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I Slept On It (Sort Of): Tip-Off Marathon, Part I

The first half of ESPN's 2015 Tip-Off Marathon is in the books and did it ever deliver some excitement? Here's a quick look at what went down in the first half-dozen games along with a review of some of Monday's other interesting results.

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The first men's game of the Marathon was a not insignificant upset.

Might the No. 6 Virginia Cavaliers be a little overrated this season? This is a definite possibility considering how out of sorts they looked in losing at George Washington. by a 73-68 score. The Colonials dominated inside and on the boards, while the Cavaliers didn't seem to have their usual sense of purpose on defense.

Or maybe GW just jumped up the Atlantic 10 pecking order, especially after Rhode Island lost E.C. Matthews for the season.

Or perhaps the new rules are having an early effect on teams known for their physical defense, like UVa, and Northern Iowa (who fell at home to Colorado State after a lackluster defensive outing), and Wisconsin (who had trouble with Western Illinois on Opening Night).

Time will tell.

Pac-12 Promise

San Diego State are another team struggling with the new rules, as the Aztecs fell at No. 16 Utah in a rematch of a 2015 Tip-Off Marathon contest won by SDSU at Viejas. This time the Utes prevailed 81-76, a far different result than the 53-49 rock fight of a season ago. Utah looked far more comfortable and fluid on offense than they did at any point last year—right up to their Sweet 16 loss to Duke in Houston. And even the notoriously weak Aztecs showed some promise on that front, especially with their backs against the wall in the final minutes.

The Pac-12 picked up another quality win the third game of ESPN2's portion of the Marathon, as No. 25 Oregon stifled No. 20 Baylor, 74-67, hours after the Ducks entered the poll for the first time this season. Only six Oregon players scored, and all but one of those, Casey Benson, hit double figures. And he managed nine.

If you didn't watch this game, you're eyes are currently thanking you, by the way.

Big West Triumphs

But things really got going with the two overnight games, which saw a pair of Big West teams pull out one-point wins. First, Long Beach State took advantage of a rare non-conference home game, edging BYU in a 66-65 contest decided in part by a missed Kyle Collinsworth foul shot and by the Cougars inability to corral the rebound on a missed Nick Faust freebie with three ticks left.

Things then got crazy on O'ahu, where host Hawai `i claimed victory in traditional 4 a.m. Eastern Marathon tip and the 2015 Rainbow Classic crown. The Rainbow Warriors bested former WAC rival Nevada 76-75 after a BANANAS final 1:43 that featured 18 combined points. The Wolf Pack's Marqueze Coleman led all scorers with 34—with 32 of those coming in the second half thanks to a pair of early fouls—but Hawaii `'s Roderick Bobbitt had the last word with a game-winning layup with three seconds left, the final pair of his 10 points on the night.

That game provided more excitement than should be legally allowed at 5:20 Central or 1:20 Hawaii time.

In the final Marathon game I'll cover in this post, ETSU pulled away from visiting Green Bay in an NIT Season Tip-Off contest, pirating a 103-90 victory.

NJIT Strikes Again

The USF Bulls are still a considerable distance from respectability, as they fell to the NJIT Highlanders in a Hoophall Invitational game at the Sun Dome. This result isn't beating Michigan at Crisler, but its another symbolic victory for the Highlanders. Plus, it's a signal they can win in Florida, a vital trait in their new conference.

#SECBasketballFever Is Still Very Much A Thing

Your favorite college hoops hashtag is alive and well. Despite wins for Florida (over N.C A&T), No. 23 LSU (over Kennesaw State), Ole Miss (over Georgia Southern, though the Eagles rallied late), South Carolina (over Oral Roberts), Texas A&M (over Southeastern Louisiana), and No. 17 Vanderbilt (over Gardner-Webb), it wasn't a perfect night for the league. Tennessee blew a second half lead at Georgia Tech and Southern upended Ben Howland's Mississippi State by a 76-72 count in Starkville, ruining the debut of the Bulldogs' touted freshman Malik Newman.

Duplication Ain't Easy

It was a rough night for teams looking to rekindle the magic of earlier upsets. Georgetown's conquerors, Radford, were no match for VCU, falling by a 92-74 count in the second 2K Classic game for both.

Out West, USC prevented Monmouth from going 2-0 on their L.A. Pac-12 swing. The Trojans pulled away late, grabbing a 101-90 victory. In Tempe, Arizona State rebounded from an opening loss to Sacramento State by topping Belmont by an 83-74 count in a FanDuel Legends Classic matchup, preventing the Bruins from sweeping their road games in the event. Montana, conquerors of Mountain West favorite Boise State, lost at that conference's worst team—San Jose State—who last defeated a Division I opponent (Nevada) on February 18, 2014!

On the other hand, Marquette avoided dropping both of their Legends Classic home games, though they needed OT to dispatch IUPUI.

Burying the Lede?

Finally, LIU-Brooklyn defeated Loyola, Md. Greyhounds, 71-68, in pretty unbelievable fashion. Seriously, watch that right now even if you have already.

What memories will the second half of the Tip-Off Marathon provide? We'll find out between now and about midnight Eastern.

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