College basketball season began last week, but Monday night marks the season's true tip-off for many fans.
After all, it's easy to overlook basketball when only a couple of games are televised each night during the heart of football season. But it's tougher to ignore when you can sit in front of your TV and watch nothing but hoops for 24 hours.
The third annual "College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon" begins at midnight Eastern time Monday night and will feature live coverage of 17 men's games and one women's game on the various ESPN networks. The telecasts won't stop until the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
We don't expect even the most dedicated basketball fan to have the energy to watch all the games, so the more discriminating viewers can read these breakdowns of each men's matchup before deciding which games they'd like to watch.
Miami at Memphis, midnight, ESPN
Last year's records: Miami: 20-13 overall, 4-12 ACC. Didn't reach postseason. Memphis: 24-10, 13-3 C-USA. Reached second round of NIT.
The buzz:: Memphis will showcase its heralded freshman class that features four top-100 recruits: Will Barton (No. 11), Joe Jackson (No. 18), Tarik Black (No. 54) and Chris Crawford (No. 72). G Durand Scott and Miami will try to build on the momentum they established while advancing to the semifinals of last season's ACC tournament.
St. John's at Saint Mary's, 2 a.m., ESPN
Last year's records: St. John's: 17-16 overall, 6-12 Big East. Reached first round of NIT. Saint Mary's: 28-6 overall, 11-3 West Coast Conference. Reached NCAA South Regional semifinal.
The buzz:: D.J. Kennedy heads a senior-dominated lineup for St. John's that could help first-year coach Steve Lavin lead the Red Storm back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002. Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova are making Saint Mary's more of a perimeter-oriented team as the Gaels attempt to replace star C Omar Samhan.
Central Michigan at Hawaii, 4 a.m., ESPN
Last year's records: Central Michigan: 15-15, 9-7 Mid-American Conference. Hawaii 10-20 overall, 3-13 Western Athletic Conference.
The buzz:: Any fans who set their alarm clocks early enough to catch this game before heading to the office will get a chance to see highly touted Central Michigan freshman Trey Zeigler, the son of Chippewas coach Ernie Zeigler. Zeigler, a 6-foot-5 guard, was the No. 28 overall prospect in the 2010 recruiting class.
Stony Brook at Monmouth, 6 a.m., ESPN
Last year's records: Stony Brook: 22-10, 13-3 America East. Reached first round of NIT. Monmouth: 12-19 overall, 8-10 Northeast Conference
The buzz:: Stony Brook returns four starters from a team that won the America East's regular-season title last year. America East coaches have picked Stony Brook to finish second in the league this season. Monmouth has three returning starters.
Robert Morris at Kent State, 8 a.m., ESPN
Last year's records: Robert Morris: 23-12, 15-3 Northeast Conference. Reached first round of NCAA tournament. Kent State: 24-10, 13-3 Mid-American Conference. Reached second round of NIT.
The buzz:: This is a quality matchup between two NCAA tournament contenders, as each team has been picked to finish second in its conference. Robert Morris will be playing its second game for new coach Andrew Toole, a former assistant who earned a promotion after Rutgers hired away Mike Rice. Toole, who turned 30 in September, is the nation's youngest Division I head coach. Robert Morris gave up only six baskets in its season-opening 55-30 victory over Saint Peter's, which was expected to contend for the MAAC crown.
Northeastern at Southern Illinois, 10 a.m., ESPN
Last year's records: Northeastern: 20-13, 14-4 Colonial Athletic Association. Reached first round of NIT. Southern Illinois: 15-15, 6-12 Missouri Valley Conference.
The buzz:: Preseason first-team All-CAA guard Chaisson Allen and Alwayne Bigby are the lone returning starters for Northeastern, which posted a rare 20-win season last year. This will mark Southern Illinois' first regular-season game in the newly renovated SIU Arena, which recently underwent $29.9 million worth of improvements that include 1,200 additional chairback seats and a new scoreboard.
Oral Roberts at Tulsa, noon, ESPN
Last year's records: Oral Roberts: 20-13, 13-5 Summit League. Tulsa: 23-12, 10-6 Conference USA. Reached first round of the NIT.
The buzz:: Tulsa has the difficult task of replacing star C Jerome Jordan and PG Ben Uzoh from last season's team, though it does return preseason first-team All-Conference USA G Justin Hurtt. Michael Craion and Dominique Morrison are the players to watch for Oral Roberts, which was picked to finish second in the Summit League. This is a matchup of city rivals.
La Salle at Baylor, 2 p.m., ESPN
Last year's records: La Salle: 12-18 overall, 4-12 Atlantic 10. Baylor: 28-8, 11-5 Big 12. Reached NCAA South Regional final.
The buzz:: This game looks like a mismatch on paper, but it does feature two promising young big men in La Salle's Aaric Murray and Baylor's Perry Jones. Murray averaged 12.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks as a freshman last season. Jones was the No. 9 overall prospect in the 2010 recruiting class. Baylor will be without star G LaceDarius Dunn, who has been suspended.
Virginia Tech at Kansas State, 4 p.m., ESPN
Last year's records: Virginia Tech: 25-9 overall, 10-6 ACC. Reached NIT quarterfinals. Kansas State: 29-8 overall, 11-5 Big 12. Reached NCAA West Regional final.
The buzz:: This is arguably the best game of the marathon. Kansas State was the pick to win the Big 12 in some circles, while the ACC preseason media poll had Virginia Tech finishing second in the league. This game features a delightful individual matchup: 2009-10 ACC scoring leader Malcolm Delaney of Virginia Tech against Kansas State's Jacob Pullen, the Big 12's third-leading scorer last season. Star F Curtis Kelly did not play in Kansas State's opener and might not play against Virginia Tech. He's in hot water with coach Frank Martin.
Marist at Villanova, 5:30 p.m., ESPNU
Last year's records: Marist: 1-29 overall, 1-17 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Villanova: 25-8 overall, 13-5 Big East. Reached second round of NCAA South Regional.
The buzz:: Villanova G Corey Fisher scored 105 points in a New York City summer league game three months ago. So how many points should we expect him to rack up against a Marist team that won just once last season? This is a first-round game in the NIT Season Tip-Off.
Ohio State at Florida, 6 p.m., ESPN
Last year's records: Ohio State: 29-8 overall, 14-4 Big Ten. Reached NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal. Florida: 21-13 overall, 9-7 SEC. Reached first round of NCAA West Regional.
The buzz:: This rematch of the 2007 NCAA tournament final showcases two of the nation's top freshman post players in Ohio State's Jared Sullinger (the No. 5 prospect in the 2010 recruiting class) and Florida's Patric Young (No. 27). This game otherwise features plenty of experience. Florida has all five starters back from last season's team, while Ohio State returns four starters, though star Evan Turner is gone.
Miami of Ohio at Duke, 7:30 p.m., ESPNU
Last year's records: Duke: 35-5 overall, 13-3 in ACC. Won national title. Miami of Ohio: 14-18 overall, 9-7 in MAC.
The buzz:: This shouldn't be close, but it is a chance to see Duke's highly touted revamped backcourt that includes stud freshman Kyrie Irving, transfer Seth Curry and holdover Nolan Smith. Miami has the schedule from hell this season; the RedHawks get Duke, Ohio State, San Diego State, Xavier, Dayton, Cincinnati and Kansas before MAC play begins.
Butler at Louisville, 8 p.m., ESPN
Last year's records: Louisville: 20-13 overall, 11-7 in the Big East. Lost in the first round of NCAA tournament. Butler: 33-5 overall, 18-0 in the Horizon. NCAA runner-up.
The buzz:: This is the first regular-season game in Louisville's new KFC Yum! Center, which holds 22,000. The Cardinals are a bit of a mystery; they need some former role players to step up if they're going to make another visit to the NCAA tourney. Butler, of course, was everyone's favorite Cinderella story last season. Star Gordon Hayward is gone, but the Bulldogs still have a ton of talent, most notably G Shelvin Mack, a native of Lexington, Ky.
Belmont at Tennessee, 9:30 p.m., ESPNU
Last year's records: Tennessee: 28-9 overall, 11-5 in SEC. Lost to Michigan State in NCAA Midwest Regional final. Belmont: 19-12 overall, 14-6 in Atlantic Sun.
The buzz:: This is a dangerous in-state foe for the Vols. Belmont is well-coached, plays gritty defense and can hit 3-pointers; the Bears might be the best team in the A-Sun this season thanks to the presence of four returning starters, including G Ian Clark. The Vols are going to be dogged by questions about an ongoing NCAA investigation all season. Their size advantage might be the determining factor in this one.
South Carolina at Michigan State, 10 p.m., ESPN
Last year's records: Michigan State: 28-9 overall, 14-4 in Big Ten. Lost to Butler in NCAA tourney semifinal. South Carolina: 15-16 overall, 6-10 in SEC.
The buzz:: Michigan State looks primed for a third consecutive run to the Final Four. South Carolina, meanwhile, looks as if it will be the worst team in the SEC East. There could be some good battles between Gamecocks C/F Sam Muldrow and Michigan State's plethora of big guys.
San Diego State at Gonzaga, 11 p.m., ESPN2
Last year's records: Gonzaga: 27-7 overall, 12-2 in West Coast Conference. Lost in second round of NCAA tournament West Regional. San Diego State: 25-9 overall, 11-5 in Mountain West. Lost in first round of NCAA tournament Midwest Regional.
The buzz:: This is a good one; indeed, this is one of the best non-conference games of the season on the West Coast. San Diego State has a big-time frontcourt headed by sophomore Kawhi Leonard. Gonzaga's frontcourt is solid, as well, led by sophomore F Elias Harris. The decisive factor could be which group of guards plays best.
Nevada/Pacific at UCLA, 11:30 p.m., ESPNU
Last year's records: UCLA: 14-18 overall, 8-10 in Pac-10.
The buzz:: The Bruins' opponent won't be determined until Monday night, when Nevada and Pacific meet; the winner meets UCLA about 24 hours later. The Bruins should be better than they were last season, and this game against either one of these mid-majors will be a good test for Ben Howland's team.