Viewer’s Guide

Viewer’s Guide for the 2014 Tip-Off Marathon: Loaded slate, marquee nightcap and great mid-major matchups

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On Monday evening, the college basketball season will truly begin, as the annual Tip-Off Marathon and it’s loaded slate of games will take place. There are 19 games in total on the schedule, and by the time it is all said and done, we could very well be looking at 29 straight hours of basketball.

Who doesn’t love that?

Since most of you are normal and don’t do things like watch 29 straight hours of basketball, I’ll go ahead and help you prioritize which games you need to watch, a pressing concern for all of you, I know (all times EST, games on Tuesday unless noted):

RELATED: The full schedule can be found here


The Champions Classic (Indianapolis):

  • 1. No. 5 Kansas vs. No. 1 Kentucky, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN): The final game of the event will, as always, end up being the best, as preseason No. 1 Kentucky takes on a Kansas team that will likely be better despite losing Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. The Jayhawks are going to have the bodies up front to match up with the size of John Calipari’s front line, but it will be interesting to see how the young and inexperienced point guards (Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham) Bill Self has at his disposal will handle the pressure of a nationally televised game. They didn’t play particularly well in KU’s opener. This game will also feature a ton of future NBA talent, from Kelly Oubre, Wayne Selden and Cliff Alexander to Karl Towns, Trey Lyles and, well, the rest of Kentucky’s roster.
  • 2. No. 18 Michigan State vs. No. 4 Duke, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN): This game won’t have as much intrigue as the nightcap will, as the Spartans are in a bit of a rebuilding mode. But that doesn’t change the fact that it will be Tom Izzo vs. Mike Krzyzewski, or that this will be our first look at Duke’s hyped trio of Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones against real competition. One thing to note: Travis Trice looked like a star in Michigan State’s opener against Navy.


3. No. 22 SMU at No. 13 Gonzaga, Mon. 11:00 p.m. (ESPN2): One of the most intriguing matchups of the day. Gonzaga is a top ten team (according to us) this season as they get a healthy Kevin Pangos, transfer Kyle Wiltjer and freshman Domantas Sabonis. SMU would have been in that same conversation had they been able to get Emmanuel Mudiay onto campus for a season. Even without him, they return enough to be a tough defensive team, although losing Markus Kennedy for the semester hurt.They are led by point guard Nic Moor,e and Moore vs. Pangos will be a highlight of this event.

4. No. 25 Utah at No. 16 San Diego State, 4:00 p.m. (ESPN): Utah, led by Delon Wright, has the pieces to make a push for second place in the Pac-12 this season. The Aztecs lost Xavier Thames to graduation, but if Dwayne Polee can continue to make strides and their young guards — Trey Kell, Kevin Zabo, Dakarai Allen — can have an impact, the Aztecs should win the MWC.

5. No. 12 Wichita State vs. Memphis, 2:00 p.m. in Sioux Falls, SD (ESPN): Wichita State hasn’t lost a regular season game in 17 months, returning the majority of their key pieces not named Cleanthony Early from a team that went 35-0. Memphis as much talent stockpiled as anyone, especially up front, but they also just lost to Division II Christian Brothers in an exhibition.


6. Marquette at No. 20 Ohio State, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2): This will be our first chance to witness a pair of new eras beginning. Buzz Williams moved of from Marquette during the offseason, ushering in an opportunity for Steve Wojciechowski to step in and take over the program. He’ll be going up against Ohio State in their first meaningful game in four years without Aaron Craft.

7. Miami at No. 7 Florida, Mon. 7:00 p.m. (ESPNU): Florida should once again be a top 15 team and the kind of program that will push Kentucky in the SEC, especially with Kasey Hill and Chris Walker back. Miami was bad last season, but they add Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan to the program and could end up making the NCAA tournament.

8. Toledo at No. 13 VCU, 6:00 p.m. (ESPNU): VCU is VCU, a now-perennial top 25 program that is always entertaining to watch. Toledo, however, won 27 games last season, returns essentially the entire teams and will enter this season as the favorite to win the MAC.

9. Northern Iowa at Stephen F. Austin, 9:00 a.m. (ESPN2): UNI and SFA are two of the best mid-major programs in the country, well-coached teams that execute offensively and play tough defensive. We could also be looking at two NCAA tournament teams, as the Lumberjacks are coming off of a win over VCU in the 2014 NCAA tournament while the Panthers are the favorite to give Wichita State a run in the Missouri Valley.

10. Auburn at Colorado, 1:00 a.m. (ESPN2): The Bruce Pearl era in Auburn will get its first national television exposure with a trip to Boulder to take on the Buffaloes, who will be without Spencer Dinwiddie.

11. Iona at Wofford, 7:00 a.m. (ESPN2): Another great mid-major matchup early in the day. Iona loves to press, they love to get out and run, they score a lot of points and they win a lot of games. Wofford plays a much slower, more deliberate brand of basketball, but they made the tournament last season and return everyone from that team.

12. Manhattan at UMass, 11:00 a.m. (ESPN2): If you like watching teams play uptempo, back-and-forth basketball, this is the game for you. Both teams love to press and both teams love to run the floor in transition. It may not be pretty, but it will be fun.


13. Baylor at South Carolina, 12:00 p.m. (ESPN): Scott Drew vs. Frank Martin might be the biggest difference in coaching styles you’ll come across. The Bears will be in a bit of a rebuilding reason as they try to replace Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson, while South Carolina is perpetually rebuilding.

14. Texas Tech at LSU, 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU): Texas Tech is Texas Tech, but LSU should actually be good enough to compete for a top four spot in the SEC this season, especially if Texas Tech transfer Josh Gray turns out to be able to play.

15. New Mexico State at Saint Mary’s, 3:00 a.m. (ESPN2): NMSU lost Sim Bhullar but will replace him with … Tanveer Bhullar. Saint Mary’s will be looking to build a tournament-caliber resume against this season behind Stanford-transfer Aaron Bright, Washington-transfer Desmond Simmons and Brad Waldow.

16. High Point at Hawaii, 5:00 a.m. (ESPN2): John Brown of High Point is one of the best dunkers in the country.

17. Detroit at Oregon, 11:00 p.m. (ESPNU): Our first national glimpse at Oregon this season, who had one of the most disastrous offseasons in recent memory.

A Viewer’s Guide to the Tip-Off Marathon

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ESPN’s annual Tip-Off Marathon begins tonight at 7:00 p.m. (all time Eastern), so in an effort to get you prepared, we at CBT will be giving you a handy guide to help you schedule out the next 29 hours of your life.

You’re welcome.


The Champions Classic, Tue. 7:30 p.m.  (ESPN): Don’t know what the Champions Classic is? Have you been living under a rock?

The last two years, Duke, Michigan State, Kentucky and Kansas have participated in an event during the first week of the season where the four teams will show up in a city and play a double-header. The matchups rotate every year, and this season, they are just ridiculous, and the perfect way to cap the Tip-Off Marathon.

No. 1 Kentucky takes on No. 2 Michigan State at 7:30 p.m., which is obviously awesome since it pits No. 1 against No. 2. But there’s more intrigue here. Kentucky is obscenely talented, but they are chock full of freshmen and sophomores. The Spartans aren’t quite as talented, but they have veterans up and down their lineup. Who wins out?

It wouldn’t be fair to call that game the undercard, but the nightcap will just about match the first game in terms of hype. No. 4 Duke takes on No. 5 Kansas, which is thrilling in its own right before you consider that Jabari Parker will be returning to him hometown to take on Andrew Wiggins, the freshmen who usurped his standing as the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2013.


No. 14 VCU at No. 25 Virginia, Tue. 7:00 p.m. (ESPN2): Talk about a contrast of styles. VCU is notorious for their Havoc defense, a 40-minute full-court assault on opposing ball-handlers. The Rams abused Illinois State in their opener, but they’ll have a much tougher task with the Cavs on Tuesday night. Virginia is a sleeper in the ACC, a team with two of the most underrated players in the country in Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. The issue is that Virginia is working through incorporating a new point guard into their rotation after Jontel Evans graduated. That won’t be an easy gig against Shaka Smart’s boys.

No. 11 Florida at No. 20 Wisconsin, Tue. 9:00 p.m. (ESPN2): Florida gets their first real test of the season, but the Gators will once again be short-handed as they deal with suspensions and injuries early on this season. The Badgers certainly challenged themselves early this season, as they already knocked off St. John’s on Friday night. As good as these two programs are, the stars from Friday’s openers were relative no-names: Casey Prather popped off for 28 points against North Florida while Duje Dukan had 15 big points for Wisconsin.

BYU at Stanford, Mon. 11:00 p.m. (ESPN): BYU has one of the nation’s best scorers in Tyler Haws, who is a pleasure to watch if you are a hoops snob like your truly. A 6-foot-3 off-guard, Haws is one of the best players in the country at running off of screens and moving without the ball. The Cougars are a fun team to watch in general as they love to get out and run the floor. Stanford actually has a chance to be a contender in the Pac-12 this season, as they returned a balanced and talented roster from a season. The combination of big man Dwight Powell and lead guard Chasson Randle have yet to churn out the wins that Cardinal fans expected.


LSU at UMass, Tue. 11:00 a.m. (ESPN2): One of the most sneaky-good games of the first week of the season. LSU should be much-improved this season, with Anthony Hickey and Johnny O’Bryant being joined by a talented recruiting class for Johnny Jones. UMass is an Atlantic 10 contender, however, led by Chaz Williams, who is one of the most entertaining guards in the country.

N.C. State at Cincinnati, Tue. 5:00 p.m. (ESPN): The Wolfpack are an intriguing team to keep an eye on this season. A slimmed-down T.J. Warren could end up being the ACC’s leading scorer this season, and Cat Barber and Tyler Lewis make up for a fun-to-watch back court. But can Mark Gottfried get this group to win games? They’ll have a tough test at Cincinnati, a team that is led by Sena Kilpatrick and has become known for their physicality and toughness.


Colorado State at No. 18 Gonzaga, Mon. 9:00 p.m. (ESPN): Colorado State was a contender in the Mountain West the past couple of seasons, but they’ll be rebuilding this year after losing their top six players to graduation. The Zags lost Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris, but with Kevin Pangos back and Sam Dower finally getting a chance up front, this group could surprise some folks.

Western Kentucky at No. 13 Wichita State, Tue. 1:00 a.m. (ESPN): The Hilltoppers have been to back-to-back NCAA tournaments and return enough talent that they should compete for the Sun Belt title. But the Shockers are coming off of a run to the Final Four and enter the season with a ton of hype. Can Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker impress in their reintroduction to the nation?


Wichita State isn’t the only team coming off of an NCAA tournament run to be playing a showcase game during the marathon. Florida-Gulf Coast gets a visit from Hartford at 7:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, a game that will be followed up by Quinnipiac tripping to Philly to take on La Salle at 9:00 a.m.


  • Kent State at Temple, Mon. 7:00 p.m. (ESPN)
  • Akron at Saint Mary’s, Tue. 3:00 a.m. (ESPN)
  • New Mexico State at Hawaii, Tue. 5:00 a.m. (ESPN)
  • West Virginia at Virginia Tech, Tues. 1:00 p.m. (ESPN)
  • South Carolina at No. 23 Baylor, 3:00 p.m. (ESPN)