You really have to be a basketball junkie for this, and an unemployed one at that. The college basketball season unofficially is underway tonight with ESPN's annual tipoff marathon. Over 24 straight hours of live men's college basketball, with a couple of pretty good women's games as a prelude—just to break the ice.
It's probably been four or five years now that ESPN has done this, and I guess there's nothing wrong with it, but if you can't wait for the 4am Iona-Wofford game, you may have some serious questions to ask yourself. And this coming from a person who at least had the television on all night one year, trying to watch the games through osmosis or something.
In all, two women's games followed by 12 men's contests with the games at the front and back of the marathon really worth checking out. It all started at 4pm (Monday) on ESPN2 with the Baylor and Kentucky ladies, followed by a women's classic—Connecticut at Stanford. The home town Cardinal ended up with an 88-86 overtime win, and snapped UConn's 47-game winning streak. If you tuned in (like I did) at 8pm for the start of the first men's game, you got to see the end of regulation and OT, and maybe the best game of the entire marathon. We'll have to wait and see.
At 8pm Pacific Time, the first men's game was SMU at Gonzaga. Spokane is always rockin', and the Zags didn't disappoint, blowing out the Mustangs 72-56. Hopefully that fired fans up for a long night of hoops to follow. As you might guess, the late games are out west. After Gonzaga, it's Auburn-Colorado at 10pm (11pm local), New Mexico State-St. Mary's at midnight, and then High Point-Hawai'i at 2 o'clock in the morning (11pm in the Islands, so the students will be psyched). If you don't go numb by then, how about some early morning games back east?
At 4am Pacific (7 Eastern), it's Iona at Wofford. I remember full well that college students don't like to get up early, and that probably still applies to basketball. Wofford is in South Carolina, by the way, and Iona is in upstate New York—not exactly a rivalry game either. Both schools get to appear on national television, though, and you know that's why they agreed to the game time. Moving on, at 6am it's Northern Iowa at Stephen F. Austin. At least it's an 8am tip in Texas instead of 7am in South Carolina, but the same madness applies. At 8am (11 Eastern), it's Manhattan at Massachusetts, and at least students (and most of the nation), will be awake by then.
All of those aforementioned games are on ESPN2, but the mother ship takes over from there, and with some pretty good matchups. At 9am (noon Eastern) it's Baylor at South Carolina, followed at 11am by eleventh ranked Wichita State against Memphis at Sioux Falls, South Dakota. South Dakota you say? Believe it or not, the arena will be packed. After that, one more game before the main event—Utah at San Diego State at 1pm.
If you call yourself a sports fan and miss all of those games listed above, it's okay. I don't even think ESPN expects you to watch more than a few minutes of that, but the final two games are can't miss. Indianapolis, Indiana is the site for #12 Michigan State and #4 Duke, followed by #5 Kansas and #1 Kentucky.
So turn on the TV, get ready for pick-and-rolls, alley-oops, and thunder jams. Even if you doze off during those middle-of-the-night games, hoops are here. Even with a little ESPN-style overkill.
More hoops: It was announced today that Sacramento will be one of the sites for the early rounds of the 2017 NCAA Basketball Tournament. The interesting thing here is, the games will be played in an arena that hasn't been built yet. The new arena, and new home for the Sacramento Kings, is scheduled to open in the fall of 2016.
Baseball bits: Unfortunately it wasn't marked on any calendar, but today turned out to be Opening Day in the Hot Stove League, with tripleheader action. First, it's been rumored for weeks, but Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton has agreed to a 13 year, 325-million dollar deal—the largest in total value in North American sports history. Stanton is 25, and could opt out when he's 30 (Could you imagine what the sports market would be like five years from now if he actually walked away from that deal?); secondly, the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals made a blockbuster deal, with Atlanta sending outfielder Jason Heyward and reliver Jordan Walden to the Cards for pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. That deal was definitely brought about by the sudden death of Cardinals prospect Oscar Taveras during the World Series; and finally, free agent catcher, native Canadian, and former Dodger Russell Martin has agreed to a five year, 82-million dollar deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. And it's not even Thanksgiving yet.
Football footnote: It's not part of a doubleheader with Ohio State-Michigan, but at least Saturday's USC-UCLA game will be in prime time. The game, which somehow is not on Thanksgiving weekend this year, is a 5pm start on ABC.