Oregon vs. Baylor is the Best Daytime Marathon Game and That’s FinePosted by Nate Kotisso on November 15th, 2016
One of the virtues of having a winning basketball program is when a school fearlessly schedules its non-conference slate of games. Participating in a multi-team tournament where the weather’s warm? Most definitely. How about playing a true road game or two before January? You betcha. After paying a trip to Eugene as part of last year’s ESPN Tip-Off Marathon, Baylor is set to host a top-five Oregon team in an otherwise blasé daytime portion of the event (3:30 PM ET, ESPN2). The Ducks, which return much of its Elite Eight squad from a season ago, can do just about everything and they aren’t even healthy yet — leading scorer Dillon Brooks (16.7 PPG) is still recovering from foot surgery. Both teams enter today’s game at 1-0. Oregon didn’t play its best against Army but did enough to keep distance in a 14-point win. Baylor wasn’t at full strength against Oral Roberts either, playing without the services of preseason First Team all-Big 12 forward Johnathan Motley (suspension), but still came away with a 15-point victory.
There are a lot of ways a match-up like this can be sliced, but three-point defense is the key variable here. After making nine threes against the Black Knights on Friday, Oregon will trot out a slew of outstanding shooters headlined by Tyler Dorsey (career: 40.8%) and Payton Pritchard (40.0%). Baylor, which made 10 threes of its own against the Golden Eagles, counters with the likes of Manu Lecomte (career: 42.6%) and Al Freeman (37.4%). The team that closes out on shooters effectively will triumph in this game. If neither team can stop the other from canning double-figure threes, however, then it will be a high-scoring, fast-paced game that will end after a minimum of two overtimes. Or six. The point here is that we, the viewers, cannot lose with a game like this.
We can always count on tonight’s Champions Classic to deliver the high-stakes drama between blue-bloods that only Michigan State, Duke, Kansas and Kentucky can provide. But what makes the Marathon a healthy and interesting event for its entirety are the overnight and daytime battles between talented mid-major programs. The 2014 event gave us Manhattan vs. UMass and Northern Iowa vs. Stephen F. Austin, two games that tipped before Noon ET and wound up in overtime. Last year’s event had Valparaiso vs. Rhode Island end in a close one. This year’s midday slate has some good mid-majors on tap but none will be going head-to-head and this hurts interest in those mid-morning match-ups. Hawaii is playing an 8-win Florida Atlantic program, Stephen F. Austin will face 10-win Longwood and Niagara vs. Hartford is destined for two hours of intense face-palming. This is why Oregon-Baylor cannot fail us. And it won’t.