ESPN’s tip off marathon is sort of gimmicky, but in a few short years it has signaled the start of college basketball season as much as anything else, and it has been a great jumping off point to get into the season, culminating for the third year in a row with the Champions Classic featuring Kansas, Michigan State, Duke and Kentucky.
Like the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, the tip off marathon is a great excuse to skip class (or miss work), but if you do have actual real life things to do on November 12th (boring) here’s a guide of the best five games in the marathon to make sure you can maximize your college hoops watching time.
note: I’m not ranking the champions classic games because everyone and their dog will and should be watching Kansas-Duke and Michigan State-Kentucky.
5. Western Kentucky at Wichita State, 1 AM, ESPN2
The Shockers don’t get the best tip time as a reward for making the Final Four last year, but Charles Koch Arena is one of the best mid major environments in the country, and the Shocker faithful should have a special crowd in store for a national game on ESPN2. Cleanthony Early will get a national stage to show what he can do early in the season (no pun intended) and I think his name will be on the lips of a lot of All American voters well into the season. The Shockers lose three Seniors off last year’s Final Four squad, but with Early back and Creighton off to the AAC, Wichita State should be the heavy favorites in the Valley.
Western Kentucky, meanwhile, struggled in the Sun Belt regular season, but they won the conference tournament and almost pulled off the first ever 16 over 1 upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year. The Hilltoppers return four starters and could provide a good test for the Shockers. The problem with that is that Western Kentucky didn’t do a lot well last year. They crashed the glass on offense reasonably well, but they were horrible from three, only scored from two in conference play and got some decent luck in terms of three point defense. Factoring in some improvement, they should be good enough to challenge for the Sun Belt title but they probably won’t be much of a match for the Shockers.