A viewer’s guide to the 24-hour hoops marathon

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Here’s to hoping that all of you college hoopheads out there were able to get a good night’s sleep on Sunday, because Monday night brings with it the now-annual College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon.

What that means is that for a full 24 hours — actually, its closer to 30 if you’re like me and willing to start the “marathon” with Monday’s 7:00 pm tips — starting when the calendar changes from Monday until Tuesday, there will be a college basketball game on TV. For me, this is the precipice of heaven. I’ll be up all night watching, pounding Monster’s (Red Bull is just too weak these days) and, in all likelihood, putting down an extra large pizza by myself.

Sounds glorious, doesn’t it?

For the majority of the sane world, however, I realize that life does not revolve around college basketball and the chance to stay up all night, drinking caffeine and eating pizza (all of a sudden, this sounds like a sixth grade slumber party). So I decided to break down the marathon for you. Hopefully, this helps you select which games to watch, which games to ignore and when to fire up the TiVO:

Only miss these games to see the birth of your FIRST child:

1. 8:00 pm: Florida @ Ohio State: You remember what happened last year, right? The Gators hung with Ohio State for the first 25 minutes or so before Jared Sullinger took over and carried the Buckeyes to a resounding, 93-75 win. And that happened when the Gators had a big front line. This season, all of the weight of battling in the paint will fall on the shoulders of Patric Young. Part of what makes that matchup in the post so intriguing is that Young and Sullinger are both potential lottery picks, but they are nearly polar opposites in terms of ability. Sullinger is a big, physical, fairly-unathletic kid with a variety of post moves and an innate understanding of positioning and how to use his hindquarters. Young, on the other hand, still has a way to go in terms of learning how to play the game and developing his post arsenal, but he’s a freak athlete.

The matchup in the back court carries some intrigue as well. Florida’s potent back court has been well-publicized. Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, Bradley Beal and Mike Rosario are as talented as any perimeter attack in the country. But the Buckeyes have a couple of all-league caliber guards on their roster as well. Aaron Craft will lock down whoever Thad Matta decides to put him on while William Buford will be a difficult matchup for any of the Billy Donovan’s defenders. The x-factor may be Lenzelle Smith. The sophomore looked like a promising defensive player in Ohio State’s first game of the year vs. Wright State. Now is a chance to prove it.

2. 7:00 pm: Duke vs. Michigan State (Madison Square Garden): First and foremost, the interest in this game has less to do in the action on the court than what the result of a Duke win means off the court. You couldn’t have written the story any better. Coach K is in line to win his 903rd game at the Garden on national television in an event called the Champion’s Classic. What is the significance of the number 903? Its one more than the number of wins current record-holder Bobby Knight had in his career. There is no doubt that Duke fans will be scrounging for these ticket stubs should the Blue Devils pull out the win.

There is no guarantee that Duke wins this game, however. The Blue Devils resemble North Carolina to me in a few ways. They have a point guard that can’t defend his own shadow and tall, athletic posts that can be pushed around by more physical defenders. In the Carrier Classic last Friday, the Spartans abused Carolina on the offensive glass. They forced their fair share of turnovers as well. If Michigan State hadn’t shot an abysmal 30.6% from the floor, they would have had a chance to win that game. If Draymond Green, Derrick Nix and Branden Dawson were able to push around John Henson and Tyler Zeller, what happens when they go up against the Plumlees.

3. 12:00 pm: Belmont @ Memphis: This is the most intriguing game of the entire marathon for me. This is the Tiger’s first real game of the season, and while we are all expecting Josh Pastner’s terrific sophomore class to show a marked improvement, there is no guarantee that will happen. Belmont is not an easy team to play in the first game of the season. Just ask Duke, who needed a late three from Andre Dawkins to finally take control against the Bruins.

Belmont is deep, they are experienced and they love to press and are excellent at forcing turnovers. The Memphis back court of Joe Jackson, Charles Carmouche and Antonio Barton is not going to have an easy task trying to protect the ball. The other thing Belmont does well is shoot the ball. They have a tendency to live and die by the three, but they get hot as a team; when a couple go down, the Bruins are capable of catching fire and hitting five or six in a row. But what makes Belmont an ideal upset candidate is that they have a couple big bodies inside in Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders. Folks in Memphis have been raving about Tarik Black, the Tiger’s sophomore center, and having two capable post players to throw at him is important.

You can miss these for a hot date, but they have to be at least a nine and NOT already your significant other:

4. 9:30 pm: Kentucky vs. Kansas (Madison Square Garden): I have to be honest — I don’t think Kansas is going to be able to hang with the Wildcats. I love Thomas Robinson as much as anyone in the country this side of Jeff Goodman and I think that Bill Self is a terrific coach, but the Jayhawks are not deep and they are not overly experienced, meaning that most of their players are taking on (much) more expanded roles this year. I’m not convinced that Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor are the answer at the point, either. As for Kentucky, the Wildcats are once again incorporating a loaded recruiting class, but this year they add that crop of youngsters to a couple of talented sophomores in Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. I have a bad feeling this game could end up looking something like the Carrier Classic.

5. 2:00 am: Northern Iowa @ St. Mary’s: Northern Iowa was supposed to be going through a bit of a rebuilding season this year, as they deal with replacing Lucas O’Rear and Kwadzo Ahelegbe. I, personally, had them in the bottom half of the Missouri Valley. (Well, sixth, but six out of ten in the bottom half.) That’s why I was the first to get in line congratulating the Panthers for their 17 points road win against an Old Dominion team that had Kent Bazemore in the lineup. This will be a real test for UNI, however. St. Mary’s may have lost Mickey McConnell, but they brought back Matthew Dellavedova to anchor a back court with a couple of talented sophomores. The Gaels also return their entire front line, meaning that Jake Koch is going to have his hands full. This would be a big win for both teams and both leagues. The MVC has had a good early showing (Missouri State won at Nevada) while Loyola Marymount’s win over UCLA was negated by their loss to Middle Tennessee State and San Francisco’s loss to North Dakota State.

6. 12:00 am: Washington State @ Gonzaga: Elias Harris looks like he is all-but back to his freshman year form, as he soared for a couple of big throwdowns in the Zags opening day win against Eastern Washington. Harris finished with 16 points and eight boards, but he wasn’t even the best big man on the team, as Robert Sacre went for 22 points and 10 boards. But Gonzaga’s back court struggled on both ends of the floor, allowing EWU to shoot 13-29 from three. The Cougars have a couple of talented guards in Reggie Moore and Faisal Aden. Will the Bulldogs be able to stop them?

You can play bridge with your Grandmother, just make sure you have the game on in the back ground:

7. 2:00 pm: San Diego State @ Baylor: San Diego State will be playing their fourth game in five days on Tuesday (by the end of the week, it will be six games in nine days), with their tip in Waco coming barely 40 hours after the final whistle of the Aztec’s 89-74 win over UC-Davis. SDSU is 3-0 heading into the game, getting some terrific play out of their back court of Chase Tapley, Jamaal Franklin and Xavier Thames. The issue, however, is that Baylor’s front line is loaded even with Perry Jones sitting out, while SDSU relies on a guy that struggled to get minutes on LSU last season. Its too bad this game couldn’t have been played with last year’s SDSU team.

8. 4:00 pm: Rhode Island @ Texas: For the first time in what feels like forever, the Longhorns are going to be rebuilding this season. They have a couple of pieces in their back court — Myck Kabongo has been compared to Chris Paul too many times to court, while J’Covan Brown had 28 points and eight assists in his first game — but Rhody is no pushover. They got 38 points from Jamil Wilson as they took George Mason to overtime at the Patriot Center on Friday. Can they give Texas a similar run?

9. 10:00 am: Kent State @ West Virginia: Kent State might as well be the same team as Oral Roberts. Both are veteran-laden teams with a history of success in the program and a potential conference Player of the Year at the forward spot. Oral Roberts lost to WVU 78-71 on Friday night, and the Golden Eagles shot themselves in the foot down the stretch, making a couple of mental mistakes and missing two wide-open threes. Justin Greene is the guy to keep an eye on for Kent State. But if that’s not enough, you should watch to get a glimpse of Deniz Kilicli, who is doing his best to try and look like the Mountaineer mascot.

10. 10:00 pm: Austin Peay @ California: The Governors have a star in Tyshawn Edmundson, a St. John’s transfer that can put up points in a hurry. That said, Cal has been one of the most impressive teams in the country early in the season (and the only impressive team in the Pac-12). It will be worth it to watch Jorge Gutierrez try and slow down Edmundson.

11. 6:00 am: Drexel @ Rider: I know this game looks boring on paper, but there is some intrigue here. Drexel is a favorite to win the CAA this season. Bruiser Flint’s team is, essentially, a mid-major model of Pitt. They preach defensive discipline and attack the glass with reckless abandon. This Rider team just lost to Pitt by a score of 86-78 on Sunday, and the game was much closer than the final. It took an Ashton Gibbs three with a minute left to finally open up a six point cushion. What else are you going to watch, anyway? Good Morning America?

You know what? Go ahead. Get some sleep. I won’t even be mad:

12. 8:00 am: Morehead State @ College of Charleston: It will be fun to see two mid-major superstars go head-to-head in Kenneth Faried and Andrew Goudelock. Wait, what? They graduated? Oh. Well, then.

13. South Alabama @ Hawaii: If you stay up through this game, you’ve reached true junkie status by allowing your addiction to affect your work. There is no way you’ll be able to function normally the rest of the week. I can tell you this, though: Troy will be up for this game. He loves the Rainbows.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Saturday’s NCAA Tournament Recap: An evening full of buzzer-beaters and monster performances

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No. 5-seed Kentucky advanced to the Sweet 16 with a win over No. 13-seed Buffalo, and the star of the show was the guy that’s been Kentucky’s best player for three months: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He finished with 27 points, six boards, six assists and a pair of steals on 10-for-12 shooting while making both of his threes and 5-of-7 free throws.

That’s a ridiculous line, one that makes me wonder whether or not we were premature in saying that this Kentucky team does not have a superstar that can take a game over.


  • ZACH NORVELL, Gonzaga: Two days after hitting a game-winning shot against No. 13-seed UNC Greensboro, Norvell went for 28 points, 12 boards, four assists and two steals — sidenote: !!!!! — as the Zags beat No. 5-seed Ohio State.
  • ANGEL DELGADO, Seton Hall: 24 points, 23 boards, five assists, career over. Salute, sir. It’s been a pleasure.
  • KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech: Evans finished with 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting to lead the Red Raiders to the Sweet 16 with a win over Florida.


You make the call here.

Was it Jordan Poole’s buzzer-beating three for No. 3-seed Michigan:

Or Clayton Custer hitting Loyola-Chicago’s second game-winner in the span of three days?:


The buzzer-beater that didn’t matter … did.

Myles Powell, with Seton Hall down 83-76, hit this running three at the buzzer. It meant that the final score was 83-79, meaning that Seton Hall covered the 4.5 points that Kansas was favored by. It also meant that the Pirates covered the second half line (Kansas -1.5) and Seton Hall’s wild last minute rally meant that this game also hit the over:

Bad beats everywhere.


No. 1-seed Kansas was +21 in the 22 minutes that Udoka Azubuike played on Saturday. They were -17 in the 18 minutes he didn’t play.

No. 1-seed Villanova shot 17-for-41 from three in an 81-58 win over Alabama to get to the Sweet 16.

Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter overwhelmed No. 7-seed Rhode Island as No. 2-seed Duke is now a Sweet 16 team.

VIDEO: Jordan Poole’s last-second three sends No. 3-seed Michigan into the Sweet 16

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For the first time in this NCAA tournament, we have a buzzer-beater.

After Devin Davis missed a pair of free throws with 3.6 seconds left, No. 3-seed Michigan went the length of the court and Jordan Poole, a freshman who was scoreless on the night, buried a three as time expired to send the Wolverines into the Sweet 16 with a 64-63 win:

When asked after the game how a freshman was able to make that shot, Michigan head coach John Beilein said he has “an overdose of swag.”

Poole’s three bailed out Michigan in what was an otherwise ugly performance.

John Beilein’s club shot 35.6 percent from the floor, 8-for-30 from three and looked stagnant and bogged down offensively for 39 minutes and 56.4 seconds before Poole saved their season.

No. 6-seed Houston got 23 points from Rob Gray, who was again sensational and certainly deserved a chance to extend his career for another game. He had 39 points in a win over No. 11 San Diego State in the opener and was the best player in the West Region for the first weekend of the tournament.

No. 3 Texas Tech moves on to Sweet 16 after topping No. 6 Florida

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Texas Tech’s defense is good enough to keep them in any game. Keenan Evans is clutch enough to do the rest.

The Red Raiders’ senior star had another superlative second half, capped by throwing a game-sealing lob with 30 seconds left, as No. 3 Texas Tech took care of business against Florida, 69-66, to make just the fourth Sweet 16 appearance in program history.

Texas Tech had to survive a final flurry by Florida after the Red Raiders turned the ball over with under 20 seconds, and the Gators got two solid looks from 3-point range that would have forced overtime but both missed the mark to preserve the Texas Tech win.

It also preserved Evans’ performance.

The all-Big 12 guard had 22 points, with 14 coming in the second half. In two NCAA tournament second-halves, Evans 11 of 14 from the field and averaging 16.5 points.

The guy is just getting it done, and maybe his best play of the game was a pass.

Clinging to a three-point lead and the clock running under 30 seconds, Evans slipped through the defense, got into the paint and flipped a pass above the rim to freshman and dunker-extrodnaire Zhaire Smith for an alley-oop that put Tech up five.

Clutch alley-oops are the best alley-oops.

Florida got 23 points from Jalen Hudson, 12 form Egor Koulechov and 11 from Chris Chiozza. The Gators, though, made just 6 of 22 (27.3 percent) from 3-point range and surrendered 13 offensive rebounds. Texas Tech’s defense tightened in the second half, holding Florida to just 33.3 percent shooting overall and 19.2 percent from beyond the arc.

That defense for Tech is the foundation of what they do. It is one of the best in the country without an obvious, exploitable weakness. They’re good at every spot.

It’s keeping offenses off-kilter that lets Evans shine. When you’ve got a player as productive and clutch as he is, a close game isn’t something to fear. It’s something to welcome as you can probably count on him to get you through it.

Evans is under-appreciated nationally thanks to playing in the Big 12 outpost of Lubbock, Kansas owning every headline in that league and the toe injury that sapped him of his productivity late in the year. His emergence now on the national stage isn’t surprising so much as it is overdue. Simply, he’s been one of the tournament’s stars, and there are still games to play for Texas Tech.

Zach Norvell, Rui Hachimura lead No. 4 Gonzaga past No. 5 Ohio State

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Gonzaga’s veteran guards were no where to be found on Saturday night.

Johnathan Williams? He spent most of the night in foul trouble, while Killian Tillie looked like a shell of the player that had made Las Vegas his playground during the WCC tournament.

Those four players — the stars of this Gonzaga team, the veteran leaders that were supposed to carry this iteration of the Zags as far as they will go — combined for just 34 points against No. 5-seed Ohio State in the second round of the NCAA tournament, but the Zags still managed to hold off the Buckeyes and advance to the Sweet 16 with a 90-84 win. They led by as many as 15 points in the first half and blew a 13-point half time lead before a late 13-0 run earned them the win.

And it is all thanks to Rui Hachimura and Zach Norvell.

Hachimura is the highlight reel. He finished with 25 points and five boards despite the fact that he shot missed six from the free throw on Saturday night, but the shots — and plays — that he made down the stretch were massive. There was the three with just under four minutes left at the end of the shot clock to push Gonzaga’s lead back to six points after they had completely blown a 13-point halftime advantage. There was the block on Ohio State star Keita Bates-Diop a couple of possessions, when it looked like he was going to score at the rim on a bucket that would have ended a Gonzaga run. He even helped break Ohio State’s press in the final minutes, as the Buckeyes were trying to rally in the final minutes.

But Norvell was the star, and it started early. The redshirt freshman from Chicago got hot early, hitting a couple of threes as the Zags jumped out to a 13-0 lead that they maintained for much of the first 20 minutes. The shot that everyone will remember, however, was a step-back three from deep in the corner with less than two minutes left on the clock that put the Zags up seven and lets the partisan Boise crowd breathe a sign of relief after a tense, strenuous second half.

And with that, the Zags were back in the Sweet 16 a season after they reached their first Final Four and national title game.

Rui Hachimura (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Frankly, I think that the way that this season has played out says more about the strength of the Gonzaga program than last year’s run to the final weekend did.

We’ve known for years just how good Gonzaga is. They were a No. 1 seed before. They’ve been the No. 1 team in the country heading into the NCAA tournament. They’ve been on the national radar for two decades. They send players to the NBA. Just because they hadn’t been able to find a way to win four games in an event as fluky and exciting as the NCAA tournament doesn’t tell me anything beyond the fact that they got unlucky a couple of times when they were good enough to do it.

As the saying goes — and as Tony Bennett, Sean Miller and Chris Mack can attest — you’re only the best to never do it until you do it, and then you’re just ‘the best’.

But this group was without two key seniors from last year’s team. They also last two players that could have been all-americans to early entry when freshman Zach Collins and junior Nigel Williams-Goss both declared for the NBA Draft.

It takes a special kind of a program to withstand an unexpected hit like that and still field a roster capable of being a top four seed and getting to the Sweet 16.

And don’t, for a second, think that they are done.

We’ve seen what this team can get out of Hachimura and Norvell.

We know what Perkins, and Melson, and Tillie and Williams are capable of.

A trip to San Antonio could be in the cards.

Some might tell you they’re the favorite to get there out of the West.

But even if they don’t, just remember what this team was able to accomplish after what they lost.

It tells you all you need to know about Gonzaga basketball.

Sister Jean the star of Loyola’s Cinderella run

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Yeah, Loyola beating Tennessee to gain a spot in the Sweet 16 is a great basketball story, but the best news about their Cinderella run is something else entirely.

America gets another week with Sister Jean.

The Ramblers’ 98-year-old team chaplain has captured the hearts of the March Madness public, with her pre-game prayers and post-game celebrations. Clayton Custer’s game-winner was fine, but Sister Jean’s been great.

Loyola, though, will now have to try to defy Sister Jean. She picked against the Ramblers in the Sweet 16 in her bracket.