RTC Live is back with another full slate of games tonight. From Ann Arbor to South Bend to Moraga, we’ll be bringing you coverage from around the country as the ESPN 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon tips off this evening. St. Mary’s has been in this 2 AM ET slot for several years now, and it’s always a raucous affair that results in the home team winning; can UNI change the trend — we’ll find out tonight, after the jump.
The ESPN 24-hour Tip-Off Marathon starts at midnight tonight. If you are a bored college student, a chronic insomniac, or a college basketball blogger, you may be planning on making a run at the ridiculous, meaning staying up for the entire event. While we can’t officially tell you that this is a good idea and recommend that you go ahead and do it, we don’t blame you, either. It’s a great event. We wish all the decision-makers could organize it so that this “Tip-Off Marathon” actually was a tip-off to the season, but even though it doesn’t really tip anything off, it’s still a blast. You’ll get an early edge on your hoops-loving friends and sound ever-so-insightful as you talk intelligently in late November about mid-majors your buddies and bud-ettes won’t even plan on watching until Championship Week. Of course, even if you don’t remember, say, that power forward from Northern Iowa who really caught fire, or why Rider’s man-to-man defense impressed you, you’ll still have the memory of watching as these teams and their fans all got together and did something…well, really bizarre. And you never know; someday ESPN might decide to feature your school for the 4 AM ET game, and you’d want people to watch, too, right?
Most importantly, though, once you’ve made it through an entire 24-hour marathon, nobody can take it away from you. ESPN has held the event three times, now, and RTC’s John Stevens has stayed up for all three and live-blogged each of them. He rides around town like some college basketball version of General Patton, with his front license plate bearing three gold stars on a red background, one for each marathon he’s survived. And we won’t even get into the matter of those ivory-handled revolvers; that’s another story altogether. Eccentricities aside, John has a few useful tips for you if you’re headsworn on showing you’re at least as much of a man as Andy Katz by going the distance.
#1: KNOW THYSELF, AND KNOW THINE ENEMY
I used to have a job that, once or twice a week, required me to stay up for anywhere from 24 to 35 consecutive hours. Because I knew when those were coming, I could plan accordingly. I knew what to bring with me to the job to help pass the time, and my family and friends knew not to expect me to answer the phone (or my door, after it was over and I was sleeping) or meet them for a night out, or whatever. In other words, the earlier you can get all your preparations done and get into the spirit of this thing, the better it will go for you. You need to get your supermarket trip done immediately — seriously, as in right after you’re done reading this — if you haven’t already. Don’t get into a spot where you’re watching Drexel at Rider(6 AM ET) or Morehead State at College of Charleston(8 AM) and you suddenly find that you’ve run out of Sun Chips or Chee-tos or whatever your bagged fuel of choice is. Now you’re screwed, unless you have friends who will bail you out by bringing you provisions. Play it safe, here. Always get a little more at the supermarket than you think you’ll need.
Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
Two games from the ESPN marathon highlight tonight’s slate but don’t sleep on a potential upset special in South Bend and a power conference battle in LA.
Detroit @ Notre Dame – 9:00 PM EST on ESPNU (***) (cross-posted on RTC Live)
Eric Atkins Looked Great in ND's First Game This Year
Point guard Eric Atkins carried the Fighting Irish to victory in their first game this season, one of four (including tonight) without senior forward Tim Abromaitis, currently sitting out due to a suspension. The sophomore Atkins poured in 27 points on 6-7 FG (along with six assists) in a win over Mississippi Valley State on Saturday. Against star Detroit point guard Ray McCallum, Atkins will have to protect the ball and run the offense effectively against a hungry Titans squad looking to upset a Big East squad on its home floor. As a result, Atkins’ scoring opportunities may be reduced. Without Abromaitis, Notre Dame is very thin and must turn to Scott Martin for a big offensive output. If Martin or Atkins is held in check, the Irish could be looking at their first loss in only their second game of the season.
Detroit’s offense is loaded with scoring threats from McCallum to Chase Simon and Nick Minnerath, among others. While McCallum deservedly gets most of the press, Minnerath and his front court teammate, LaMarcus Lowe, could be the difference in this game. Notre Dame has a collection of 6’5” and 6’6” type guys on its roster with only Jack Cooley and Mike Broghammer providing any kind of bulk in the paint. The Titans have a chance to really take advantage of the mismatch in the lane and offset any advantages Notre Dame may have elsewhere. Detroit and Notre Dame play at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of pace. Expect the Titans to push the pace all night, attacking Atkins defensively in search of turnovers and easy basket opportunities in the open floor. With McCallum’s play-making ability and Atkins coming off a four turnover game, this matchup sets up well for Detroit.
Will Mike Brey counter with the burn offense? It’s possible but Brey trusted Ben Hansbrough to run that for all 40 minutes last season. He’s no longer around so we doubt Brey will use it all game with a sophomore point guard. You may see it at times, especially if Detroit picks up a lot of easy buckets early, but the Irish just need to execute their normal half court offense and avoid turnovers. Pace, rebounding and defense will be what to watch for in this game. Cooley had ten rebounds last time out and a repeat performance may be needed for the Irish to avoid a loss. Neither team has a reputation for defending well so this could be a high scoring game. With Abromaitis out, Detroit may actually have more weapons to turn to offensively. The Titans have a terrific chance to win this game on the road.
Nebraska @ USC – 10:30 PM EST on Prime Ticket (**)
USC returns only one starter from last year’s team, Maurice Jones. At 5’7”, Jones has trouble getting his shot off and it showed against Cal State Northridge on Friday, going 0-7 (a major part of USC’s 0-15) from deep. It won’t get easier against Doc Sadler’s defense. USC is going to have to score points inside to win this game. Dewayne Dedmon and Aaron Fuller can do that but the Cornhuskers ranked #6 in two point defense last season. Kevin O’Neill also has to find some way for his team to rebound since Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stepheson are no longer in LA. Nebraska outrebounded South Dakota 42-24 in its Friday victory.
Highlighters & Headsets is an occasional look at the coverage of college basketball – from television to print (they still make paper?), blogs to bracket busters, and Gus Johnson to Gameday – written by RTC contributor Steve Moore. He welcomes your comments, column ideas and Dickie (V) jokes at email@example.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @smoore1117.
Hoops Marathon Tests ESPN’s Bench Depth
ESPN catches a lot of flak from a lot of people – much of it deserved. But as almost any college basketball fan will tell you, the College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon is one of the best things on the ESPN calendar. It’s unique and quirky, without being overly gimmicky. We get to see teams and players we won’t see again all season, and have an excuse to stay up until all hours of the night. For me (and I hope at least a few others, or else no one will be reading this), part of the allure is also keeping an eye (and ear) on how ESPN performs during its annual test of endurance and depth.
The WWL Nailed This Event
Personally, I think this is the kind of thing that proves why ESPN is the gold standard. Its resources (read: dollar bills, y’all) are endless, and, for the most part, its announcing crews are professional and entertaining. Unlike some people here at RTC, I couldn’t make it through the entire 24 hours without the help of Red Bull, Four Loko or some other delicious energy beverage. But I did catch enough to put together a quick rundown of the ups and downs of ESPN’s effort on what was, overall, an incredible day for hoops fans everywhere.
THE PERFECT ATTITUDE
Nearly all of ESPN’s announcing teams on Tuesday – and the general attitude of the network’s promotion – seemed to understand the event. By that, I mean the network seemed to understand that the whole concept of playing basketball at 2, 4 and 6 a.m. is a little strange, and it’s OK to increase the off-beat goofiness and drop the life-or-death mindset that is more appropriate during Championship Week or UNC-Duke.
As the hours got later, the announcers seemed to adapt with the late-night viewers watching at home. Sean McDonough and Bill Raftery (Memphis-Miami, midnight) always sound like they’re sitting at the bar talking about the game, but Carter Blackburn/Mark Gottfried (St. Mary’s-St. John’s, 2 a.m.) and Todd Harris/Mark Adams (Hawaii/Central Michigan, 4 a.m.) lightened the mood and didn’t take themselves too seriously. We got much less in the way of X’s and O’s, and more basic information about teams and players we may not know too well.
The prize, however, goes to the duo of Rob Stone and Jay Williams, who called two games in two different states, 12 hours apart (Monmouth-Stony Brook, 6 a.m., and Villanova/Marist, 5:30 p.m.). Stone’s lighthearted style, and the fact that he’s not a college hoops specialist, just seemed to work well with a ridiculous 6 a.m. tip in a high school-sized gym at Monmouth. Part of the allure of the 6 a.m. game is wondering what the atmosphere is like and whether the players and coaches are into it. The duo kept me interested, and also seemed completely on board with their early wakeup call. It would have been easy to tell if the pair felt like it was forced into the ridiculous assignment. Stone and Williams seemed to embrace the absurdity of it all, and even filmed their trek from Monmouth to Villanova. The clip of Stone rocking out to Journey was one of the day’s highlights.
Jason Williams Has Really Improved Over the Years
In fact, I would even suggest a few more of these quirky announcing journeys during the marathon. Maybe let McDonough and Raftery start and finish the event, or send Dickie V to Monmouth or one of the smaller schools. God knows he sees the ACC enough.
That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude. Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people. We’ll try to do one of these each week during the season. We’re fairly discerning around here, but if you want to be included, send us an email with your take telling us why at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Week’s Topic: What did you learn from this year’s ESPN 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon?
Dave Zeitlin, RTC Contributor
I learned that anyone who doesn’t root for St. Mary’s is clearly racist towards large, awkward-looking Australians who tend to never miss shots. I learned that it will likely be a running theme all season for people to joke that Robert Morris head coach Andrew Toole looks like a 15-year-old, but all I’m going to say is that I think he’s going to be a damn good head coach — his early-morning loss to Kent State aside. (Am I saying this because I’m legally obligated to mention a Penn alum in everything I write for RTC? Yes.) I learned that sometimes you just have to click the channel down button on your remote when there’s a better women’s game going on. (Sorry, Florida, you should have kept it close. The UConn-Baylor showdown was far more exciting.) And finally, I learned that if any other sport tried to pull this off, you’d fall asleep faster than Steve Fisher after dinner – which shows college basketball is truly the best sport on the planet. Actually, scratch that last one. I didn’t learn anything new there.
Kellen Carpenter, RTC Contributor
Jared Sullinger is for real. Harrison Barnes and Kyrie Irving, who I thought would be dueling for the position of best freshman in the country, are now both more than a few steps behind in their own race. While I tried not to read too much into how Sullinger dismantled the overmatched Aggies of North Carolina A&T (where he put up 19 points and 14 rebounds in 21 minutes), it’s impossible to ignore his domination over a ranked team like Florida, where he put up 26 points on an efficient 17 shots and pulled down 10 rebounds a full half of which were offensive. His offensive game is as polished as advertised and his passing from the post is sharp beyond his years. His play isn’t perfect, but this is where I remind you that he just played his second game in a college uniform. Can you imagine the havoc this guy is going to wreak in the spring?
John Stevens, RTC Editor
It’s de rigueur to heap praise all over ESPN’s 24-hour hoops marathon (as much as it has become, apparently, to live-blog the whole thing), and I usually fall right in line, but there’s one change I’d recommend — fewer games with more time in between. Wait, hear me out first. As it is, the games are packed over a few channels and it only takes one 60+ foul game and/or an overtime thriller to throw the whole thing off schedule. Then you’ve got games switching channels (a pinch, if you’re DVRing), simultaneous games of teams you want to see, and the occasional joining-in of games that have less than ten minutes remaining in the first half. And if there’s prime-time programming on a spare ESPN that the decision-makers refuse to bump or leave early, you’re screwed until the schedule clears. Three or four fewer games and a 30-minute buffer would help release the pressure buildup, it would mean less juggling of games between channels, and would prevent the late join-ins. There’s not much wrong with the marathon, but I think this is one of the few improvements that could make it even better.
Matt Patton, RTC Contributor
Virginia Tech has a long way to go. Count me as one of those people who thought the Hokies would be a beacon of consistency after returning five starters on their way to finishing second in the ACC. Kansas State really made Virginia Tech look bad, even without playing Curtis Kelly or Jacob Pullen the first half. Even on the road, a top 25 team should have been able to take advantage of a team playing without its two best players. I expect them to improve, but Virginia Tech showed me the reason they were left out of the Big Dance last year. The second thing I took away from the Marathon was Florida’s press. I know Ohio State has some point guard questions, but pressing gave Ohio State open shot after open shot. The Buckeyes shot over 60% from the field on the road, largely thanks to the quality looks they were getting. I can’t count the number of times Aaron Craft would sprint up the court, forcing Florida’s post man to leave Sullinger all alone for a free dunk. My final takeaway was no surprise: San Diego State is the real deal (and Gonzaga was a little overrated).
Zach Hayes, RTC Editor/Contributor
I learned that Ohio State can win a national championship. With Jared Sullinger providing a scoring presence in the paint to complement a talented, multi-dimensional supporting cast in William Buford, David Lighty and Jon Diebler, the Buckeyes’ road thrashing of Florida in which they surrendered just eight turnovers against the constant Gator pressure was the most impressive victory of the marathon. I also learned that San Diego State is the best team in the West. Billy White’s 30/9 and stud sophomore Kawhi Leonard’s double-double spearheaded a slaying of Gonzaga on a home floor where the Zags are 77-5 since 2004. The Aztecs are a legitimate Elite Eight contender. I learned that the freshman that will have the most impact for Josh Pastner’s heralded recruiting class is Memphis native Joe Jackson and Clint Steindl’s emergence may be the difference between a NCAA or NIT bid during the post-Samhan era at Saint Mary’s. I learned that Rick Pitino is at his best when he’s counted out and that Kansas State can win without big contributions from Jacob Pullen or Curtis Kelly. Most of all, though, was what was reinforced rather than learned as I watched 26 hours of hoops on Tuesday: college basketball is the greatest sport on earth.
Since you’re going to be up all night with us anyway, we thought we’d get a head start with today’s M5 to give you a little bit of reading material before we get started. As you undoubtedly already know, John Stevens will be BGTDing the entire event from start to finish, but there are a couple of other nuggets we want to throw your way as well. We will also have a couple of RTC Live events during the day, starting at 2 am ET with St. John’s visiting St. Mary’s in a battle of Catholic schools with a little something to prove this year (SMC – that they’re not going away; SJU – that they’re back). Later at Noon ET, we’ll be in Tulsa for the crosstown rivalry game between the Golden Hurricane and Oral Roberts. So keep an eye out for those good ones.
Let’s talk some matchups. Mike DeCourcy took some time yesterday to rank-order the ESPN games from #1 to #12, and although we don’t have any beef with the top three, that St. Mary’s-St. John’s game should be higher. Come on… the return of Steve Lavin on the sidelines, the burden of expectations, a packed bandbox of a gymnasium… that’s a top four game. Our own Zach Hayes also put together a list of some things each team in selected games needs to do to win in his Ball Reversal post that went up on Monday.
We don’t talk much around here about Division II basketball, but this score caught our attention: West Liberty 154, Lock Haven 48. The West Virginia-based Hilltoppers put nine players into double figures and shot 68% for the game (including hitting 21 treys). Still, they fell short of the all-time D2 record margin of victory of 118 points set by Mississippi College nearly forty years ago. As an interesting piece of historical errata, LIU holds the DI record with a 117-point victory over Medgar Evers (presumably more than just him) in 1997, while Purdue holds the record between current Division I teams with a 112-6 win over Indiana State in 1911. Yes, you read that correctly.
This column by Ray Holloman at Fanhouse has more than you’d ever want to know about Stetson basketball and its relevance to Coach K/Duke and Jeff Bzdelik/Wake Forest, both of whom dropped a game to the Hatters early in their ACC careers. If you’re lost, it’s because you should be. While we’re making absurd comparisons, both Krzyzewski and Bzdelik drink water AND brush their teeth with the wet substance. We’ll have a story up on this tomorrow.