Once again, ESPN is kicking off its college basketball coverage with a 24-hour hoops marathon on the various networks. For a sport that has long lacked a definitive opening day/night, ESPN deserves of a ton of credit (that was painful to say) for getting creative and implementing this marathon for us hoops nerds. Our own John Stevens is expected to be back for another coma-inducing live blog for the event (last year’s transcript), and in today’s daily Katz blog entry, the schedule was officially announced. Here are the games (all times EST on November 17):
Midnight- Cal State Fullerton @ UCLA (ESPN)- First chance to see if Malcolm Lee seems ready to take over the point guard role for the unproven Bruins.
2 AM- San Diego State @ Saint Mary’s (ESPN)- A possible MWC title contender heading to a raucous environment. Look out for the Aztecs star freshman Kawhi Leonard.
4 AM- Northern Colorado @ Hawaii (ESPN)- A reasonable 10 PM start for the Fightin’ Rainbows.
6 AM- Monmouth @ Saint Peter’s (ESPN)- Think the first half might be a little sluggish?
8 AM- Drexel @ Niagara (ESPN)- Don’t sleep on the Purple Eagles. This team has the talent to challenge Siena this season in the MAAC.
10 AM- Clemson @ Liberty (ESPN)- In exchange for filling a spot on their schedule last season, Clemson must travel to Lynchburg to take on the Curry-less Flames. This is our first look at the inside-outside combo of Trevor Booker and Noel Johnson for Clemson, whose fans should begin to worry if they get off to a good start.
12 PM- Northeastern @ Siena (ESPN)- Two teams that could be dancing this season. The Huskies spent much of last year near the top in the Colonial and returns four starters. We’re all very familiar with Siena at this point and coach Fran McCaffery has plenty of talent back in the fold.
2 PM- Arkansas-Little Rock @ Tulsa (ESPN)- This could be the year Memphis is dethroned from the top of Conference USA. The team most likely to do the unseating is the Golden Hurricane, led by seven footer Jerome Jordan.
4 PM- Temple @ Georgetown (ESPN)- This will be our first opportunity to see if the Hoyas can turn their negative campaign a season ago into a positive motivator in 2009-10.
5:30 PM- Binghamton @ Pittsburgh (ESPN2)- The Panthers lost DeJuan Blair, Levance Fields, Sam Young and Tyrell Biggs. Jermaine Dixon is unlikely to play due to a broken foot. This should be Jamie Dixon’s toughest coaching job yet. Ashton Gibbs is a player to watch this season.
6 PM- Charlotte/Elon @ Duke (ESPN)- Our first look at a Duke team that is much bigger than in previous seasons with the additions of Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly. Kyle Singler takes his first step towards a possible All-America honor in this Preseason NIT contest.
7:30 PM- Arkansas vs. Louisville in St. Louis (ESPN2)- Two teams that could go either direction this season. Louisville needs Samardo Samuels to make the leap and freshman Peyton Siva to contribute immediately. Arkansas fell apart a season ago and their last ten months have certainly been tumultous, but still boast talent in guard Courtney Fortson (so long as he’s not tweeting) and rookie forward Marshawn Powell.
8 PM- Gonzaga at Michigan State (ESPN)- The Zags will be a guard-oriented squad this year with Matt Bouldin, Demetri Goodson and Steven Gray. Michigan State has balance with Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers outside and Delvon Roe and Raymar Morgan inside. The Spartans could make another Final Four run.
9 PM- Duquesne at Iowa (ESPNU)- The Hawkeyes should be bottom-feeder in the Big Ten yet again, meaning Damian Saunders and the Dukes could keep this competitive.
10 PM- Memphis vs. Kansas in St. Louis (ESPN)- Our first look at the best team in the nation- Kansas. We know they’ll be great. The team to watch here is Memphis. Kansas poses an incredible test in November for a team dealing with a horde of losses from a season ago. Roburt Sallie, Willie Kemp and Elliot Williams must lead the way if the Tigers wish to win another conference title.
11:30 PM- TBA at Arizona State (ESPN2)- Could be a rebuilding year in Tempe with James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph no longer involved.
Gonzaga-Michigan State is the highlight of the slate, but there’s plenty of other reasons to tune in. I’m curious to see who will emerge for UCLA, if Memphis can hang with Kansas for even a half, if Arkansas can play more like their non-conference season a year ago than their SEC record, if Ashton Gibbs can be a star for Pitt and whether a Monmouth or St. Peter’s player falls asleep on the court. Should be another 24 hours of fun, and RTC will be back with John Stevens the whole way again.