Mason Plumlee, James Vincent

Marathon Madness Survival Guide

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Staying awake for 24 hours is a daunting task.

If you’ve ever attended college, then it’s likely you have at least one experience puling an all-nighter. Whether it’s memorizing all the bones that make up the human skull, a term paper on the Federalist papers, or watching Houston Baptist play Hawaii at 4:00 a.m., the human brain does not operate at normal capacity when the midnight oil is burning.

But with some trusty survival tips from our College Basketball Talk staff, this will be the year that you make it through all 24 hours of ESPN’s third annual Marathon Madness.

(NOTE: let us know what Marathon Madness survival tips you think are necessary by leaving a message in the comment section below)

Food & Beverage Tips:

– Stay away from the caffeine early. Given the fact that many of us are employed that coffee or Red Bull can look mighty seductive early. But no, leave that for the Tuesday afternoon games just before the stretch run. Go with water instead. (RJ)

– Put off the energy drinks and the coffee until the last possible minute. It’s only possible to survive on those for a certain amount of time, so waiting until the 4am Houston Baptist-Hawaii tip is your best bet. (RD)

– Snack on fresh fruits and veggies. Eating chips and pizza and what not will only tire you out. And stay away from any leftover Halloween candy. (RD)

– Light snacks. Chex Mix, or that handy 2 lb. bag of Sour Patch Kids (this is my go-to) keeps you active as opposed to that pizza you may be favoring, which can weigh you down quickly. (RJ)

– Don’t drink. That’s great for evenings when you have nothing to do, but this is basketball, it’s serious business. (EA)

– When digesting food, make sure to move around like Kobayashi. It won’t make you eat more, but it will help keep up your heart rate. (TM)

Viewing Tips:

– Halftimes are key, especially early on and late in the marathon. Use these for 20-minute power naps, taking the dog outside, and showering. Using halftime effectively significantly improves your chances of staying up for the entirety of the marathon. (DM)

– Multi-platform viewing allows you to be on the go and still keep up with games. Tablet computers, laptops, and smartphones all come in handy here. (DM)

– If you must nap, pause the DVR as soon as halftime begins, and set a 30 minute alarm. You’ll miss the talking heads, and be able to skip a few commercials when you wake up. (EA)

– Mix in some non-basketball related content at halftimes. Video games and social media are a way to keep the mind from going all zombie. Watching a marathon of college basketball is all, mental, anyway. (DH)

– Watch for telling moments. It was during the marathon a couple of years ago that I saw Gene Keady reach out and hook an index finger under the back collar of Steve Lavin’s shirt during a ref-induced tirade, essentially yoking his boss. It was a fascinating look into a complex relationship, and it happened in the blink of an eye. (EA)

– Prop bets keep things interesting. If you’re watching with friends or family, place $1 bets on small, seemingly inconsequential things. Which player throws down the game’s first dunk? At what point in the game will the TV cameras show the first shot of the student section or cheerleaders? (DM)

Staying Sane:

– Slow and steady wins the race. Pace yourself. Don’t try to live-blog every minute of every game or you will be cooked well before the 4:00 a.m. Houston Baptist vs. Hawaii tip. (TM)

– Talk to yourself. Talk to the screen. I’ve found myself waving players into position, questioning a coach’s sanity and asking myself if I’d like more pretzels “yes, yes I would, thank you.” (EA)

– Music. Falling asleep at the halfway point? Plug in the headphones and blast some heavy metal (or whatever you prefer) for a bit. (RJ)

– DON’T LAY DOWN ON YOUR COUCH! Sit up. You’re already conceding defeat if you go horizontal. Naps are fine for halftimes, but there’s no way anyone can be totally “comfortable” while watching 24 hours of college basketball. Nothing that is truly a “marathon” is comfortable. Stay committed. (DH)

– Late night exercise. If you live in a big apartment building, do sprints down the corridor. Toe-touches and trunk lifts are also effective. (TM)

– Be interactive. Chat with us scribes in-game via twitter and post comment sections. A lively conversation makes it so much easier to stay awake. (EA)

– Animals make for a great late-night companion. After all, who cares if you’re talking to a cat during the Houston Baptist vs. Hawaii game. (TM)

– Head over to and work your way through the basketball quizzes during commercial breaks. It keeps the mind sharp. (EA)

– Appreciate the ride. Name me one other sport that does a live 24-hour marathon of games? There isn’t one. Take in the first tip-off, the student sections from the 6 and 8 a.m. games and the weird fascination with a 4 a.m. EST live game in Hawaii each year. It’s unique. And as hoopheads, it’s ours. (DH)

Michigan State playing zone? It’s possible

Tom Izzo
Associated Press
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Throughout Tom Izzo’s tenure at Michigan State the team’s half-court man-to-man defense has been a staple, and the Spartans have generally proven difficult to have a high rate of offensive success against. The reliance on that defense is why Izzo’s conversations earlier this summer about using some token full-court pressure due to the shortening of the shot clock caught some people off-guard.

According to the Detroit Free Press there’s another wrinkle the Spartans may use, and it’s likely that this wrinkle will show up more often than the full-court press. During Friday’s opening practice the Spartans worked on a 2-3 zone, and Izzo wants his assistants to make sure the team works on the defense consistently throughout the season.

That’s also why zone in general isn’t going to get heavy play at MSU, but having it as a tool could be beneficial — especially in games with touch fouls on the perimeter called in droves.

“I told (my assistant coaches): ‘You hold me accountable to working on it every day some’ … I have a tendency to drift off on that, and I don’t want to drift off on it,” Izzo said of the 2-3 zone. “But we will be, rest assured, a 90-some percent man-to-man team still and hopefully take some of those principles to zone.”

As noted in the story one of the risks in using pressure is allowing quality shots, which is why it’s unlikely that Michigan State will go to it. But even with Izzo vowing that his team will work on the zone, that doesn’t mean they’ll be playing it as often as Syracuse does.

Man-to-man has been Michigan State’s staple and it will continue to be. But it doesn’t hurt to look for other ways to keep opponents from getting the looks they want, especially if teams have five fewer seconds to find those shots.

Virginia used 3-on-3 to adjust to new shot clock

Malcolm Brogdon
Associated Press
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When the college basketball rules committee made the decision to trim the shot clock down to 30 second from 35, one reason for the switch was the desire to improve offensive production. With offensive numbers at their lowest point in years, proponents of the move see the shot clock change as a necessary move if scoring is to improve.

Whether or not that winds up being the case will be seen throughout the upcoming season, but teams are still having to make adjustments during the preseason.

Virginia, which has played at a snail’s pace (and with great success, mind you) in recent years, made some adjustments to their summer work in anticipation of playing with a 30-second shot clock. One adjustment was more games of 3-on-3 with a 15-second shot clock, which forced all involved to be more decisive in their offensive decision-making.

While the pack-line defense will always be a staple of Tony Bennett’s teams, the feeling in Charlottesville is that they’ve got the offensive firepower needed to both play faster and be more efficient offensively than they were in 2014-15 (29th nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy). One of the players who will lead the way is senior guard Malcolm Brogdon, who led the team in scoring and was a first team All-ACC selection, and he discussed the team’s outlook with Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

And even though Anderson’s highlight-reel shot blocking was the thing that frequently fueled fast-breaks for U.Va. last season, Brogdon and [Anthony] Gill said they expect this year’s team to actually push the tempo even more.

“I think we’re going to be a team that gets out and runs more,” Brogdon said. “I think we’ll have three guards on the floor, most of the time, will be able to handle the ball as a point guard and get out in transition. I think we’ll play a lot faster.”

Brogdon and Gill are two of the team’s three returning starters with point guard London Perrantes being the other, and the Cavaliers also return most of their reserves from last year’s rotation. That experience will help them on both ends of the floor as they prepare for a run at a third straight ACC regular season title. And in theory it also allows them to extend themselves a bit more offensively than they did a season ago.