For all the things ESPN has messed up in recent years (and there are a lot of them), its 24-hour college hoops marathon shows where the network continues to shine.
The hoops marathon is pure, old-school ESPN at its best. Games around the clock at funky hours, similar to how the Ohio Valley Conference used to buy time on the network to play games at midnight Eastern time when one Jim Delany was its commissioner. Intriguing matchups featuring good teams regardless of conference affiliation, as opposed to force-feeding us more games involving football conference bottom feeders or powerhouses hosting guarantee games that shouldn’t see the light of day on national TV (see: Elon at Duke, Dec. 15; apologies Phoenix fans).
It’s an event that truly builds up buzz on the campuses where it takes place. When schools like Monmouth, Rider and Florida Gulf Coast get a chance to be the featured game on ESPN, it’s a big deal. Even if it is at 6 a.m. in the morning.
This is a great day on the college hoops calendar. It’s also a unique day in that games will continue going on as we recap the Morning Dish. St. Mary’s and High Point have won games that started today already, and more are going on right now.
Monday night (and Tuesday morning’s) action
- Miami (Fla.) came from way back to stun Florida 69-67 on the heroics of Angel Rodgriguez, who hit the game-winning off-balance 3-pointer with 16 seconds left for the final of his 24 points. The Hurricane win snapped a 33-game win streak at home for the Gators. Could be a major springboard for Miami, while don’t read too much into it for Florida yet, since four players were out for this one.
- Winthrop surprised Clemson 77-74. This wasn’t a fluke, either; the teams went back and forth all night, but the Eagles made the plays late.
- Temple topped Louisiana Tech 82-75. Solid win for the Owls, who deserve some close wins after so many heartbreaking losses last year. Tech has some work to do. Experienced starting core, but lot of newcomers to break in. Also shot a putrid 12 of 26 on free throws.
- Iowa State ran away from Georgia State 81-58. The Panthers hung around for a half, but the Cyclones eventually made GSU pay for rushing the pace and launching too many ill-advised shots.
- TCU destroyed Washington State 81-54. The Horned Frogs looked really good, were up two touchdowns-14-0-before the Cougars even scored.
- St. John’s trailed Franklin Pierce (Franklin Pierce?) 50-43 at halftime before firing up for a 94-81 win. It took D’Angelo Harrison piled up 31 points and 17 rebounds, and the Johnnies needed it to beat the Division II Ravens from New Hampshire.
- Vermont defeated Siena 84-76. The Saints have high expectations this year while the Catamounts are in building mode, so this is a surprise. Vermont shot a robust 68.4%.
- Florida Gulf Coast topped UC Santa Barbara 81-75 in overtime. Alan Williams was terrific as usual (29 points, 16 rebounds) but Brett Comer also was superb (28 points, 11 assists).
- Tennessee-Martin is already showing positive signs under new coach Heath Schroyer. The Skyhawks, bad last year at 8-23, played Marquette reasonably well in their opener, and then came back from 19 points down early in the second half to win at Arkansas State 75-73 last night. Twymond Howard, one of a host of newcomers for UTM, had 23 points.
- Finally, FDU-Teaneck blew out FDU-Florham 102-61. That would be the more familiar Division I Fairleigh Dickinson getting the win over its Division III sister campus.Also, results from the marathon…
- Gonzaga buried SMU 72-56. The Bulldogs looked terrific and are so tough when playing at home. But as Fran Fraschilla alluded to on the broadcast, it was a little concerning seeing the Mustangs look so disheveled in this game. It does have to be remembered that this is still a program not used to being consistently on the big stage (unlike, say, Gonzaga), and there may be some growing pains yet as it gets used to being there.
- Oregon pulled away from Detroit late to win 83-66. The Titans led early in the second half and ran with the Ducks most of the way but flat out ran out of gas, while Joseph Young heated up in the second half. The Quack Attack has a thin roster, but still some talent, and look for Dana Altman to get the most of it.
- Colorado and Auburn was a terrific game for about 28 minutes, but the Buffs finished on a 39-13 run for a resounding 90-59 win. When did Colorado turn into Loyola Marymount circa 1990? The Buffaloes were pushing the pace like we see few teams do anymore, seemingly making even a Bruce Pearl-coached team want to slow it down occasionally. Fun game, and CU looks good early on again, which is developing into a trend for Tad Boyle’s teams.
- St. Mary’s handled New Mexico State 83-71. Stanford transfer Aaron Bright had 21 points, and good news for the Gaels in production off the bench from Garrett Jackson, who had 16 points and 6 boards.
- And in the most recent game finishing, High Point pulled a mild upset, defeating Hawaii 62-54. The Panthers are 3-0 and champions of the Rainbow Classic after finishing the game on a 14-3 run.
- Akron’s Demetrius Treadwell has been suspended indefinitely by the school after being accused of assaulting a member of the Akron women’s basketball team. Very unfortunate to hear, as Treadwell had to work to graduate in order to gain back his final year of eligibility this year.
- The NCAA has announced its men’s basketball tournament sites for 2016, 2017 and 2018. A couple highlights include the First Four games staying in Dayton, plus the return to referring to games in the round of 64 as first round games, eliminating the hideous “second round” reference to those games the organization tried to con people into buying. As far as sites selected, the list includes a whole host of stale, NBA-style arenas with very little character, a few true college sites (Providence, Greensboro, Boise) and some areas getting tourney games for the first time in a long time (Wichita) or ever (Des Moines, Brooklyn).
Some might call this the official start of the season, with our first heaping helping of juicy matchups. Some of these take place mighty early, so listed by starting time rather than pick of importance:
Northern Iowa at Stephen F. Austin (9 a.m. EST, ESPN2) Outstanding matchup, much deserved TV showcase for SFA. And this would be a quality road win for UNI.
Wichita State vs. Memphis (2 p.m. EST, ESPN) From Sioux Falls, S.D. The Shockers looked to hardly miss a beat in their opener, easily dispatching New Mexico State (though that 0-for-11 donut from 3-point range doesn’t look good). Very interested to see how the Tigers start the regular season after that ugly preseason loss to Division II Chrstian Brothers.
Utah at San Diego State (4 p.m. EST, ESPN) The Aztecs solidly handled Cal State-Northridge in their opener, while the Utes needed some time before finally pulling away from Ball State. We’re still not all in on Utah yet, let’s see how the Utes are without the element of surprise this year, but a win here could go a long way toward changing those feelings.
Toledo at Virginia Commonwealth (6 p.m. EST, ESPN) The Rockets have their sights set on the NCAA Tournament, and they’ll get a good gauge of where they’re at by going up against the Rams. Toledo was a little sloppy in its opener with 17 turnovers against Northern Arizona.
Michigan State vs. Duke (7 p.m. EST, ESPN) Game played in Indianapolis. If you’re not a fan of the participating teams, you may want to watch these two Champions Classic games on mute, if the over-the-top broadcasts of last year are even close to replicated. Terrific games, outstanding coaches and players, we get it. Let’s just enjoy it, instead of trying to top each other’s superlatives.
Northeastern at Florida State (7 p.m. EST) These two played last year in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, with the Huskies leading much of the way before the Seminoles won it at the buzzer.
Long Beach State at Xavier (7 p.m. EST, Fox Sports 1) ESPN will hyperventilate about freshmen all day Tuesday, but if you’re looking for some good freshmen you won’t hear as much about, watch this one. The 49ers played well at BYU, and that was without productive guard Tyler Lamb. Long Beach has an excellent freshman class that should grow in a hurry against Coach Dan Monson’s typical challenging schedule. Xavier also was led by a freshman (Trevon Bluiett, 18 points) in its 33-point opening win over Northern Arizona.
Kentucky vs. Kansas (9 p.m., ESPN) From Indianapolis. This may be the reality check for all of those spewing about the Wildcats going 45-0 this year. Or, a 20-point win just might shift the rhetoric into maximum overdrive.