Everything you need to know about the College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon

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The schedule for the eighth installment of the 24-Hour College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon was released on Tuesday morning. Here’s a quick primer on the games: Why you should be excited, what you need to be watching and, in one instance, why you should be really, really annoyed:

THE BEST PART OF THE TWO DAYS: The Champions Classic

As is always the case, the best early-season event this year is, once again, the Champions Classic. It kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET in the United Center in Chicago with Duke taking on Kentucky, a game that features two preseason top five teams — one of whom is the reigning national champs — squaring off. Coach K vs. Coach Cal. I Still Hate Laettner. Jamal Murray vs. Grayson Allen. Skal Labissiere vs. Brandon Ingram.

Seriously. If you’re not excited about this game, we can’t be friends.

The nightcap of the Champions Classic isn’t quite as good, but it’s still one of the best non-conference games of the season. Kansas is a preseason top five team, although they are not yet at full strength, as Cheick Diallo is in the middle of trying to get cleared by the NCAA. They’ll be squaring off with a Michigan State team that seems to be flying a bit under the radar at this point in the year.

Two games, four top 15 teams, two Hall of Famers and two soon-to-be Hall of Famers. Yeah, I’m pretty excited that I’ll be in Chicago tomorrow night.

YOU ALSO NEED TO MAKE SURE YOU SEE: Monday night’s west coast action

While the highlight of the event is the action late on Tuesday night, Monday night’s games are solid as well. It starts with San Diego State’s trip up to Utah. The Utes are a legitimate contender in a Pac-12 race that will likely be wide-open this season. They brought back a potential top ten pick in Jakob Poeltl and will surround him with a load of young, talented players and a coach — Larry Krystkowiak — that has proven to be able to develop talent; Kyle Kuzma, anyone? SDSU likely won’t be as good as the Kawhi Leonard years, but they’re still an MWC contender with their own future first round pick on the roster in Malik Pope.

That game tips at 9:30 p.m. ET, with Baylor’s visit to Oregon immediately following. The Ducks have big shoes to fill with Joe Young graduating, but the return of Dillon Brooks and the addition of Tyler Dorsey will make them a dangerous team, especially in their own gym. Baylor’s guard play was impressive in an opening night win over Stephen F. Austin, but with Rico Gathers anchoring a massive, powerful front line, don’t be surprised to see the Bears make a run at being relevant in the Big 12 title race.

Worth mentioning: Kennesaw State’s visit to LSU will be a chance for the nation at large to get another look at Ben Simmons, the Australian forward that has a chance to be the No. 1 pick in 2016. He’s probably not quite as good as the hype train would have you believe, but he’s still a fun player to watch given his ability to handle the ball and pass at 6-foot-9.

Virginia at George Washington will also be good. We’ll get to that in a minute.

BUT YOU SHOULD BE MAD BECAUSE: No one will pay attention to Maryland-Georgetown

First things first: history aside, this has the makings of being a terrific basketball game. Maryland is one of two or three teams — along with North Carolina and Kentucky — that, depending on which poll or website you pay attention to,  are the No. 1 team in the country*. Georgetown will be pretty good as well, as D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera made them a worthy preseason top 25 team and a sleeper for the Big East title. Losing to Radford in their opener was not exactly ideal, but that doesn’t mean the Hoyas are talented. It does, however, mean they will be looking to make a statement tomorrow night.

*(Kansas will be in that mix if they get Diallo)

But here’s the thing: that snippet doesn’t account for the fact that Maryland and Georgetown have campuses that are roughly 10 miles apart, or that the two programs have refused to schedule each other for the last three decades thanks to a (pretty dumb, totally avoidable) beef between legendary coaches Lefty Driesell and John Thompson Jr. that was never resolved. The Big East and the Big Ten made a point to ensure that these two teams would be paired off the in the first annual Gavitt Games because this matchup deserves attention. Instead, with a tip-off at 9:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday night, it will be played at the same time as the Champions Classic, with the first half coinciding with the end of Duke-Kentucky.

This is a matchup deserves to stand on it’s own. College basketball is a sport that has limited intrigue while football season is still in full-swing. Burying a game like this in November simply doesn’t make sense.

UNDER THE RADAR GAMES:

There are two that I think qualify here:

  • The first of the men’s games that will be played as an official part of the Tip-Off Marathon features Virginia, a preseason top ten team and the two-time ACC regular season champs, making the ride up Route 29 to pay a visit to George Washington. The Colonials took a step back in 2014-15, but their roster was built with an eye towards this season. Kevin Larsen, Joe McDonald and Patrico Garino are all back, Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh is eligible and sophomore Yuta Watanabe should be in line for a breakout season. Road games four days into the season are never easy.
  • Stephen F. Austin vs. Northern Iowa features two well-coached, veteran mid-major ball-clubs, but given what both programs lost for last season, the first game on Tuesday that is a must-watch comes at 10:00 a.m. ET when Valparaiso makes the trip to Kingston to take on URI. Valpo may be the best mid-major in the country this side of Wichita State (are they a mid-major?), while this may be the year that Danny Hurley finally breaks through with the Rams.

Anyway, here is the full schedule of games:

Mon., Nov. 16

5:30 p.m.: UConn at Ohio State (women) ESPN2
7:30 p.m.: Virginia at George Washington ESPN2
9:00 p.m.: Kennesaw State at LSU ESPNU
9:30 p.m.: San Diego State at Utah ESPN2
11:30 p.m.: Baylor at Oregon ESPN2

Tue., Nov. 17

1:45 a.m.: BYU at Long Beach State ESPN2
4:00 a.m.: Nevada at Hawaii ESPN2
6:00 a.m.: Green Bay at East Tennessee State ESPN2
8:00 a.m.: Stephen F. Austin at Northern Iowa ESPN2
10:00 a.m.: Valparaiso at Rhode Island ESPN2
1:00 p.m.: Alabama at Dayton ESPN
3:00 p.m.: Colorado at Auburn ESPN
5:00 p.m.: Oklahoma at Memphis ESPN
7:30 p.m.: Kentucky vs. Duke (Chicago) ESPN
9:00 p.m.: Georgetown at Maryland ESPN2
10:00 p.m.: Kansas vs. Michigan State (Chicago) ESPN