The Tip-Off Marathon's Daytime Shift
The second half of the Tip-Off Marathon began with a rematch of a morning thriller from last year's edition. While the winner was the same, as the Northern Iowa Panthers again defeated the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, this year's contest in Cedar Falls didn't require overtime. The Panthers prevailed easily, 70-60. UNI's recovery from a subpar opener against Colorado State was impressive, but don't worry too much about the Southland champs. SFA tends to get off to starts before quickly getting things in gear under Brad Underwood.
Horizon League favorite Valparaiso won at Rhode Island, 58-55, holding off a furious Rams rally that only ended with a missed Four McGlynn three-point attempt at the buzzer. This game started slowly, as you'd expect out of a 10 a.m. tip, but gathered steam in the second half.
Dayton's win over Alabama was the first real clunker of the day. Avery Johnson's Crimson Tide were competitive for about 10 minutes before the Flyers turned the afterburners on and blew them out of UD Arena. The final score: 80-48 Dayton and it could be a very long season in Tuscaloosa.
It might be the same for the Tide's archrival, as Auburn couldn't keep the early lead it built against Colorado. The Buffs cut a 12-point Tiger lead to four in the final 4:30 of the first half, then took over in the second to claim a 91-84 victory that really wasn't that close. George King led the visitors with 27 in a game that featured two players on each team scoring more than 20.
But the Tip-Off Marathon had a strong finishing kick, starting with the pair of 5 p.m. Eastern contests. Penn Stateprevailed in the first Gavitt Tip-off Game ever, sneaking past DePaul 68-62, while host Memphis pushed No. 8 Oklahomaup to the final minute, before the Sooners grabbed an 84-78 win. Buddy Hield scored 30 for Oklahoma, calmly knocking in four free throws in the game's closing 14 seconds to cage the Tigers.
As an aside, the Tip-Off Marathon needs to expand to two, staggered starts in more windows. Such a change might help the entertainment factor when you have blowouts during the daytime games.
A Pair of Significant Wins
While I attended the State Farm Champions Classic here in Chicago, I missed a couple of Tuesday's more interesting results. Tulsa avenged last season's 20-point blowout at Wichita State by handing the No. 9 Shockers their first loss of the new season, 77-67, thanks to 20 from Shaquille Harrison and 16 from Marquel Curtis. The Golden Hurricane, who might have picked up a necessary marquee win for their at-large case come March, had lost seven in a row to their former Valley rivals. Note that Fred VanVleet played with hamstring and ankle injuries, scoring 11. His backcourt mate, Ron Baker, led the Shockers in scoring with 23.
Later, just outside the Nation's Capital, No. 3 Maryland and visiting Georgetown made their first meeting in the region in 22 years well worth the wait for both the 17,950 fans in attendance and the ESPN2 audience. The Hoyas looked far better than they did against Radford on Saturday (though that was a low bar to cross), but they fell apart late. Rasheed Sulaimon's three with just a little more than a minute remaining gave the hosts a lead they would keep until the end, and a 75-71 win over a rival who is now more than just a ghost.
Georgetown now stands at 0-2 and will have a lot of work to do to get out of that hole, considering the opposition at the 2K Classic in New York starting on Friday.
While free throws didn't make much of a difference in Tulsa last night, as the Golden Hurricane only had a 28-24 advantage in attempts, Maryland had 20 more chances from the charity stripe than the Hoyas. That stat is going to keep your eye on, especially early in the season, as more physical teams adjust to the new rules.
The Champions Classic
One of those squads, No. 13 Michigan State, might just be OK with the rule changes, as the Spartans topped No. 4 Kansas 79-73 in the Champions Classic's conclusion. However, I don't think Denzel Valentine (29 points, 12 boards, 12 assists) would have let the Spartans fall had the foul trouble I suspected would hit them late actually materialized. Yes, the Jayhawks went to the line nearly twice as often as MSU (30-16), but Tom Izzo's team was far more accurate from both the floor and beyond the arc—stats that also helped them overcome 16 turnovers. Perry Ellis scored 21 for the Jayhawks, though he didn't have nearly the success in the second half that he was experiencing in the first.
In the opener, No. 2 Kentucky's guards dominated—Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray in particular, which led to the Wildcats dominating the defending National Champions, 74-63—a game that didn't feel nearly that competitive. That's because Duke had no answer for Kentucky's fast break or defense, which held Grayson Allen to six points and largely quieted Marshall Plumlee after he dominated the first five or so minutes of the game.
Based on the small sample size so far, this doesn't look like it will be a letdown season for the Wildcats.
Other Notable Results
I was naturally keeping an eye on scores while at the United Center last night and, for a time, thought Nebraska might be on their way to an upset at the Pavilion just outside of Philadelphia, as the Cornhuskers led No. 11 Villanova by seven with about 10 minutes gone. That didn't last, thanks to a 22-0 Wildcat run not long after, which helped create the final margin, an 87-63 Nova win.
The other game I closely followed was the Upstate New York showdown between Syracuse and St. Bonaventure at the Carrier Dome. The Orange trailed by six at halftime, but outscored the Bonnies by 19 after the break to avoid an embarrassing loss (which would have been their first against Olean's pride since 1981, I was still living in Niagara Falls then!) and a @NoEscalators shade onslaught. Plus, Jim Boeheim got a win on his birthday.
Elsewhere, Missouri gave Xavier more of a fight than I expected, but the Musketeers cruised in the second half, en route to a 78-66 victory. But Ohio State (82-55 over woeful Grambling State) and Louisville (87-52 over Hartford) weren't tested in exempt-event home games.
Oregon State sent Iona to an 0-2 start, thanks to an easy 93-73 win in Corvallis. Wisconsin won their second straight after dropping their opener to Western Illinois, topping North Dakota 78-64. As for the Leathernecks, they moved to 3-0 with an 84-57 blowout win over UIC.
And in Boca Raton, Florida Atlantic lost to NAIA Warner University from Lake Wales, Fla., 75-72, in a Black Line Upset.