Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences, and was in attendance at the Monmouth at St. Peter’s game during ESPN’s 24 Hour Marathon.
To steal from a favorite Elton John song, “It’s four o’clock in the morning, damn it…”
Actually the mood when the alarm sounds is not anger but eager anticipation. Monmouth-St. Peter’s, 6 AM at the Yanitelli Center. The day, or morning, is here.
4:50 - College ChalkTalk colleague George Rodecker arrives and we make the eight mile trip from my Lyndhurst home to Jersey City.
5:10 - Easy parking and walking from the car. The St. Peter’s campus is quiet. As we near Yanitelli Center the sound builds.
On entering the center for our press credential, we find St. Peter’s students coming from a night of all-night games and organized activities in the “Yanitelli bubble” to the court to get their seats. The students — with faces painted, some carrying signs — are energized and ready.
An After the Buzzer recap for your liking as you catch up on some much-needed sleep…
What We Learned. It’s very simple. Often we get all jazzed over those little numbers we put in front of each team’s name, but the line between top-ranked teams like Kansas/Michigan State and Memphis/Gonzaga is finer than any of us would like to admit. Teams are good; teams have players; and teams can perform. There’s no dominant team in college basketball, and we shouldn’t be surprised if we see a steady rotation of #1s throughout the year, just like last season.
Game of the Marathon.#2 Michigan State 75, Gonzaga 71. You rarely see such intensity, tenaciousness and pure effort this early in the season, but the battle between Michigan State and Gonzaga surely provided all three and more. Tom Izzo has to be pleased after his team showed toughness and poise coming back from double digits in the second half against a Gonzaga squad that should be ranked in the Top 25 next Monday. Durrell Summers and Kalin Lucas were the stars – Summers going for 21/11 on 8-9 shooting (plenty of foot-on-the-line long shots) and hitting the biggest three of the game to give the Spartans the lead with just over three minutes to play, and Lucas displaying his usual leadership throughout the second half, finishing with 19 points and five assists in a solid all-around effort. Raymar Morgan sunk 10-11 from the stripe and appeared to come back at 100% later in the game after rolling his right ankle and writhing in pain on the floor. Concern for Tom Izzo: the success in the paint for Gonzaga forwards Robert Sacre and Elias Harris. Lack of post production both offensively and defensively (Delvon Roe was a no-show last night) could be their downfall. Even in defeat, Mark Few has to be thrilled. Sacre (17 pts, 7-12 FG) looks incredibly improved, Elias Harris (17/9 on 6-16 FG) is a future star with a great inside/outside game and they nearly knocked off the #2 team in the nation on the road in November with plenty of overhaul on the roster and their starting point guard, Demetri Goodson, laying an egg. This was a thrilling game to watch from start to finish.
#1 Kansas 57, Memphis 55. ESPN got a perfect prime-time matchup to crescendo its 24 hours of hoops coverage tonight. Although Kansas never trailed after Memphis led 7-6 in the early moments of the game, the Jayhawks could never quite put the Tigers away either. After literally scratching and clawing and biting its way back to within one possession in the waning minutes, Memphis caught a break when the usually-reliable Sherron Collins (80% last year) missed one of two at the line to leave the door open with a 2-pt KU lead. Josh Pastner told his team to go for the win, and the Duke transfer/soon-to-be star of Memphis Elliot Williams (21/6) took a contested three on the wing that looked pretty good in the air but ultimately missed, meaning that there would be no Elliot Miracle as a slight payback for Kansas’ heartbreaker in 2008. In the media interviews afterwards, Bill Self was clearly not happy with his team’s performance, especially on the offensive end, where it seemed the only play they ran was to try to throw the ball into Cole Aldrich (18/11/5 blks) and let him go to work. Twenty-one turnovers, many of the careless variety, seemed to really chafe Self’s craw. Josh Pastner, on the other hand, seemed happy with his team’s performance, and why not? Memphis took the nation’s #1 team to the wire on a night where they didn’t shoot the ball well (35% FG, 24% 3FG) and in the process, probably gave his team more confidence than a string of wins over UALR and the like ever would. Our final thought on this game is that Elliot Williams is a lot better than anyone seems to have known – he didn’t shoot lights-out tonight (6-18 FG, 3-11 3FG), but he seemed comfortable with the role of becoming the Tiger go-to guy, and several of his shots and finishes were nothing short of spectacular.
#22 Louisville 96, Arkansas 66. This game was a game of runs; it’s just that Louisville seemed to be the team that had all of them. That’s not completely true, of course, but depending on who you ask, this was an expected result. Rick Pitino said that Arkansas’ suspensions have left them shorthanded (true), and that they wore down in the second half because they simply didn’t have enough bodies (questionable). John Pelphrey said that his team simply didn’t compete at a high enough level that you must do so to beat a team like Louisville (possibly). Here’s what we saw. We saw an Arkansas team that competed in the first half. The Cards got hot from three in the last several minutes of the half to run out to a 48-31 lead, but Arkansas then countered after the half with significant energy and movement to go on a 13-0 run of their own to cut the lead down to six. Then Louisville got hot again (especially Reginald Delk, who had 20/5), drained a bunch more threes (15 for the game) and Arkansas began to noticeably lose its motivation. By the last five minutes of the game, we actually wondered where all this “compete” stuff that we kept hearing about was coming from. Because we weren’t seeing it. The Cards placed six players in double figures, and Peyton Siva looked like a keeper with some of his defensive intensity and drives to the hole. Arkansas was led by Rotnei Clarke, who cooled off from 51 to only 16 this time around.
Bruce Pearl’s 100th win at UT unforgettable. #11 Tennessee 124, UNC-Asheville 49. Where do I start recapping this otherworldly performance for the Volunteers against a Division-I opponent? Tennessee set a school record for points (124), held Asheville to two field goals in the first half (2-26 FG, 7.7%) and 16:50 without a field goal, scored 49 points off 29 Asheville turnovers, started the game on a 20-0 run and finished with a 66-14 one and led at one point, 119-39. I’m not a math major, but I believe that’s an 80-point Tennessee lead! The Vols shot 60% as a team with sophomore Scotty Hopson notching his most impressive game in orange with 25/4/5 on 8-11 FG and 6-7 3pt. Someone hose down Rocky Top.
After a week of mostly uninteresting games to the casual fan, we’ve finally gotten to some juicy matchups. RTC Live will be in St. Louis tonight for the Hall of Fame Showcase, an event that features two ranked teams in #1 Kansas and #23 Louisville as well as two other dangerous teams that nobody is quite sure what to expect in Arkansas and Memphis. Given the relative proximity of the four schools to the Arch, we’d expect a completely full house and a near-NCAA Tournament environment tonight. We hope to see you there, as the first tip of Louisville-Arkansas begins at 7:30 pm ET. Watch along on ESPN as we live-blog from courtside.
Game of the Night. #4 Kentucky 72, Miami (OH) 70. Heeeeeere’s Johnny! As if the mystique and hype surrounding John Wall already wasn’t enough, in his official college debut the freshman not only becomes an on-court leader and contributes 19 points, 2 boards, 5 assists, and 3 steals (and five turnovers); he also hits a game-winner from 15 feet with less than a second left. Miami (OH) hit 15 of 26 three-point attempts and deserves all the credit in the world for pushing Kentucky to the limit in its own building. They actually led by as many as 18 points, and the man most responsible for that was junior forward Nick Winbush. Despite the loss, Winbush will remember this game for the rest of his life. He bewildered the Kentucky players, coaches, and the Rupp Arena crowd with his 3-point shooting ability, going 8 for 10 from beyond the arc, and they were of all types, folks. Fall-aways. Off the dribble. Contested. Open. It didn’t matter to Winbush. He went into halftime having hit his first SIX, and the fans in Lexington won’t forget his name anytime soon. In the post-game press conference, Winbush described playing so well in Rupp Arena as “the most fun I’ve ever had playing basketball,” and said of his three-point prowess on the night, “I shot the first one, and it went in. So I shot another one. It went in, too, so I kept shooting. It just kept going from there.” His teammate (and MAC Player Of The Year contender) Kenny Hayes chipped in 16/4/5 including 4-6 from three-point range, the most impressive being a 27-footer to tie it with just a few seconds left. Kentucky was able to slowly erase the RedHawks’ lead behind double-doubles from Patrick Patterson (16/10) and freshman DeMarcus Cousins (10/10) and trio of threes by sophomore Darnell Dodson. But it was Wall who had the final say. After Hayes hit his long three to tie it, Wall quickly took the in-bounds pass, saw that the lane was clogged after a speed-dribble up the court, and pulled up from 15 feet. After the game, I asked him if he knew it was good when it left his hand. He smiled and said, “I was hoping so. But it felt good.” I just bet it did.
RTC Live. #6 Villanova 103, Pennsylvania 65. When the Villanova Wildcats beat the Penn Quakers at the Pavilion at Villanova tonight it was not just another out of conference basketball game between two local schools. These two competitors have a history, a history that binds them together with three other Philadelphia D1 schools, in the City Series, a rivalry known as the Big 5. This game opened the 55th season that La Salle, Penn, Saint Joseph’s, Temple and Villanova have played for the bragging rights to the City of Brotherly Love. In the 5+ decades of the rivalry, the Penn teams of the 1970s have set the standard for domination in the series. Those teams, coached by the legendary (and recently deceased) Chuck Daly racked up a 29-11 record from the 1971 to the 1980 seasons. No team has matched that win total over a decade… until tonight. Villanova won their 30th game of the decade, ironically beating Penn team to do it. For Coach Jay Wright, this, his 26th win moves him into a tie in 6th place for wins by Big 5 coaches. His record, 27-7 (0.788) sandwiches him at second between the aforementioned Chuck Daly (19-5, 0.792) and Saint Joseph’s legendary coach, Dr. Jack Ramsey (34-10, 0.773) for winning percentages in Big 5 games. Tonight a freshman, Maalik Wayns, led Villanova with 16 points, while Penn off guard Darren Smith led all scorers with 21 points. Wildcat forward Antonio Pena recorded his first career double-double, corralling 10 rebounds while scoring 12 points in 25 minutes of play.
ESPN’s 24 Hours of John Stevens Hoops. For recaps on the late games involving UCLA-Cal State Fullerton, St. Mary’s-SDSU, Hawaii-N. Colorado and more, check out John’s liveblog here.
Hopefully by now you’ve realized that ESPN is running its second annual 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon beginning tonight at midnight ET. If you haven’t and you still call yourself a college basketball fan, you should probably turn in your credential right now. RTC’s John Stevens will be hooked up to his caffeine drip all night long live-blogging the entire event from start to finish, but you know us, that’s not nearly enough. So we’ll help keep him awake with a 2 am ET RTC Live from the beautiful campus of St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA, as the Gaels host San Diego State. Both teams have played one home game thus far, resulting in a blowout win for each (SMC 100, New Mexico State 68; SDSU 77, UC San Diego 52), and the Gaels and Aztecs both have serious aspirations of surprising folks in their respective leagues this year. SDSU was the second selection in the preseason poll of Mountain West media (behind BYU), and St. Mary’s was predicted third in a competitive race for the top of the WCC. The Aztecs, however, may be without the services of three of its stars, as star forwards Billy White and Tim Shelton along with guard Tyrone Shelley are suffering a variety of ailments and sat out the last game against UCSD (today’s reports are inconclusive on all three’s status). The two teams have played in each of the last two seasons (and seven times in the last six), with a split last season — SDSU taking last year’s NIT quarterfinal 70-66 behind 17 pts from White, and St. Mary’s winning a close battle 67-64 the December prior. We expect another good one tonight as we burn the midnight oil in Moraga.
Good day, friends. John Stevens, here, one of your faithful RTC contributors, with a quick reminder. ESPN’s 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon begins tonight at midnight on Monday night/Tuesday morning, and I’ll be live-blogging the whole thing in our famed Boom Goes the Dynamite format. I did this last year during the same event, and once again I’ll be happily disregarding the recommendations — nay, the very pleas — of my family, friends, and internist, and staying up the whole 24 hours, all the while absorbing those tasty rays from my TV and computer screens. I hope you’ll stop by and hit the refresh button a few times, and even lend a comment or two.
Here are the games ESPN is showing:
12:05 am Cal State Fullerton at UCLA
2:00 am San Diego State at Saint Mary’s – RTC Live Simulcast
4:00 am Northern Colorado at Hawaii
6:00 am Monmouth at St. Peter’s
8:00 am Drexel at Niagara
10:00 am Clemson at Liberty
12:00 pm Northeastern at Siena
2:00 pm Arkansas-Little Rock at Tulsa
4:00 pm Temple at Georgetown
5:30 pm Binghamton at Pittsburgh (ESPN2)
6:00 pm Charlotte at Duke (ESPN)
7:30 pm Arkansas at Louisville (ESPN2) – RTC Live Simulcast
8:00 pm Gonzaga at Michigan State
9:00 pm Duquesne at Iowa (ESPNU)
10:00 pm Memphis at Kansas – RTC Live Simulcast
Last year, if I recall correctly — and there’s a good chance that I don’t! — because I had worked a full day beforehand and gotten almost no sleep the previous night, I started hallucinating about 18 hours into this. I look to be a little better rested going in this time, so I anticipate it’ll be a total cake walk. Yeah, we’ll see. The executives here at RTC obviously think so, too, since my written requests for a short-term insurance policy were denied (read: returned to me in paper-doll-chain form). Alas.
Anyway, I hope you’ll join me for as much of it as you can endure. The updates will begin below promptly at midnight tonight. See you there!
11:53pm (11/16): And so here we find ourselves, again, my friends. Welcome to the RTC 24-hour live blog for ESPN’s 24-hour Hoops Marathon. This will be done in our Boom Goes The Dynamite format, meaning this post will update every so often, so keep hitting that refresh button during the time that you’re joining us. When three of us do this during a day’s games during the regular season, sometimes it’ll start with NVR, then I’ll take the baton, and rtmsf will finish the night with the late games. When that happens, I use an old basketball term and call it…the three man weave. I’m the only one who finds that clever, though. But I”ll say it…what we have here is a one man weave. I’ll have help from rtmsf as he goes all RTC Live on us from the San Diego State at St. Mary’s game at 2 am ET, and then again from St. Louis with the Arkansas-Louisville and Memphis-Kansas games later on Tuesday night. But I’m flyin’ solo without a net and I’m going caffeine-free, baby! That’s my pledge to you tonight. I, John Stevens, will be kept awake merely by my love for college hoops. I promise. We’ll get it goin’ with Cal State-Fullerton at UCLA in just a bit. Welcome!!
If you’re reading this site, then you undoubtedly have a case of the itchies when it comes to college hoops. Just like us. We wrote back in September when the idea originally surfaced that we thought ESPN’s “24 Hour Marathon of College Hoops” was a fantastic idea, and it still is. We’ll overlook that there are no games between 6-10am and they snuck in a women’s game on us in the early afternoon, but still, 18 hours of quality college hoops is nothing to sneeze at. And if you start right now (just after 7pm EST), you can easily fill 24 of the next 30 hours of your life with nothing but collegians throwing balls through hoops. What could be better than that?
To up the ante, RTC feature columnist John Stevens has volunteered to take on the herculean task of live-blogging as much of the 24MoCH as possible. He’s loaded up on ephedrine, espresso beans and Rockstar to get himself through the night. You’ll forgive him if he lapses into some skin flick on HBO in the wee hours. But we know John, and we also know that he’ll regale you with yarns and analysis on the games in front of him while the rest of us sleep away the night tonight and toil away in our cubes tomorrow. We may not outwardly envy him, but deep down all of us do.
So check on back in the next little while, as JS will be holding down the fort overnight and into tomorrow. Enjoy!
Here’s the 24MoCH schedule:
• Midnight: UMass at Memphis (ESPN)
• 2 a.m.: Fresno St. at St. Mary’s (ESPN)
• 4 a.m.: Idaho St. at Hawaii (ESPN) • 6 a.m.: College Hoops Tip-Off Special (ESPN)
• 10 a.m.: Penn at Drexel (ESPN)
• Noon: Liberty at UNC-Asheville (ESPN) • 2 p.m.: Iowa at Kansas (women) (ESPN)
• 4 p.m.: Centenary at Baylor (ESPN)
• 6 p.m.: Richmond at Syracuse (ESPN)
• 7 p.m.: Purdue v. Georgia/Loyola (MD) (ESPNU) (NIT)
• 7:30 p.m.: Boston College v. St. John’s/Cornell (ESPN2) (NIT) • 8 p.m.: College GameDay from Chapel Hill (ESPN)
• 9 p.m.: Kentucky at North Carolina (ESPN)
• 9 p.m.: Florida Gulf Coast at Kansas (ESPNU)
• 9:30 p.m.: Oklahoma v. Davidson/James Madison (ESPN2) (NIT)
• 11:30 p.m.: Arizona v. UAB/Santa Clara (ESPN2) (NIT)
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Every sports interview ever? This cartoon probably isn’t all that far off.