ESPN's College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon is easily the best thing that ESPN does. It uses ESPN's vast resources for good for a change, turning teams looking for exposure into a full day of basketball. It's also an opportunity to gamble on 18 basketball games in one day and watch them all on TV. Here are my tip-off marathon picks.
Before I start, odds are from VegasInsider, unless otherwise noted. Home teams are in CAPS. Game times are Eastern. Here we go.
UCONN -15.5 over Stanford (7 PM, women's basketball, spread from Bet365)
I'm just going to go ahead and say this: I think it's garbage that women's basketball gets the bad rap that it does from people. IT'S STILL BASKETBALL TO ME, DAMMIT. Anyway, Stanford is really good, that's for sure. But UConn is a damn force of nature. Last season, UConn beat the Cardinal by 26 in Stanford, which snapped an 82 game home winning streak for Stanford. This is going to get ugly, but I hope I'm wrong, because the women's game needs competition to be compelling.
TEMPLE -7 over Kent State (7 PM)
This is the first Division I game of the year for Kent State, after they took on the Ohio Northern Polar Bears in their first game of the year. Temple, meanwhile, scheduled a somewhat tricky game at Penn in game one which, while it's not the toughest game, is certainly better than Ohio goddamn Northern. You'll want to keep an eye on Dalton Pepper for the Owls, by the way, who will be given the chance to shine as Temple's primary scorer for the first time this season.
NORTH CAROLINA +1.5 over Tennessee (9 PM, women's basketball, spread from Bet365)
My alma mater, the one and only University at Albany, took on North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament last year, and nearly pulled off the first 14 over 3 seed upset in women's NCAA Tournament history. That was kind of neat. Since then, UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell has been diagnosed with leukemia, which is the saddest thing ever. I hope North Carolina wins by a million points for her.
GONZAGA -15.5 over Colorado (9 pm)
Gonzaga surely lost a big time talent when Kelly Olynyk walked out the door, but they will be fine here. Sam Dower is more than capable of filling the void under the boards (he had 17 rebounds in their opener against Bryant) and Kevin Pangos is still going to hit all of the threes.
Brigham Young +4.5 over STANFORD (11 PM)
I was this close to typing BYU instead of Brigham Young, which would have led to all zero of you that read this to go “WHO'S THE HOME TEAM!?!?!?” Crisis averted. Anyway, the trio of Matt Carlino, Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth are going to be a pain in the ass for teams to stop this year. BYU may even win this one outright.
WICHITA STATE -14.5 over Western Kentucky (1 AM)
Wichita State made the Final Four last year. They do not need the exposure that a 1 AM start during the tip-off marathon would add to a game that nobody would care about normally. However, they are looking to make a statement here. They want to tell America, “hey, America. We're still really good at basketball.” And they will. Also, I'd be hard pressed not to bet on a team with a guy named CleAnthony on it.
Akron +10 over ST. MARY'S (3 AM)
St. Mary's is going to struggle a bit this season, having lost Matthew Dellavedova to the NBA. Brad Waldow dropped 28 points for them in their first game of the year, but something tells me that they won't get that type of production from him all the time. This rings especially true in a game that starts at midnight on the west coast.
HAWAI'I +1 over New Mexico State (5 AM)
THE HAWAI'I GAME! Hawai'i gets this time slot of the Tip-Off Marathon every year, which is the best. Apparently this game is for something called the Rainbow Classic, which sounds like the type of event that roughly five people would attend. They will win at home here.
Hartford +11 over FLORIDA GULF COAST (7 AM)
Hartford is one of the America East's proud member institutions. As an alum of an America East school, I actually know about them! Mark Nwakamma is a handful in the paint for the Hawks, and Nate Sikma is the son of former Seattle Supersonic Jack Sikma. That's pretty cool! Also, FGCU only has two of the guys from last year's Dunk City run to the Sweet 16, and a new coach. That isn't the recipe for a double digit cover.
Quinnipiac +10.5 over LA SALLE (9 AM)
La Salle lost a double overtime thriller to Manhattan in their opener, while Quinnipiac downed Hartford in theirs. While it could trip up Quinnipiac to have a daunting game against the UAlbany Great Danes after this one, I'll roll with the Bobcats here. Suck it, South Philly.
UMASS -4.5 over Louisiana State (11 AM)
Hey, LSU has a basketball team! They'll be playing their opener in the northeast against a UMass that has already scored a solid win over Boston College. Cady Lalanne and Chaz Williams combined for 47 points for them in that game, which won't continue, but those two are certainly good enough to beat LSU.
West Virginia -3 over VIRGINIA TECH (1 PM)
If Viginia Tech is going to solidify itself as the final bubble team left out of the NCAA Tournament, they'd better get a jump on it by losing this game in agonizing fashion.
South Carolina +12.5 over BAYLOR (3 PM)
The road team has won each of the last four meetings between these teams dating back to 2006. Will that happen again? No. But 12.5 is a lot to ask this early in the year against a semi-legitimate SEC opponent.
CINCINNATI -7 over North Carolina State (5 PM)
This line opened at somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 points, so getting an extra three points of breathing room is a nice luxury. Cincy is a team that will grind NC State down, as they did to teams back when the Big East wasn't the Catholic Athletic Conference.
Virginia Commonwealth +4 over VIRGINIA (7 PM)
VCU brings back six of their eight best players from last year, and they are going to do whatever they can to defeat another traditional powerhouse conference team in an early season showcase game. While so many eyes will be on the Champions Classic, VCU will show plenty of college hoops fans a glimpse of what they'll be seeing in the NCAA Tournament later this year.
Kentucky +3.5 over Michigan State (7:30 PM)
I mean, I guess I'll take the number one team in the country plus three and a half. Usually that's a decent idea.
WISCONSIN -10 over Florida (9 PM)
Florida is dealing with a ton of injuries right now, and that's before you remember that the Kohl Center is an invincible fortress in which road teams are not just incapable of winning, but may be prohibited by law from winning in.
Kansas +3.5 over Duke (9:30 PM)
HOW DARE YOU UNDERESTIMATE THE WIGGINS, VEGAS?
Enjoy the marathon, people.