Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ranking the most intriguing games in ESPN?s 24-hour marathon

ESPN released the lineup on Thursday for its fourth annual college hoops marathon to be held on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

What has been a terrific event the past three years once again looks as though it has a slate of games 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 the 10 most intriguing games

1. Kentucky vs. Kansas (from New York), 9 p.m. EST

Comment: Much of the nation's first glimpse of Kentucky's top-ranked freshman class will come in a matchup against a fellow college basketball blue blood. Will Kansas take a step backward after losing the Morris twins and Josh Selby to the NBA? This should provide an early indication.

2. Florida at Ohio State, 8 p.m. EST

Comment: Ohio State clobbered Florida 93-75 in Gainesville last November behind 26 points and 10 rebounds from Jared Sullinger. The Gators will have an opportunity for revenge a year later in a matchup of likely preseason top 15 teams.

3. Duke vs. Michigan State (from New York), 7 p.m. EST

Comment: Michigan State's first chance to atone for last year's disappointing season will be a matchup with a Duke team that has reloaded despite the departure of Kyrie Irving, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith. The Blue Devils defeated the Spartans 84-79 a year ago, but next year's teams will hardly resemble the ones that met the previous winter.

4. Belmont at Memphis, 12 p.m. EST

Comment: They both dropped opening-round NCAA tournament games a year ago, but Belmont and Memphis bring back enough talent to make far deeper runs next March. The Bruins return the core of a team that won 16 Atlantic Sun games by 10 or more points and pushed Tennessee and Vanderbilt to the brink on their home floors. The Tigers' promising 2010 freshman class should have made a big leap entering their sophomore year.

5. George Mason/Fla. International at Virginia Tech, 6 p.m. EST

Comment: As long as George Mason and Virginia Tech win their first-round games, this Preseason NIT quarterfinal should have plenty of storylines. The Hokies have shied away from facing in-state mid-major powers and haven't played the Patriots since splitting a pair of games during the 1991-92 season.

6. San Diego State at Baylor, 2 p.m. EST

Comment: San Diego State probably will take a step backward without D.J. Gay, Kawhi Leonard and Malcolm Thomas, but this could be a good time for the Aztecs to catch Baylor. Star forward Perry Jones will be serving a suspension and promising freshmen Quincy Miller and Deuce Bello will still be trying to mesh with their veteran teammates.

7. Washington State at Gonzaga, 12 a.m. EST

Comment: The frontcourt duo of Elias Harris and Robert Sacre will make Gonzaga a clear favorite in this matchup of in-state rivals. Washington State's guard duo of Reggie Moore and Faisal Aden is formidable, but the Cougs will miss Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto, both of whom left school early to turn pro.

8. Northern Iowa at Saint Mary's, 2 a.m. EST

Comment: NCAA tournament darlings in the Sweet 16 two years ago, both Northern Iowa and Saint Mary's missed March Madness a year ago. The winner of this game will have an early quality win to boost their resume next season.

9. Kent State at West Virginia, 10 a.m. EST

Comment: This early-morning matchup won't be a pushover for revamped West Virginia. Three of Kent State's four leading scorers return from a team that won the MAC East with a 12-4 record a year ago.

10. Rhode Island at Texas, 4 p.m. EST

Comment: Even after losing Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton to the NBA draft, Texas should have little trouble with Rhode Island. The Rams lost their two leading scorers from last year's middle-of-the-pack Atlantic 10 team.


Matt Cassel Matt Light Matt Ryan Michael Griffin

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