We’re hiring! Join Us.

Latest Stories

View More →

What We Learned During ESPN's Tip-Off Marathon

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Kentucky fell to Michigan State, Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins squared off, and more.

What We Learned During ESPN's Tip-Off Marathon

ESPN's Annual Tip-Off Marathon concluded last night with a pair of incredible games between four of the top five teams in the country. It was a terrific 24-plus hours of hoops that serves as a solid introduction to this new season. A lot is still unknown, but we just consumed a ton of basketball. With one binge-session of college basketball in the bag, it's time to step back and see if there's anything to be gleaned from the very early action.

(2) Michigan State Tops (1) Kentucky

The biggest takeaway from this game isn't that Michigan State won 78-74. I had a feeling they would come out not only because of their talent, but because of their experience. When you have Tom Izzo, my pick for best coach in college basketball, organizing the gameplan, that doesn't hurt either. I came away thoroughly impressed at the sheer level of talent Kentucky possesses. The Spartans outplayed the Wildcats thoroughly in the first half and led by double-digits for a majority of the second half. That didn't stop Julius Randle and James Young from leading the charge to nearly come back and win. It's really early for this Kentucky team, but their cohesiveness is only going to grow as the season progresses. Add that to their overwhelming talent and this team is going to be a problem.

Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins Impress

The top two recruits from the class of 2013 squared off last night, and both Andrew Wiggins of Kansas and Jabari Parker of Duke showed why they earned those designations. Wiggins put up 22 points and eight rebounds in just 25 minutes. He showed off his quickness and athleticism on several drives and cuts to the rim, but also displayed his shooting touch with some lovely jumpers, including a big step-back jumper late to propel Kansas to the 94-83 victory. 

Parker was the real star, especially in the first half. Sorry for the double-negative, but there really isn't much that he can't do on the court. He scored (27 points on 9-18, 4-7 from three and 5-5 from the line), rebounded (nine) and defended (two steals, one block). He can drive, he can shoot, he can post up, and he has the athleticism to play a little on the perimeter. I can't really think of the last time Duke had a player like this. Kyrie Irving would have been it had he stayed healthy. It's going to be really exciting to watch these two, especially Parker, this season.

Other Top-25 Tilts

There were a couple other matchups between Top-25 teams yesterday. (20) Wisconsin improved to 2-0 but taking down (11) Florida 59-53. I don't know if there is a team that dictates its style as well as Wisconsin.

(14) VCU took care of (25) Virginia in a battle for state supremacy with a 59-56 win. Shaka Smart might have a great shot to return to the Final Four with this group. They have a strong mix of athleticism, youth and experience up and down the roster that's going to make them tough for anyone to handle. They could have easily fallen to Virginia if the Cavaliers had shot better from the free throw line (19-33).

The rest of the Top 25 was filled with blowouts aside from a few fairly close games, the closest of which was (23) Baylor's two-point win over South Carolina. I don't know if the result speaks more to Baylor's weaknesses or an improved South Carolina team under coach Frank Martin. Baylor has alway been a suspect team when it comes to meeting expectations.

Doug McDermott Wows

Last year, Creighton forward Doug McDermott was deserving of Player of the Year honors that eventually went to another worthy recipient, Michigan point guard Trey Burke. He returned for his senior season and staked his claim to the nation's top player early. In Creighton's game on Monday, McDermott went for a cool 37 points while showing off his arsenal of offensive moves (and chipping in seven rebounds). The young guns are poised to try and steal some thunder, but I think this is McDermott's award to lose this year.

Thoughts on Some Teams

• (15) Gonzaga lost their starting front court from last season (Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris) and their defensive glue (Mike Hart), yet they have come out of the gate with two dominating performances. The cohesive backcourt of Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and David Stockton really keep the offense running smoothly, but I wonder when they will be exploited by a team that can take advantage of their lack of size.

• (18) Connecticut looks much improved, especially under the leadership of point guard Shabazz Napier. In his senior season, it seems like Napier realizes he has to be the guy for UConn this year. He's responded by doing a little bit of everything, notching a triple-double on Monday against Yale and putting up a similarly strong line in the opener against Maryland. It's only two games in, but if Napier can keep up this play (or stay somewhere near it) he could really make UConn dangerous come tournament time.

Oklahoma State coach Travis Smart has as good a team as he's ever had with this year's eighth-ranked squad. Marcus Smart and LeBryan Nash form a highly potent 1-2 punch for opposing defenses, and when Smart is defending like he did last night (nine steals in just 25 minutes against Utah Valley) this team can lock you up.

• Anytime you a team loses a handful of top scorers from the season before, there are going to be some serious growing pains the next season. That's what's happening for both Indiana and Miami, who lost a lot to graduation and the NBA draft. Indiana is 2-0 on the year, but they just barely squeaked by a tough LIU-Brooklyn team yesterday 73-72. The Hurricanes lost their opening game to St. Francis (NY) and needed double-overtime to get past Georgia Southern. Indiana is definitely better situated to recover from all of the roster turnover, but it will be a bumpy ride for both programs that were so great last season.

• Some teams outside the Top-25 that have impressed thus far: UMass (with two nice wins over Boston College and LSU), Manhattan (two solid road wins, one over last year's tournament darling LaSalle), Cincinnati (2-0 start with impressive play from Sean Kilpatrick), Minnesota and Iowa State. 

It's feels good to have college basketball back, especially after a day and a half of great action like we had during the marathon. Even though it's still very early, these early games can tell us a lot about players and teams. Much more will be revealed in the coming months, and it will be exciting to watch this season play out.

Want great tickets but hate paying fees? Check CHARGED.fm to find the best deals with NO FEES!

Comments (0)
  1. Add a Comment

    All fields marked with * are required.

Continue (x)

Please Login…

To continue, please login into your CHARGED.fm account.

Don't have an account?
for free.

Hold on a sec…

Login (x)

Hold on a sec…

Sign Up (x)

Hold on a sec…

Share with Friends (x)

Share on other sites

Share this event on your favourite sites and other online communities.

Note: These links will open in a new window

Contact Host (x)
Contact The Host

* All fields are required.