The Tip-Off Marathon Awards

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So ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon happened yesterday, and like I’m sure many of you did, I stayed up for over 40 hours straight to watch the entire thing.

Yes, I’m tired today.

And yes, it was totally worth it.

Basketball at 4 am is, generally speaking, completely unnecessary. But the event is worth it for two reasons. For starters, ESPN completely dedicates their programming to college hoops at a time when the sport is not in the forefront of the national consciousness. Secondly, we got a look, in one night, at many of the teams that will be at or near the top of the national rankings.

Now, before I lose your attention (we all have fantasy football waiver wires to take a look at), we at Beyond the Arc present to you the Tip-Off Marathon Awards!

The Award for Best Game goes to: San Diego State and Gonzaga

It doesn’t get much better than two good teams going back and forth. Billy White (30 points, 9 boards) and Kawhi Leonard (18 points, 12 boards) led the Aztecs to a 79-76 win over the Zags. SDSU was in control for much of the first half, but Gonzaga used a 7-0 spurt to start the second half to take a 44-42 lead on an Elias Harris three-point play. SDSU threw a counter punch, however, as they took control of the offensive back boards. If the Aztecs missed, White and Leonard where there to clean up the mess as they built up a 66-59 lead. Steven Gray, who had 35 points, did his best to keep Gonzaga’s hopes alive, twice scoring to cut the Aztec lead to one point. The latter instance came with 23 seconds left, and after Leonard hit two free throws to make the lead 79-76, Gray lost the ball out of bounds with four seconds left. Chase Tapley missed the front end, but Gray’s half court heave was off the mark.

This was a huge win for San Diego State. The Aztecs have been a trendy pick by many to win the MWC, but picking up a win at The Kennel has thrust them into the conversation as the best team on the west coast.

The Award for Most Important Win goes to: Louisville

The Cardinals welcomed the reigning runners-up to the unveiling of their new arena, the KFC Yum! Center. They weren’t all that gracious as hosts, however, as they spent 40 minutes wiping the floor with the Bulldogs. Butler was simply not ready for the press that Louisville threw at them, turning the ball over 17 times and shooting a dismal 35% from the floor. The final score — 88-73 — doesn’t do justice to the whipping Butler took, as they were down by as much as 24 in the second and were able to maintain a level of respectability by fouling for the last 2:13.

Louisville looks like a team that was underrated coming into the season. They have a lineup that is deep and full of athletes and a back court that is chock full of lengthy defenders and knock-down shooters. Making the win all the more impressive is that Jared Swopshire missed the game as he is still recovering from a sports hernia and Peyton Siva played jut 15 minutes due to foul trouble. Raheem Buckles (17 points 11 boards) looks like a star waiting in the wings.

The Award for the Biggest Statement goes to: Ohio State

Florida was considered a potential title contender coming into the season, and Ohio State went into the O-Dome and universally changed that opinion. Down 41-38 at the half — thanks to the tremendous interior play of Vernon Macklin and the rest of the Gator front line — the Buckeyes dissected the Florida defense for the final 20 minutes, scoring 57 points and shooting 71% from the floor. Jared Sullinger had a coming out party, going for 26 points and 10 boards, while the combination of David Lighty, Jon Deibler, and William Buford completely outclassed Florida’s talented perimeter players. Perhaps the most important performance came from freshman point guard Aaron Craft, who had 7 points, 5 assists, and 3 turnovers in 29 minutes off the bench, proving capable of breaking a press and handling a raucous road arena.

The Award for the Biggest Loss goes to: Elias Harris

Losing to San Diego State is a loss Gonzaga can overcome. The Aztecs are criminally underrated (well, maybe not anymore) and got a career game out of one of their best players. The Zags still have plenty of opportunities to pick up enough quality wins to earn an at-large big. A loss they cannot overcome would be Elias Harris. Harris injured his shoulder a few weeks ago, so when he wasn’t on the floor at the end of the game, that was the reason that some suspected. It turns out that he suffered a potentially serious foot injury: “I think it’s my Achilles’ (tendon),” said Harris told The Spokesman Review. “I heard something pop. I couldn’t get up in the air and I couldn’t run any more.”

If that’s the case, then Harris will miss the rest of the season. He’s getting an MRI today. It would be a huge blow to the Zags, as he was the favorite to win the WCC Player of the Year award in the preseason. You can’t replace a talent like Harris — he’s going to be a lottery pick whenever he turns pro — but Gonzaga does have some pieces to make up for the loss. Kelly Olynyk and Sam Dower have been good early in the season, and Steven Gray is playing the best basketball of his career right now. This team is still good enough to win the WCC. But with the injury to Harris, their Final Four aspirations may be headed out the window.

UPDATE: Good thing we just did a post on this…

According the Jeff Goodman of FOXSports.com, Elias Harris did NOT tear his achilles. He’ll miss about a week. Now, the question is whether or not he will be available for the CBE Classic. Gonzaga gets Kansas State on Monday, and could face Duke or Marquette on Tuesday depending Monday’s results.

The Award for the Biggest Disappointment goes to: Virginia Tech

Kansas State played essentially played the first half without Jacob Pullen due to foul trouble and played the entire game without Curtis Kelly, who was suspended by Frank Martin. The Hokies still trailed at the break, 30-29. In the second half, K-State’s supporting cast woke up, as the Wildcats slowly built their lead. Malcolm Delaney, Tech’s star guard, tried over and over again to answer, but with every ill-advised shot and turnover (he had 22 points on 6-18 shooting with 9 turnovers) he dug his team into a bigger hole.

Delaney seemed to lose confidence in his teammates, and he wasn’t necessarily wrong to do so. They weren’t finishing the sots he created for them, and second leading scorer Dorenzo Hudson was off throughout the game. This was a game called extremely tight by the referees, and it looked like the Hokies got frustrated. I’ll chalk the loss up to that, because there is no way this team is as bad as they played yesterday.

The Coming Out Party Award goes to: Quincy Acy

The Baylor forward has always been known as a dunker. Acy is just 6’6″, but his awesome athleticism and his wingspan that rivals taller teammates Perry and Anthony Jones has made him reknowned for his ability to rebound the ball and finish above the rim. But against La Salle, Acy had 25 points. He got those 25 points not on dunks and free throws, but with a variety of mid-range jumpers and even a post move or two. As Draft Express says:

Real story here is Quincy Acy. What a game for him. Seems to have improved significantly. Quincy Acy’s energy, toughness, athleticism is all where you want it to be, but now he’s scoring, making mid-range jumpers. Very interesting.

The Chris Webber Award for Boneheadedness goes to: Southern Illinois

Apparently they are too young to have learned a lesson from C-Webb, as they lost on a free throw from a technical foul that was assessed for using too many timeouts. Actually, I put this on head coach Chris Lowery. Its a a coach’s responsibility to make sure his players are aware of how many timeouts they have.

The Tip-Off Marathon MVP goes to: Scoop Jardine

Syracuse looked bad yesterday, like they have all season long. For a team that was predicted to be in the top ten and a potential Final Four contender, the Orange have been a conundrum thus far. They aren’t getting the perimeter shooting they need, Kris Joseph and Fab Melo have fallen well short of expectations, and they’ve come out of the gates sluggish in all three game. Last night was no exception, as they were down for the majority of the first half to Detroit, and if it wasn’t for Scoop Jardine’s performance, the Orange would have lost. Scoop had 27 points, 8 assists, and 5 steals. He was 11-18 from the floor. The rest of the team was 13-46. And he assisted on eight of those field goals.

The All-Tip-Off-Marathon Team:

* G: Steven Gray, Gonzaga: 35 points, 5 assists
* G: Clint Steindl, St. Mary’s: 22 points, 7-10 3’s
* F: Justin Greene, Kent State: 20 points, 12 boards
* F: Quincy Acy, Baylor: 25 points, 11 boards, 2 blocks
* F: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State: 26 points, 10 boards
* Honorable Mention: David Lighty, Ohio State (26 points), Draymond Green, Michigan State (18 points, 12 boards, 6 steals, 4 blocks), Billy White, San Diego State (30 points, 9 boards)