This year's 24-hour tip-off marathon began late Monday night with Gonzaga and West Virginia squaring off in Spokane. Check back here throughout Tuesday for updates on whose stock has risen and fallen throughout the day-long event:
Stock up: Gonzaga
In its opening-round NCAA tournament game against West Virginia last March, Gonzaga led 40-22 at halftime en route to a 77-54 shellacking of the Mountaineers. Believe it or not, the rematch was even more one-sided. Gary Bell had 13 of his 15 points in the first half and four other teammates scored in double figures as the Zags annihilated West Virginia 84-50. Gonzaga led 17-2 after six minutes, 34-12 a few minutes later and 45-18 at the half, whipping a roaring sell-out crowd into a lather. It's always dangerous to read too much into one early game — particularly at home — but this Gonzaga team looks deep and talented enough to be formidable in March. The only bad news for the Zags is West Virginia isn't on the schedule again.
Stock down: Beardless Deniz Kilicli
It was devastating to learn in June that West Virginia's Deniz Kilicli had shaved off the best beard in college basketball because it was too hot in the summer months. It was even more tragic to see late Monday night that he has kept his cleanshaven look. Kilicli, whose overgrown beard had spawned everything from "Fear the Beard" t-shirts with his image on them to Twitter accounts and Facebook groups dedicated to it, did not play very well in his first beard-free game. The senior managed a mere five points on 2 of 6 shooting in a 84-50 wipeout. Perhaps it's time to start growing the beard back? West Virginia's season may depend on it.
Stock up: Scootie Randall
In his first game back after missing all of last season with a torn meniscus, Temple guard Scootie Randall wasn't the same player. He was better. Randall scored 31 points on 10-for-19 shooting, leading Temple past a determined Kent State squad that had defeated CAA favorite Drexel four days earlier. It will take pressure of Khalif Wyatt and the rest of the Temple backcourt that Randall looks nimble enough to get to the rim again, but the 6-foot-6 wing's improved outside shooting is just as critical. The two biggest shots Randall sank were a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers after Kent State had tied the score at 46 early in the second half. Those enabled Temple to pull away for an 80-66 win.
Stock down: Butler as an Atlantic 10 title threat
If Butler is going to contend in its first season in the Atlantic 10, the Bulldogs will have to improve dramatically on offense between now and January. In an alarming 62-47 loss at Xavier on Tuesday, Butler shot 36.5 percent from the field and sank just 4 of 18 attempts from behind the arc. What was particularly concerning for Butler was it could not generate any open looks for Arkansas transfer Rotnei Clarke and freshman Kellen Dunham, the two elite outside shooters who are supposed to bolster the Bulldogs' offense. Xavier's athletic, physical guards extended their defense out beyond the arc without fear of being beaten off the dribble. And Butler's big men were pushed around in the paint and could not exploit the 1-on-1 opportunities they had consistently enough.
Stock up: Harvard as an Ivy League title threat
It may take the Crimson a few days to recover from Sampson Carter's game-winning corner 3-pointer, but eventually they'll be able to view Tuesday's 67-64 loss to UMass as a positive. Harvard's youthful roster outplayed Atlantic 10 contender UMass on the road for most of the second half, an early sign that it would not be wise to write off the Crimson as an Ivy League contender despite the season-long suspensions of senior co-captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry. Particularly impressive on Tuesday was freshman point guard Siyani Chambers, who weathered UMass' pressure defense to contribute 14 points, seven assists and only one turnover. If he can perform that well consistently, the Crimson have a better chance than they've been given credit for to outduel Princeton in the Ivy League.
Stock up: Tony Snell
Since Tony Snell has always been a shy, introverted kid content to be a complementary player in high school and college, I was skeptical the talented New Mexico swingman could go from third option to go-to threat this season. One game hasn't totally changed my mind, but it's clear Snell is aware he needs to be more aggressive. Snell was in attack mode from start to finish against Davidson, scoring 25 points on 22 shots, getting to the foul line 10 times and sinking a late 3-pointer to seal a come-from-behind 86-81 win. Granted New Mexico will need Snell to be more efficient than 7 of 22 shooting, but this transformation is a process. With Drew Gordon having graduated and the Lobos in dire need of another star besides point guard Kendall Williams, they'd be wise to applaud Snell's aggressiveness while continuing to refine it.
Stock down: 6 a.m. basketball
Rider has done an admirable job making the 6 a.m. game in the Tip-Off marathon into an annual campus tradition, but neither the Broncos nor opponent Stony Brook rewarded the diehards who showed up so early with an aesthetically pleasing performance. The two teams were tied at 41 apiece with 4:10 to go. They combined for 35 turnovers, 38 personal fouls and 9 of 34 shooting from behind the arc. Stony Brook eventually pulled away late for a 54-46 victory, a solid win for the America East favorites but not one anyone will want to watch a replay of anytime soon.
Others worthy of praise ...
• Most of the coverage from Xavier's victory over Butler has centered around the offensive flaws of the Bulldogs, but give the Musketeers some credit too. They aren't as talented or deep as usual, but they're well-coached, they defend relentlessly and they have enough firepower on the perimeter to exceed modest expectations.
• Two months after Vander Joaquim tore his MCL, Hawaii's best player returned to score 20 points and grab 10 rebounds in a 73-60 win over Houston Baptist. Clearly the 6-foot-10 senior recovers in a hurry.
• In a game when Valparaiso wasn't exactly lighting up the scoreboard early, Horizon League player of the year candidate Ryan Broekhoff was an exception. He had 20 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Crusaders to a 69-46 early-morning win over hapless Northern Illinois.
• It won't be long before St. John's freshman Chris Obekpa is known as one of the better defensive players in the nation. The spring big man showcased great timing blocking shots against Detroit and made a mini-run at a triple double, finishing with seven points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots.
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