|We're officially less than 100 days away from the start of the season. Still, so far. (US Presswire)|
This is a nice serving of hoops news for a July Wednesday. Yeah, we're still more than 95 days away from the start of the season, but each week is bringing us more info on the year ahead via schedule nuggets.
One of the flagship events of November has become ESPN's endeavor to broadcast a day's worth of games, midnight to midnight. The 24-hour marathon certainly gives diehards, plus Borzello, a reason to stay up 24 hours and watch hoops -- just because they can.
Here's the slate, which was released Wednesday morning. Start times are eastern for Tuesday, Nov. 13. ESPN tells us that 12 of the teams involved made the NCAAs last year, and doing a double-check, that turns out to be right.
Midnight: West Virginia at Gonzaga. Very nice game. In fact, look at that. It's a 2012 NCAA tournament rematch. Both teams lose a bit of firepower from last year, but Gonzaga again should make the NCAAs. No one's quite sure what to make of a young WVU team. A win here would genuinely be surprising for Huggins' team. I'm rooting for him to sport his finest of windbreaker suits.
2 a.m.: Davidson at New Mexico. I saw both of these teams in Portland at the NCAA tournament in March, albeit not against each other. This one won't draw in casual fans, but we're going to be getting early looks at two teams with goals of winning their respective leagues. Davidson returns every man of impact from a team that went 25-8 last season.
4 a.m.: Houston Baptist at Hawaii. A little sleep never hurt anybody.
6 a.m.: Stony Brook at Rider. Rider loves the 6 a.m. game. The school has made it their "thing" since ESPN started doing this. Hey, more power to ya.
8 a.m.: Northern Illinois at Valparaiso. Bryce Drew's team will look to bring in a regular-season Horizon title for the second straight year. And now there's no Butler to deal with. Again, this is a game for the nutjobs who get passionately invested in college hoops in early November. We're thankful.
10 a.m.: Harvard at Massachusetts. Here's the sneaky-good game. Harvard won't be quite as good as last season, and UMass will be a little better from its 25-12 showing. The game's at UMass, so it really feels like a toss-up. Some good intra-state hoops. Perhaps we can get a nice rivalry started here? Both teams seemingly aligning themselves for five strong years going forward.
12 p.m.: Temple at Kent State. The draw here? Both teams will be contenders for the league titles. Workingman's kind of hoop game. Make a deli run and get back for the second half.
2 p.m.: Detroit at St. John's. No one has any idea of what St. John's is anymore. Steve Lavin's come back to coach full-time but has lost his premier assistant, Mike Dunlap, who took the lead job with the Charlotte Bobcats. Ray McCallum Jr. should have a pretty big -- from a national standpoint -- type of year with Detroit. I could see him putting up 30 in this spot and starting the Horizon POY campaign.
4 p.m.: Butler at Xavier. Game sells itself. Technically this is an out-of-conference game, as Butler joins the A10 this year but had series against Xavier to finish out. So, yeah. Odd. The outcome of this game won't be reflected in the A10 standings despite the fact these teams now share a league. In terms of games outside of the big leagues, it doesn't get much better than But-X. You heard me. But-X.
7 p.m.: Michigan State vs. Kansas. Kicks off the doubleheader block that is the Champions Classic. The 24-hour marathon in and of itself is an easy selling point, but capping off the night with two huge games featuring four of the best national basketball brands makes the event what it is. You need to go out with a bang. This does. MSU-Kansas is the opportunity for casual fans to see the players they forgot about and learn of new ones. We don't ever get to know these players -- that's the knock, right? Bull. Games like this are ample opportunity to see old faces again.
9:30: Duke vs. Kentucky. Few better ways to wrap up a marathon than Blue Devils-Wildcats. Shockingly, it's been more than a decade since they've played. This will be our first chance to see the new batch of Cats Calipari has corralled to Lexington, of course. Nerlens Noel is the heir apparent to Anthony Davis. I think Noel will be just as good as Davis. He's stronger, more intimidating and better offensively than Davis was at the start of last season. As for Duke, there's work to be done. It will have an older team than UK, of course, but how good will it be? I really have no idea. Could lose 10 games next year, the way I see it.
With this release already hitting the blogosphere in a hurry, many are saying it's the best allotment of games in the five-year history of the event. Hard to argue that. But I do have one quibble. The But-X game will basically end at 6 p.m.-ish. That means the final six hours of the marathon get just two games. Hmm. Methinks there should've been one more game to squeeze in there on ESPN2 at the 6 p.m. hour to hold us over until Michigan State and Kansas get in the thick of it.
But that's a minor complaint. Look at me, whining over games that are more than a season away. Get us to November, please.