Jeff Eisenberg

Ranking the games in ESPN's 24-hour tip-off marathon

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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ESPN released the lineup on Monday for its third annual college hoops marathon to be held on Tuesday, Nov. 16.

What already was a terrific event the past two years looks as though it could emerge as college basketball's unofficial opening day in the future thanks to a slate of games featuring numerous matchups worthy of your espressos and energy drinks. Click here for a list of games in chronological order or read on for my ranking of the games in order of most intriguing to least intriguing.

1. Virginia Tech at Kansas State, 4 p.m. ET

Comment: Marquee non-conference games like this one will ensure that a poor strength of schedule doesn't cost Virginia Tech another NCAA tournament berth. The strongest Hokies team in years meets a Kansas State program that should begin the season in the top five in the polls.

2. Butler at Louisville, 8 p.m. ET

Comment: Louisville will unveil its sparkling new arena and a team that intends to return to Rick Pitino's up-tempo roots. Want an early indication whether Butler will be powerful again this year? This should provide an answer.

3. San Diego State at Gonzaga, 11 p.m. ET

Comment: With all due respect to Washington, Arizona or UCLA, this may be a matchup of the West Coast's two premier teams next season. San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard and Gonzaga's Elias Harris are two of the nation's top sophomores.

4. Ohio State at Florida, 6 p.m. ET

Comment: A rematch of the 2007 national championship game and a battle between two of the nation's three best football-basketball schools. (Pipe down, Texas. Yes, you're the other one).

5. Baylor at Connecticut (Women's Tip-Off Classic), 6 p.m. ET

Comment: Baylor's Brittney Griner tries to help the Bears snap UConn's two-year undefeated streak. If you're remotely interested in women's college hoops, this is about as good as the regular season can get.

6. St. John's at Saint Mary's, 2 a.m. ET

Comment: It's no accident St. John's is heading West. New coach Steve Lavin grew up in the Bay Area, coached at UCLA and snapped up another opportunity to showcase his program to California recruits.

7. South Carolina at Michigan State, 10 p.m. ET

Comment: The Gamecocks may have a hard time competing in the powerful SEC East this season, but this is an early chance to show they're better than we think against a Michigan State team that is a clear-cut national-title threat.

8. Miami at Memphis, 12 a.m. ET

Comment: This will be a first chance to see Memphis' highly ranked recruiting class in action, but we just don't know which players will be on the court. The NCAA has already denied Will Barton's eligibility and has reportedly yet to clear several others.

9. Miami (Ohio) at Duke, 7:30 p.m. ET

Comment: What this game will lack in competitiveness it should make up for in intrigue. This will be most of the nation's first chance to see highly touted freshman point guard Kyrie Irving and intriguing transfer Seth Curry.

10. Nevada/Pacific at UCLA, 11:30 p.m. ET

Comment: An overtime loss to Cal State Fullerton in the tip-off marathon sent last year's UCLA season tumbling toward mediocrity. Will the Bruins be able to avoid a similar fate in a Preseason NIT game against the winner of Nevada and Pacific?

11. Belmont at Tennessee, 9:30 p.m. ET

Comment: Good exposure for Atlantic Sun contender Belmont. A comfortable early win for Bruce Pearl's Tennessee team. Everyone should leave Knoxville happy after this in-state matchup.

12. LaSalle at Baylor, 2 p.m. ET

Comment: One team is a potential top-10 team with a high-scoring senior shooting guard and one of the top freshman big men in the nation. The other team ... is LaSalle.

13. Marist at Villanova, 5:30 p.m. ET

Comment: Villanova senior Corey Fisher probably won't go off for 105 in this game ... but he might get 30 against a woeful Marist team that lost an incredible 29 of 30 games a year ago.

14. Robert Morris at Kent State, 8 a.m. ET

Comment: As games that tip off before dawn on the West Coast go, this one is surprisingly semi-watchable. Kent State returns two of its top-three scorers from a team that won the MAC last year, while Robert Morris figures to again contend in the Northeastern Conference.

15. Oral Roberts at Tulsa, 12 p.m. ET

Comment: Tulsa rallied from 15 down in the second half to win this city rivalry game, 57-52, a year ago. It marked the first time the Golden Hurricane won back-to-back Mayor's Cup games since 2000 to 2002.

16. Central Michigan at Hawaii, 4 a.m. ET

Comment: If you're a West Coast night owl or an East Coast insomniac, you'll at least be rewarded with the chance to watch Trey Zeigler, the promising freshman guard who chose to play for his dad at Central Michigan instead of larger programs. Better than nothing, right?

17. Northeastern at Southern Illinois, 10 a.m. ET

Comment: Northeastern lost the core of last season's 20-win team and Southern Illinois isn't what it was during its heyday a few years ago. This is a matchup of mid-majors that only diehards or alumni will love.

18. Stony Brook at Monmouth, 6 a.m. ET

Comment: Anyone on the West Coast who isn't an alum of either school and still catches even a minute of this game is a bigger basketball fan than I am.

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