Early Look: Ranking the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon’s Top Five Matchups

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 13th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Covering college basketball year-round can, in the months not filled with actual college basketball, turn into a scavenger hunt for interesting topics to write about. We’ve just about hit the nadir of the offseason college hoops news cycle, and trust me, the next month or so could get even worse. Luckily, ESPN came through early this week with a totally awesome diversion – its release of the schedule, ordered in lockstep with the actual succession of games three months from now, for the 2013 24-hour Tip-Off Marathon, which begins at 7:00 PM on November 11. It’s become annual appointment viewing for college basketball dorks, myself humbly included, and the match-ups this year are just as enticing, if not more so, than anything the Mothership has lined up since the event’s christening. Now that I’ve explained the basics, and there’s nothing else to do during this offseason dry spell but anxiously await the start of games this fall, it’s as good a time as any to pick out the Marathon’s very best games, five of them – which will only have the effect of intensifying your craving for the beginning of the season. But hey, I pine for November just as much as you do. With our mutual longing for the upcoming season now recognized, let’s look ahead to one of the year’s best non-conference events. I’ll be waiting, caffeine and sugary comestibles in hand, buttocks planted to padded recliner, cathartically rejoicing after a long offseason spent, well, doing this.

The Marathon’s final match-up could be one of the best games of the season, full stop. (USA Today)

1. Duke vs. Kansas (November 12, 10:00 PM ET, ESPN)

This selection could have been predicted when ESPN released its highly-anticipated Champions Classic duo a long while ago. There are two match-ups to consider here. First, we get two of the most culturally impactful, nationally successful, blueblood-identifiable programs in the country squaring off in a potential Final Four, or even National Championship, preview. These teams are going to be good. The top-ranked freshmen they inherited this season are even better. Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins are the main attractions — not just of this game, but of the entire college hoops season writ large; both are expected to enjoy wildly successful one-year stints in college, lead their respective teams on deep NCAA Tournament runs and land a spot in the NBA Draft lottery shortly thereafter. That process will get its formal introduction this November, in the second half of the Champion Classic’s cant-miss double-header (which coincides with the finale of the Tip-off Marathon). If you’re limiting your Marathon sampling size to just one game – first things first: I strongly urge you to reconsider – this is the game of choice, no doubt about it. It’s been a long time since college basketball has seen so much freshmen star power this enticing enter its ranks. Watching the very best of it, two generational NBA franchise-changers, going head-to-head during the first month of the season is a treat no fixture on the 2013-14 hoops calendar can possibly hope to live up to. Maybe the Final Four. Other than that? Nah.

2. Kentucky vs. Michigan State (November 12, 7:30 PM ET, ESPN)

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College Basketball By The Tweets: Champions Classic, #FREE Shabazz & UNC Cheating

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2012

Nick Fasulo is an RTC correspondent who writes the column College Basketball By the Tweets, a look at the world of college hoops through the prism of everyone’s favorite social media platform. You can find him on Twitter @nickfasuloSBN.

Aside from a great night of hoops at the Champions Classic, week two of the college basketball season was fairly tame, as hungry fans await the always entertaining Feast Week. There’s been a of talk lately about how college basketball is an eroding sport, but don’t tell that to Tim Brando, who was giving his undivided attention to the Champions Classic on Tuesday night.

https://twitter.com/TimBrando/status/268512307582226433

And Brando couldn’t be any more spot on, as the now annual event did not disappoint last Tuesday. Michigan State snuck past Kansas due to great late game execution on offense, while Duke’s experience was too much for Kentucky’s youth. A fantastic four hours of hoops.

Calipari, Duke & Flopping

The incident that sparked the most witty tweets this week? That would unquestionably be John Calipari‘s public indictment of Duke’s uncanny ability to flop around the basket. Cal dropped the zinger to Andy Katz while heading into the locker room at half time, when the Wildcats trailed the Blue Devils by two.

The tweets came in droves…

https://twitter.com/Mengus22/status/268557963688570880

https://twitter.com/BH_Orange44/status/268560524336324608

https://twitter.com/DanWolken/status/268562089164034049

Never one to back down, Coach K did not shy away from offering a response to Calipari during his post-game press conference.

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The RTC Podblast: Episode 1.5

Posted by rtmsf on November 16th, 2012

Just as we did last year, each Friday during the season we’ll be bringing you The RTC Podblast, the quick-hitting version of our weekly podcast. Shane Connolly (@sconnolly114) hosts as we take a quick look back at the Champions Classic games from Tuesday night, discuss the impressive victory of Florida over Wisconsin on Wednesday, and talk about several teams that may or may not be pressing the panic button at this early juncture of the season.

Remember that our full podcasts (roughly 45 minutes to an hour long) will publish on Tuesdays during the season, while our shorter (~15-20 minutes) podblasts will drop on Fridays with a quick look at the intervening week’s worth of news and action. Feel free to jump around using the outline below.

  • Start-2:15 – Michigan State Rebounds in Atlanta.
  • 2:15-3:10 – Kansas: Any Cause For Concern?
  • 3:10-7:10 – Duke vs. Kentucky Breakdown.
  • 7:10- 10:40 – Calipari vs. Coach K on Flopping.
  • 10:40-13:05 – Florida vs. Wisconsin Takeaways.
  • 13:05-16:58 – Panic Meter: Worries About Wisconsin, Miami (FL), Drexel, VCU, Butler, Washington.
  • 16:58-19:30 – Looking Ahead to Weekend Tournaments.

We welcome any and all feedback on these podcasts including topics for future discussion or if you want to send us any questions for our “May Not Be From Actual Listeners” segment. Hit us up atrushthecourt@yahoo.com or @rushthecourt on Twitter.

Also make sure to add the RTC Podcast to your iTunes lineup so that you’ll automatically upload it on your listening device after each recording. Thanks!

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Blue Devils Went Down To Georgia, Found Their Heart And Soul…

Posted by ARowe on November 14th, 2012

Everyone’s talking about how great Duke’s seniors were against the freshmen of Kentucky. And they deserve every ounce of praise they’re getting.

Seth Curry was amazing down the stretch. He’s been fighting through a shin injury over the last few months and has only been able to participate in four practices so far this season. Even then, he was a limited participant. His first organized game of basketball in two months was Duke’s second exhibition game against Winston-Salem State, where his rust showed. Battling like the tough competitor that he is, Curry logged 34 minutes in an intense game and showed no ill effects of the nagging pain. He somehow seemed to get better as the game wore on, scoring 13 of his 23 points in the final 13:13 with Mason Plumlee on the bench for six of those minutes.

Duke’s Guys Were Ready in Atlanta Last Night (credit: Duke Blue Planet)

Mason Plumlee played like a man possessed early in the game. Kentucky’s defense was clearly geared to stop him, but Nerlens Noel could not contain Plumlee down low. He scored six of Duke’s first nine points and 14 of their first 27. Not only did he put up 18 points on 7-8 shooting, he was perfect from the line and found open shooters on the wing with smart kick-outs as Kentucky’s defense collapsed around him in the paint.

In the battle of “seniors vs. freshmen”, Kentucky had only one player who had logged meaningful minutes last season — Kyle Wiltjer. Watching Kentucky’s game against Maryland, it was clear that Wiltjer was the key to the Wildcats’ offense as he put up 19 points on 67% shooting. Not known as a defensive stopper, Ryan Kelly matched up perfectly with Wiltjer and completely took him out of the game.  Wiltjer was only able to get five shots off against the senior, connecting on two of them for five total points.

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Rushed Reaction: #9 Duke 75, #2 Kentucky 68

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 14th, 2012

Brian Joyce is an RTC correspondent and can be reached at bjoyce_hoops. He filed this report from the Champions Classic in Atlanta tonight. 

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Experience and leadership matters – A veteran and experienced team had the composure to close out a tough victory, while the young and inexperienced squad just could not get the job done. If you’re looking for a theme for the night, that would be it. Seth Curry, Duke’s fifth-year senior guard, said the difference in having older players is they have “been in a situation like that before.” He went on to say that Duke’s core of veterans had “good composure. We stayed calm, and made plays.”  Meanwhile, Kentucky coach John Calipari commented simply that “we’re a November team right now.” The presence of leaders for Duke’s team and the void of experience on Kentucky’s roster was evident on Tuesday night.
  2. A solid inside-outside game prevails for Blue Devils – Duke torched the Wildcats from beyond the arc on 8-18 shooting, but a dominant force in the low post created space for open jumpers. Big man Mason Plumlee also dominated the Cats on the inside (7-8 FG for 18 points), drawing defenders away from the Blue Devils’ hot shooters. Curry lit the Wildcats up from outside three treys for a solid contribution of 23 points. Duke had the consistency to knock down those open shots, but they were open in part because of the work Plumlee had done in the low post. Kentucky’s poor defensive rotations will likely be a point of emphasis for the Cats moving forward.
  3. The emergence of Alex Poythress – Kentucky needed a scoring option to emerge, and it did in freshman Alex Poythress. After struggling against Maryland with just eight points, Poythress finished strong on Tuesday night with 20 points and eight boards on 9-12 shooting. The Cats had an advantage by stretching the floor and using their athleticism, but more often than not, they failed to capitalize. Poythress was the exception. Coach John Calipari called the freshman forward, “a beast,” adding, “he’s not a two guard, be a beast. That’s what he did.”

Star of the Game. Seth Curry, Duke. Duke’s Mike Krzyzsewski called Curry “the difference maker in the game.” And he was. He scored 23 points, added three rebounds, and committed zero turnovers. More importantly, he was the heart and soul of Duke’s team. Curry knew the inexperience of Kentucky’s backcourt, and he looked to take advantage. “We knew they didn’t have too much experience so we wanted to jump all over them,” Curry said. He disrupted Kentucky’s backcourt, causing guards Archie Goodwin and Julius Mays to each commit four turnovers.

Quotes to Note.

  • “It’s all new to our team. We don’t play hard enough. We don’t go after every rebound yet. We haven’t figured out how we’re going to play. But we’re learning.” –Kentucky coach John Calipari 
  • “This is a big game for us. We weren’t a good defensive team last year. It’s been a point of emphasis.” — Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski

Sights and Sounds. John Calipari came out of the locker room at halftime shaking his head in disgust. He was disturbed by the number of charges called against his Wildcats, and he even made a comment about it to a sideline reporter at halftime (see the TumblRTC on the right sidebar). When asked after the game, Calipari said, “I don’t even remember.” When reminded of his comments, he quipped, “you guys at Duke can take a joke, right?” Coach K got his dig at Calipari in as well saying, ” He has a right to say whatever he wants. I thought we took some amazing charges.” Some good old-fashioned ribbing between coaches always makes these games a little more interesting.

What’s Next: Kentucky plays Lafayette on Friday with a desperate need for a starting point guard. Calipari was still unsure of Harrow’s status as of Tuesday night, so the Cats will continue to give Goodwin playing time in that role. The Wildcats must also find a way for forward Kyle Wiltjer to get more involved. He shot 25 percent of the Wildcats’ shots when he played last week, but he struggled to find an open shot against Duke. The Blue Devils play Florida Gulf Coast this weekend with a desire to heal their wounds and get healthy before match-ups next week with Minnesota and potentially Memphis.

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Night Line: Spartans Find Their Offense, Rebound With Huge Win Over Kansas

Posted by EJacoby on November 13th, 2012

Evan Jacoby is a regular contributor for RTC. You can find him @EJacobyRTC on Twitter. Night Line runs on weeknights during the season, highlighting a major storyline development from that day’s games.

With the departure of first team All-American and do-it-all superstar Draymond Green from this year’s Michigan State roster, the Spartans figured to take a new offensive approach this season away from the high post, Draymond-centric attack they featured last year. What they didn’t expect was a surprising season-opening loss to depleted Connecticut last Friday in which they shot just 37.5% from the field. Tuesday night presented another massive challenge in defending national runner-up Kansas, and Tom Izzo’s team found a way to change the narrative by converting 52.1% of their field goals and defeating the Jayhawks, 67-64, in the Champions Classic in Atlanta. In the process, Michigan State found a new go-to offensive player in Gary Harris and a clutch late-game playmaker with Keith Appling. Replacing the versatile Green isn’t an easy task, but this year’s Spartans team learned a lot about its potential to do so with the impressive offensive performance on Tuesday night.

Michigan State leaned on Keith Appling, left, down the stretch in Tuesday’s win over Kansas (AP Photo/D. Martin)

The Spartans couldn’t have looked any different in their first two tilts of a five-day stretch to open this season. A trip to Germany to play in an aircraft hangar might have something to do with that. A Hall of Fame head coach with an understanding of how to make quick adjustments might, too. Izzo understood that his team struggled to score in the 66-62 loss to Connecticut to open the season, and it needed better production from the players expected to carry this team offensively. The freshman Harris played tentatively with a “deer in the headlights” look in the season opener, according to Izzo, en route to a 4-for-13 shooting night for 11 points. Harris was much more assertive from the get-go on Tuesday, looking to score early and often with smooth moves to the hoop and a soft touch from the perimeter, and he finished with 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting. Harris was aggressive and productive in attacking Kansas’ guards, so much so that the Jayhawks switched their top defensive player, Travis Releford, to guard Harris in the second half. Nonetheless the frosh still found ways to score without forcing the issue.

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Ten Tuesday Scribbles: On November Rituals, Head-Scratchers, and More…

Posted by Brian Otskey on November 13th, 2012

Brian Otskey is a regular contributor for RTC. Every Tuesday during the regular season he’ll be giving his 10 thoughts on the previous week’s action. You can find him on Twitter @botskey

  1. In what seems to have become an annual November ritual, fans and members of the media tend to overreact in making bold statements about teams and players after just one or two games have been played. While I recognize that is the nature of the “what have you done for me lately?” society we live in, fans and the media alike must take a step back. While some early season wins may appear to be huge and some losses head-scratching, we all must remember that the college basketball season is a long, evolving process. The NCAA Tournament doesn’t begin for another four months. Most teams will play 12 non-conference games before they begin 16 or 18-game conference schedules.  It’s OK to say something nice about a team that came up with a great early season win or to be skeptical of a school coming off a loss you might never have expected, but making statements such as “Florida State is a bust because it lost to South Alabama!” is just plain foolish. While a loss like that certainly gives you pause, we’ve seen this movie before time and time again in November, especially as the college season has started earlier and earlier over the years. A loss to South Alabama is hardly a definitive indicator of how Florida State will perform in 2012-13. It’s just one of 30+ games the Seminoles will play this season. With that said, I do have a couple of questions about FSU. One, does the team miss the steady point guard presence of Luke Loucks from a season ago (nine assists, 17 turnovers against USA)? Two, is Leonard Hamilton’s defense not as strong as we are accustomed to seeing? South Alabama shot 9-of-15 from deep and Buffalo shot 50% overall from the floor in FSU’s second game on Monday. Those are examples of legitimate concerns, but not affirmative statements about how Florida State’s season will turn out. The Seminoles have plenty of time to come together and fix their weaknesses. Just don’t bury Florida State, or any other team for that matter, before Thanksgiving for crying out loud.

    How Much is FSU Missing Luke Loucks Right Now? (Reuters)

  2. There were quite a few of those aforementioned head-scratchers over the first four days of the season. In addition to Florida State, teams such as Mississippi State, Virginia, Rutgers, South Florida, Purdue, Drexel and Georgia all started the season on the wrong foot. Other schools including Oklahoma State, Texas and Providence struggled with inferior opponents but managed to hang on and win. In some circumstances like those faced at Mississippi State, Virginia, Georgia and Purdue, these are teams rebuilding after critical personnel losses. While it’s unfair to blast their November performance, these losses could be a sign of things to come. On the other hand, you could say a team like Drexel just had a bad night. The Dragons are a talented bunch and the overwhelming favorites in the depleted Colonial Athletic Association. Above all, however, the worst loss of them all belongs to North Texas. The Sun Belt favorites, who boast the talented Tony Mitchell, lost to Division II Alabama-Huntsville on Monday night. What does this mean? Not a whole lot in the grand scheme of things but it underscores how important it is for teams to put forth maximum effort every time out. The instances in which a team can get away with an off night have shrunk over the years due to parity and better talent assembled on non-power six rosters. When trying to analyze a team at this early stage of the season, don’t dismiss a disappointing loss but don’t throw the team under the bus at the same time. There is a very long way to go. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 07.12.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 12th, 2012

  1. Last night featured the annual ESPYs in prime time, and although the host of the event, Rob Riggle, struggled through numerous cricket-chirping moments, we still managed to sit through it. College hoops had a number of good candidates as potential winners (as we handicapped last week), but the crowdsourcing style of the event ensured that few were were validated. The Unibrow was up for several awards, including Best Breakthrough Athlete (which went to Jeremy Lin), Best Male College Athlete (Robert Griffin III, which is reasonable even if we disagree), and Best Team (even Big Blue Nation couldn’t overcome the Miami Heat). Perhaps the two awards that bothered us most were Coach K’s snub in Best Record-Breaking Performance (sorry, but a single-season NFL passing record doesn’t trump 900+ wins over a career) and Best Upset (how do the LA Kings outdo Norfolk State, a MEAC team, downing a team in the conversation for a #1 seed? Ridiculous.). The one silver lining for our game was that Christian Watford’s game-winning three to lift Indiana over #1 Kentucky back in December was chosen as Best Play of the Year.  Oh well — that’s the nature of the event — fan voting. The women’s game, as an aside, cleaned up with Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award (well deserved) and Baylor’s Brittney Griner winning both Best Female Athlete and Best Female College Athlete of the Year.
  2. We know that Mike Krzyzewski may not have had a good enough year to win Best Record-Breaking Performance, but he’s more than good enough to lead Team USA into the 2012 Olympics in a matter of a few weeks from now. Interestingly enough, Team USA will scrimmage John Calipari’s Dominican Republic team tonight, but the real test for him and his charges is to come together as a team in the next few weeks so as to bring home another gold medal for USA Basketball. Dan Wolken writes that Coach K has had to take a different tack than he has at Duke in coaching the elite group of players he has on this team, and that, frankly, he’s a much more likable person in this setting than he is in Durham. It makes sense when you listen to Krzyzewski in any interview talk about his “kids” — his Blue Devils — but he also knows that the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and the rest are grown men who don’t need to be publicly protected or coddled. He’s not been so successful over these many years by not having a keen sense of that very thing — this is yet another example.
  3. It’s been a week of coaching extensions, and Wednesday kept the rally going with the news that Quinnipiac’s Tom Moore recently received a one-year extension to his deal that will keep him under contract until 2016-17. In five seasons in Hamden, his teams have performed admirably well, going 93-65 with three invitations to postseason tournaments. At a NEC school, any postseason appearance is a cause for celebration, so even thought there haven’t been any NCAA bids in that period, a series of NIT/CIT/CBI isn’t too bad. Of course, if or when Jim Calhoun over in Storrs ever retires, the former Connecticut assistant Moore would already have his vehicle GPS set with the directions.
  4. The nation’s top recruit in the Class of 2013 has narrowed his list down to only 10 schools. Jabari Parker used Twitter (what else?) to announce his revised list on Wednesday night, and here are the lucky suitors (he says they’re in no particular order): UK, Stanford, Michigan State, Kansas, Florida, Duke, BYU, Georgetown, DePaul, UNC. The Chicago native certainly has an interesting mix at play here, and perhaps most notably Illinois is no longer on his list. Aside from four of the top six programs of all-time (sorry, Indiana and UCLA), Michigan State, Florida and Georgetown are unsurprising choices. Stanford is clearly the academic choice, BYU is the religious one, and DePaul is throwing a bone to the homeys. If he really is the best high school prospect since LeBron (or Greg Oden), the school that gets him will have a tremendous shot at the Final Four during his only season on campus.
  5. Finally, ESPN announced its 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon lineup on Wednesday, and although the Champions Classic games involving Michigan State-Kansas and Duke-Kentucky are the monsters, there are as always a number of other interesting matchups. WVU visiting Spokane to tip things off, followed by a Davidson trip to The Pit will be fun, but Harvard going to Amherst to take on UMass and a battle of blue-blooded mid-majors in Cincinnati are also well worth skipping out on work. Maybe there’s more coming in the next few months, but in past years there were multiple games broadcast in the evening hour slot, so hopefully ESPN will fill in the blanks a little more just in case one of those Champions Classic games isn’t worth the time.

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After the Buzzer: Opening Weekend Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 14th, 2011

This Weekend’s Lede. All the Way Back. College basketball trickled out last week, but with a total of 232 games taking place between Friday and Sunday nights, it’s safe to say that the November fire hose of hoops has been turned on. Every Top 25 team except one (Memphis) played at least once over the weekend, and those schools went 30-2 playing mostly unranked teams that never had much of a chance. There were a couple of exceptions, of course, and we’ll be sure to get to those below. Regardless of the quality of the ball (and it mostly ranged from adequate to poor), how satisfying was it to see regular updates over the weekend bringing you scores, highlights and storylines from games that actually count? It was fantastic, and with all of the great events coming up in the next two weeks — Champions Classic, Coaches vs. Cancer, CBE, Legends, Maui, PNIT, the conference challenges — it’s a great time to be a college basketball fan.

Your Watercooler Moment.  This one is easy.

The Setting For Outdoor Basketball in San Diego Was Spectacular (credit: US Pacific Fleet)

It’s somewhat rare that a gimmicky game like the Carrier Classic could end up being so completely awesome, but you could tell when you heard the voices of the players, coaches, media and military personnel on Friday night that they all felt like they were in the midst of something special. Maybe it was the fact that it was Veterans Day, or that President Obama was there, or that the Coronado evening came through with a gorgeously orange sunset… we don’t care. What we do care about is that the setting and venue put college basketball on a pedestal (literally) for its unofficial opening night, and for a game that sometimes fails to promote itself in a manner commensurate with its passion, fanfare and excitement, the inaugural Carrier Classic was a big-time hit. Oh, and #1 North Carolina needs to work on its offensive rebounding…

Dunktastic. Is it possible that the best dunk of the entire season was on the opening weekend?  Goodness… Jeremy Lamb, who knew?

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume II

Posted by jbaumgartner on December 13th, 2010

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor.  In this piece he’ll spend each week reviewing the five things he loved and hated about the previous week of college basketball.

The Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..a good comeback story, in this case Notre Dame’s Carleton Scott. Here’s a guy who didn’t play much his first three years and had an issue of some sort last season that caused him to leave the team for a bit. Well he got his chance this year, and the bouncy 6’8 forward has showed big-time versatility while putting up solid numbers in Irish wins against Georgia, Cal and then Saturday against Gonzaga (a career-high 23 points). It’s nice to see someone with obvious talent taking his final chance, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on an NBA roster somewhere next season.

Carleton Scott Deserves a Strong Senior Year

I LOVED…..teams who know how to schedule tough. I’m looking at you, Tom Izzo, and you, too, Bruce Pearl. Game after game you send your guys into hostile environments. This week it was Syracuse in New York for the Spartans, and Pitt in Pittsburgh for the Vols. Yes, MSU has struggled thus far, but these tough games are exactly why that team always wins the close ones in March and makes it to the later rounds. Repeat after me: SOFT SCHEDULERS OF THE WORLD UNITE AND CONFORM, you have nothing to lose but your inflated records, media detractors and early tournament exits.

I LOVED…..the creation of the Champions Classic. Much like ESPN’s little 24-hour marathon to start the year, matching up four elite programs gets fans amped up earlier in the season. No complaints here.

I LOVED…..Illinois using the women’s basketball. Loved might not be a strong enough word. It was hilarious, golden, priceless, whatever adjective you want. If you’re like me, your reaction was something to the tune of: no way…..how…..for seven minutes???…..drop on the floor in laughter. In this day and age of increased replays and greater official oversight in sports, it’s nice to know the zebras can still give us an unthinkable gem like that one. And if you’re  Oakland coach Greg Kampe, you’ve gotta wonder what it says about your team that you were significantly more effective with the women’s ball.

I LOVED…..the disparity between some of the nation’s top freshmen. You have the Jared Sullingers who come out and produce from the first game (props for the 40-spot against IUPUI), but then you have the country’s #1 recruit, Harrison Barnes, struggling to have a big impact. It just shows again that at least one year in college can be an extremely valuable tool for this young talent.

Five Things I Hated This Week

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Introducing the Champions Classic: Get Your Tickets Now

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2010

We’re starting to get a little concerned in the focus and alacrity with which the powers-that-be seem to be listening to us.  And when we say us, we mean all of us — the traditional media who have been pushed, challenged and inspired by the alt-media, and the alt-media who in turn has raised its professionalism and quality to compete and bolster the establishment.  We pushed back in a historic way with NCAA Tournament expansion, and the result was a tolerable, if not ideal, one.  We’ve asked for greater scrutiny and accountability from the NCAA in how it polices its programs, and although we’re a long way from finished, the organization has gotten better.  And most recently, we’ve begged for a true tipoff event that will fire people up and remind them that college basketball has returned in the midst of a crowded fall sports landscape. 

The Champions Classic Will Have a F4 Feel To It

Today’s announcement of the creation of the Champions Classic, a new marquee season tipoff event that will feature, quite literally, four of the best programs in the sport playing each other over the next three seasons at different venues, is a great first step toward accomplishing that goal.  ESPN of course will carry the event (probably as the marquee event of the 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon), and we’re already salivating at the matchups between some of roundball’s most regal programs.  Here’s the schedule — try to contain yourself — we have to get through this season first:

Year 1 – Nov. 15, 2011 (Madison Square Garden, NYC)

  • Duke vs. Michigan State
  • Kentucky vs. Kansas

Year 2- Nov. 13, 2012 (Georgia Dome, Atlanta)

  • Duke vs. Kentucky
  • Michigan State vs. Kansas

Year 3 – Nov. 12, 2013 (United Center, Chicago)

  • Kentucky vs. Michigan State
  • Duke vs. Kansas

Um, wow.  It’s taking every ounce of willpower that we have around here to resist the urge to already start breaking down these games.  These are Final Four-caliber matchups at truly neutral sites, and there’s no reason to believe that as long as K, Calipari, Izzo and Self are around that any one of these programs will have much of a  “down” year.  We also love that the venue rotates between different host cities, which again gives it the feel of a major event.  There are enough top-drawer programs involved that will sell out no matter where it’s held in a given year.  Hopefully after this three-year rotation, the organizers will keep moving it around, careful to avoid any blatant home bias (i.e., holding it in Kansas City or Louisville). 

According to the release article, all four representative coaches were immediately on board with this idea, and it makes us wonder if the organizers were four-for-four in their solicitations for this event.  There’s one notable name missing, of course, and that’s North Carolina.  We wonder if the Heels ever got the call, or whether Duke was #1A and Carolina was #1B in terms of fielding an ACC team in the Classic.  Of course it wouldn’t make sense to have both because they wouldn’t play each other and it would mess up the rotation, but presumably the organizers could have considered slotting one or the other into the event in different years.  We like it better this way, though.  It provides consistency over the three years and we can already start slobbering on our keyboards about future matchups.  Furthermore, even though the NCAA needs to clean up the trickling-out problem of the start of the season, the Champions Classic will go a country mile in slapping America across the forehead that college hoops is back, baby, and you should pay attention.  Great decision. 

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