotte are projected ahead of the Owls in the A-10. But something tells me Fran Dunphy will have this squad in position again, as he did in the past two seasons when Temple earned the conference's automatic NCAA tournament bid by winning the Atlantic 10 tourney. Juan Fernandez (14 points in a road win at Delaware) and Lavoy Allen (15 boards) likely will cause Georgetown trouble. The Owls don't have anyone to match Monroe, but it would be foolish to think this game won't be a good watch.
24. The number of future tournament teams playing during the marathon: It's just a guess, of course, but I'll go Joe Lunardi on you and tell you that a dozen men's NCAA tournament teams will play during the 24-hour extravaganza and at least three, if not four, during the women's doubleheader. How many days during the regular season will you be able to say that?
|No one quite knows what to expect out of Ben Howland's young Bruins. Their season opener will also be the Tip-Off Marathon opener.|
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.