Ranking the games in next season's Tip-Off marathon

Izzo, Calipari, Self, K
Izzo, Calipari, Self, K

ESPN released the schedule for next season's Tip-Off marathon on Monday afternoon. A look at which games are worth chugging energy drinks or espressos to watch and which are nap-worthy:

1. Kansas vs. Kentucky (Nov. 18, 9:30 p.m. EST): The nation's first real look at how John Calipari plans to dispense playing time among his nine former McDonald's All-Americans will come against a Kansas team with plenty of talent of its own. Between the arrival of Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre and the return of Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden, Kansas will be a Final Four threat if it can find a reliable point guard.

2. Duke vs. Michigan State (Nov. 18, 7 p.m. EST): The undercard of the Champion's Classic could be a bit of a mismatch. The Spartans lost Gary Harris, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling from last year's Elite Eight team and endured a few swings and misses on the recruiting trail. They'll face a tough task against the Blue Devils, who made up for the loss of Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood by adding stud freshmen Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones .

3. Wichita State vs. Memphis (Nov. 18, 2 p.m. EST): Wichita State's bid for a second straight unbeaten regular season will face a big early test in this neutral-court game in Sioux Falls. The Shockers are loaded on the perimeter thanks to the return of Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton, but Memphis has more size and plenty of young talent eager to make up for the loss of three starters from last year.

4. SMU at Gonzaga (Nov. 17, 11 p.m. EST): This would have been a difficult road test for SMU even if top recruit Emmanuel Mudiay hadn't turned pro instead of joining the Mustangs. Gonzaga has top 10 potential next season thanks to the return of three starters from last year's NCAA tournament team and the arrival of Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer, USC transfer Byron Wesley and a strong recruiting class. Vanderbilt transfer Eric McClellan also has joined the Zags but he won't be eligible until mid-December.

5. Utah at San Diego State (Nov. 18, 4 p.m. EST): Can a Utah program that returns the core of an NIT team take a big step forward this season behind budding star Delon Wright? Will San Diego State's bevy of experienced returners deliver the scoring and leadership needed to absorb the loss of do-everything star Xavier Thames? This early matchup between two of the better teams out West should provide some answers.

6. Miami at Florida (Nov. 17, 7 p.m. EST): Having endured a one-year dip caused by the departure of nearly every key player from its 2013 ACC title team, Miami should ascend in the national pecking order again next season with transfers Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan making their debuts. Florida loses three starters from last year's Final Four team, but if guard Kasey Hill and forwards Dorian Finney-Smith and Chris Walker develop as expected, the Gators shouldn't fall far.

7. Marquette at Ohio State (Nov. 18, 7:30 p.m. EST): Ohio State faces more questions than previous years next season with LaQuinton Ross turning pro and Aaron Craft graduating. Shannon Scott will assume point guard duties, freshman D'Angelo Russell will bring badly needed outside shooting and Sam Thompson, Marc Loving and Temple transfer Anthony Lee will form a solid frontcourt. They'll get their first big test against a Marquette team with a new coach and a new point guard in BYU transfer Matt Carlino.

8. Auburn at Colorado (Nov. 18, 1 a.m. EST): Instead of calling the game or serving as a halftime analyst, Bruce Pearl will appear on ESPN in a different role. He'll bring a rebuilding Auburn team to what should be a raucous environment in Boulder for an 11 p.m. tip-off local time. It won't only be the fans Pearl has to worry about — Colorado could have been special had Spencer Dinwiddie returned but the Buffs return enough talent to still be an upper-echelon Pac-12 team without him.

9. Toledo at VCU (Nov. 18, 6 p.m. EST): This is a nice prelude to the Champion's Classic doubleheader. VCU returns seven of its top nine players from last year's 26-win team that fell in heartbreaking fashion to 12th-seeded Stephen F. Austin in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Toledo has four starters back from an NIT team that won a school record 27 games a year ago.

10. Northern Iowa at Stephen F. Austin (Nov. 18, 9 a.m. EST): With forward Seth Tuttle, guard Deon Mitchell and the rest of its five leading scorers returning from last season, Northern Iowa promises to be Wichita State's biggest challenger in the Valley. The Panthers will get an early litmus test of how good they are during the marathon when they visit a Stephen F. Austin team that returns Southland player of the year Jacob Parker and standout guard Thomas Walkup from last year's 32-win team.


New Mexico State at Saint Mary's (Nov. 18, 3 a.m. EST): Saint Mary's seeks to bounce back from a rare down season behind standout big man Brad Waldow. New Mexico State is down one enormous center thanks to the early departure of 7-foot-5 Sim Bhullar but the Aggies do have his 7-3 younger brother.

Baylor at South Carolina (Nov. 18, noon EST): Sharpshooter Brady Heslip and top big men Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin have all moved on, leaving Baylor with more questions than usual entering the season. South Carolina may not be the team to expose the Bears' weaknesses though unless they make some big strides in Frank Martin's second season.

Detroit at Oregon (Nov. 17, 11 p.m. EST): Joseph Young is a Pac-12 player of the year contender, but the Ducks have sustained too many losses to factor in the conference race next season.

Texas Tech at LSU (Nov. 18, 9:30 p.m. EST): Texas Tech is improving. LSU has NCAA tournament-caliber talent. But let's be honest: You're not flipping away from Kentucky-Kansas to catch a few minutes of this one.

Manhattan at UMass (Nov. 18, 11 a.m. EST): Can Steve Masiello still capture the attention of a team he left to take the South Florida job only to have to return to because of a resume flap? This will be a good barometer. UMass loses Chaz Williams but returns several other key players including guard Derrick Gordon, college basketball's first openly gay player.

High Point at Hawaii (Nov. 18, 5 a.m. EST): Unless you're an alum of either school or you have a son playing in the game, this is probably a good time for a nap. 

Iona at Wofford (Nov. 18, 7 a.m. EST): Ditto, though Iona at least plays at a fast tempo and Wofford returns the core of its NCAA tournament team.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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