Tip-Off Marathon: The O26 Menu

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 17th, 2014

Tonight kicks off ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon, a jam-packed, 24-plus hour slate of basketball featuring numerous mouthwatering options for O26 fans. And with many of these games serving as important resume-building opportunities, you better come hungry. Let’s check out the menu.

Appetizers/Starters

R.J. Hunter and the Panthers take on Iowa State in Hilton Coliseum. (AP Photo | Gerry Broome)

R.J. Hunter and the Panthers take on Iowa State in Hilton Coliseum. (AP Photo | Gerry Broome)

  • UC Santa Barbara at Florida Gulf Coast – 7:00 PM ET, ESPN3, Tonight. We are not even sure if this is formally part of the Marathon, but what better way to whet your appetite than by watching Alan Williams take on Dunk City? After logging 22 points and 13 rebounds against Kansas on Friday, UC Santa Barbara’s 6’8’’ center gets a shot at the Atlantic Sun favorites in Fort Myers – the first of two contests between the Gauchos and Eagles this season. Florida Gulf Coast’s Brett Comer is among the better point guards in the country, while his running mate, Bernard Thompson, is a conference Player of the Year candidate. Both squads could wind up dancing in March.
  • Georgia State at #14 Iowa State – 9:00 PM ET, ESPNU, Tonight. Certain to be one of the most popular appetizers on the menu, this game features a loaded underdog taking on a top-15 team in one of college basketball’s best environments. The Cyclones better be prepared for Georgia State, which boasts a pair of Bluegrass State transfers – Ryan Harrow (Kentucky) and Kevin Ware (Louisville) – and arguably the Sun Belt’s best player, guard R.J. Hunter (18.3 PPG in 2013-14). Hilton Coliseum will be rocking, as always, but perhaps maybe its magic will work in the Panthers favor, instead of the other way of around.
  • #22 SMU at #13 Gonzaga – 11:00 PM ET, ESPN, Tonight. This is one of those fill-you-up-before-the-entrée type items, a hearty match-up of Top 25 units with high expectations. SMU took a serious hit when forward Markus Kennedy, the team’s best player, was ruled academically ineligible for the first semester, so Gonzaga is in great position playing at home. Still, even though Mark Few’s bunch looked utterly dominant in its opener against Sacramento State (with newcomers Byron Wesley, Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis combining for 44 points), the Bulldogs must come out and execute against Larry Brown’s defensively-tough Mustangs. Kevin Pangos vs. Nic Moore is one of the best point guard match-ups of the young season.

  • Detroit at Oregon – 11:00 PM ET, ESPNU, Tonight. Detroit will be much improved this season and should give Oregon a game, at least early on. Juwan Howard Jr. scores a lot of points (18.3 PPG in 2013-14), Oregon’s Joseph Young scores a lot of points (18.9 PPG in 2013-14) – think of this as your chips and salsa, or spinach and artichoke dip. You can’t really go wrong.

Breakfast Specials

Up early?  Start your day with a helping of Iona vs. Wofford. (Laura Jacobsen - Kansas Athletics)

Up early? Start your day with a helping of Iona vs. Wofford. (Laura Jacobsen – Kansas Athletics)

  • New Mexico State at Saint Mary’s – 3:00 AM ET, ESPN2, Tuesday. Can’t sleep? Work an odd shift? Don’t worry, basketball will be served early and often, starting with the WAC favorites against transfer-laden Saint Mary’s. The Aggies ran into a buzzsaw against Wichita State on Friday night and should be in for a better showing against the Gaels, who feature three high-major transfers in Aaron Bright (Stanford), Joe Coleman (Minnesota) and Desmond Simmons (Washington). Keep an eye on the match-up down low between SMC’s Brad Waldow and NMSU’s Tshilidzi Nephawe.
  • High Point at Hawaii – 5:00 AM ET, ESPN2, Tuesday. High Point’s first game in the Rainbow Classic was a classic, and that was without super-dunker (and Big South Player of the Year) John Brown. He’s back, so what else do the Panthers have in store in paradise?
  • Iona at Wofford – 7:00 AM ET, ESPN2, Tuesday. Their styles contrast – Iona was the nation’s 34th fastest unit in 2013-14, Wofford the 12th slowest – and each team features a stellar lead guard, an undersized (but very skilled) big man and a head coach with an excellent track record. Whichever team controls tempo might wind up victorious, but regardless of the outcome, this one should be tasty. Both the Gaels and Terriers are expected to compete for conference titles this year.

Tuesday Brunch

  • Northern Iowa at Stephen F. Austin – 9:00 AM ET, ESPN2, Tuesday. Nothing beats a good brunch, and you will be hard-pressed to find many O26 vs. O26 non-conference match-ups better than this one. Northern Iowa forward Seth Tuttle, who might be the Missouri Valley’s best player outside of Wichita, scored 24 points and ripped down nine boards in the Panthers’ season opener on Friday. But Stephen F. Austin did not lose at home last season and features an excellent forward of its own, 6’6’’ senior Jacob Parker. If Northern Iowa can pull off a road victory over the Southland favorites, it could go a long way towards an eventual at-large birth.
  • Manhattan at Massachusetts – 11:00 AM ET, ESPN2, Tuesday. The Minutemen play a brutal non-conference schedule this season, including three of the MAAC’s best teams. They already took care of Siena on Friday night, but now Manhattan comes to Amherst for the Battle of the Protégés: UMass’ Derek Kellogg – a longtime John Calipari assistant – vs. Manhattan’s Steve Masiello, a Rick Pitino disciple. If UMass (2-0) can continue taking care of business against beatable opponents, it should have a nice-looking resume by the time Atlantic 10 play rolls around. Step one is beating the Jaspers.

Main Course/Entrées

San Diego State's Winston Shepard vs. Utah's Delon Wright will be a delectable matchup. (Sean M. Haffey)

San Diego State’s Winston Shepard vs. Utah’s Delon Wright will be a delectable matchup. (Sean M. Haffey)

  • #11 Wichita State vs. Memphis 2:00 PM ET, ESPN, Tuesday. Think of this as a damn fine Early Bird Dinner… in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The Shockers, who (seemingly) haven’t missed a beat since last season, hammered New Mexico State by 17 on Friday despite shooting 0-of-11 from distance. That performance was a far cry from Memphis’ final exhibition contest a week ago, in which the Tigers lost by four to Christian Brothers University. Considering that Wichita State forced 20 turnovers in its opener – thanks in no small part to Fred VanVleet’s seven steals – and Memphis coughed it up 21 times against a D-II opponent, Josh Pastner will need his guards to be much, much better tomorrow night.
  • Utah at #16 San Diego State – 4:00 PM ET, ESPN, Tuesday. San Diego State is loaded with talent, but a visit from Delon Wright and the Utes should give us a better idea of just how well-meshed that talent is to open the season. Utah features one of the best all-around players in the country in guard Delon Wright, and is a much better defensive unit than the Cal State Northridge club the Aztecs faced on Friday. Since consistent offensive production was the biggest question mark entering 2014-15, it will be interesting to see how Winston Shepard and other prospective scorers fare against tough defensive players like Wright (or, especially Wright, who was Pac-12 All-Defensive First Team in 2013-14). Steve Fisher’s crew gets a leg up by playing in Viejas Arena – one of the best home courts in America.
  • Toledo at #11 Virginia Commonwealth – 6:00 PM ET, ESPNU, Tuesday. This game should be sweet and savory and spicy and thoroughly entertaining, like something you would order at a teppanyaki restaurant. Led by point guard Juice Brown (14.9 PPG, 6.0 APG in 2013-14), Toledo likes to get the most out of its hyper-efficient offense by picking up the pace, while VCU – also an uptempo unit – thrives on HAVOC to force turnovers and find easy buckets. The Rockets posted the nation’s 13th-lowest offensive turnover rate last year, in direct contrast with Rams’ first-highest forced-turnover rate. Shaka Smart’s club is deeper, more talented and will probably win by a decent margin, but look for Toledo to make things fun if it can figure out the press.

Drink Menu

  • Coffee or Red Bull (obviously)
Tommy Lemoine (249 Posts)


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