by Cub Buenning
To start the college basketball season, ESPN is running a Tip-Off Marathon, which includes games starting at midnight ET on late Monday through the night, throughout the day Tuesday ending after midnight on Wednesday morning. I will be posting two separate diaries of my time attempting to watch as much as possible while sleeping as little. In addition to today’s post, another will be up tomorrow (Wednesday) in the morning.
Memphis and UMass gets things started with Fresno State and St. Mary’s playing second. Idaho State and Hawai’i finish the first night of round ball revelry around 6 a.m. ET. Keep in mind that all of my listed times will be in the country’s best sports viewing region, Mountain Time Zone. (Two hours behind N.Y.C. for those not chronologically inclined.)
2 p.m. — With a long night of watching basketball during regular sleeping hours, a nap seemed necessary. Instead of slumbering during my two-year-old daughter’s afternoon siesta, I got excited about the next couple of days and ESPN Classic threw me a nice savory bone with a game between North Carolina and Kentucky from 1990. Certain I had watched this game when it aired live, I tried to resist the tempting allure of the sea of flat-tops and mid-length shorts in order to get some rest before my long night.
King Rice, Rick Fox, Hubert Davis, Jamal Mashburn (best F-T, by the way) and George Lynch all coulda rolled with Bobby Brown. I immediately thought that the game of college basketball, itself is trying to keep me from attempting this feat of college hoops excess. I also realized that two of Kentucky’s players are now big time head coaches, in Travis Ford at Oklahoma St. and John Pelphrey at Arkansas.
10 p.m. — I am in the clear, my wife and daughter are deep asleep, and I have nestled down into my downstairs office with a fresh cup of coffee and my laptop. The Monday Night Football game ended in perfect timing to allow for ESPN to introduce this smorgasbord of basketball. The first footage shows the Memphis Tigers warming up on the floor of the FedEx Forum in Memphis. Empty seats are pretty normal when the local professional side plays, but the big show in this town is the college game and an 11 p.m. local time start won’t keep the droves away. This game is one of the few of the marathon that will be in HD, but after spending a few days before last season with Coach Calipari’s crew, I am always hoping the best for this program. I am really excited to see Tyreke Evans play at this level. I did get to see him a fair bit as a high school kid, but I am very curious.
10:08 p.m. — Ball is tipped, damn, I need more coffee…
10:10 p.m. — Memphis forward Shawn Taggart swats a UMass attempt and reminds me how deep this team was last year. Despite the departure of Joey Dorsey, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Derrick Rose, they still have quite a bit of talent remaining.
10:11 p.m. — One of my favorites, Antonio Anderson seems to be running most of the point. This kid will be in the league next year. I have spoken often about him, Bruce Bowen, type. Tigers are sloppy early.
10:16 p.m. — Coffee run at first break, UMass up five early. I may need to start a Patty Mills meter. Jay Bilas and both Brad Nessler and Jimmy Dykes have made mention of Mills and his performance in Beijing. So proud of that call, as I sent my first pitch idea to our editors about Mills exactly this time last year.
10:18 p.m. — Memphis needs to stop shooting threes. That was what got them in trouble in that game last year with Tennessee.
10:24 p.m. — Super sloppy play by both has me thinking about a snack. (I seem to remember my wife grabbing a box of Sugar Corn Pops at the grocery store this weekend…)
10:26 p.m. — 9-9 at the under 12 minute break, ugh. This is not what I love about college basketball. Tyreke seems a bit off of sorts. Not nervous, but just short-arming every pass and shot.
10:30 p.m. — UMass just seems to be doing the “dribble-drive” offense and throwing up bad shots and hoping for fouls, which they seem to be getting. Athletic difference between the teams is pretty apparent.
10:32 p.m. — Long and excited freshmen, Wesley Witherspoon pulls the illegal hop move and draws a foul. I just can’t believe that guys are allowed to do it and make millions of dollars off it. Refs, coaches, players, you can’t jump, land on the floor, and then jump again to make a move/shot.
10:34 p.m. — Just heard the 88th mention about how UMass coach Derek Kellogg is the best person to know how to defend the Memphis offense. I thought Anderson was good enough to play the 2 in the league, but he is trying to prove to me that he can play point, too, at 6-6, 215.
10:37 p.m. — Au contraire, Mr. Dykes. Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier did not come back to Memphis to win more, they did return solely to impress the NBA scouts or they would have never withdrawn their names from last spring’s draft. His statement makes it seem like DRose and CDR didn’t care as much about winning.
10:45 p.m. — While munching on my Pops, Tyreke (looks suddenly different and of a different disposition) and the Tigers make a run and snag a 10-point lead. I mutter something with a mouth full of cereal.
10:46 p.m. — Ricky Harris bombing away from the left wing seems to be the only effective method of scoring points for UMass.
10:53 p.m. — Tiger forward Robert Dozier playing a more controlled mid-range game. When he settles for long-range shots he isn’t nearly as effective.
10:58 p.m. — Sloppy first half puts itself out its own misery with a 33-25, Memphis lead. I have to take advantage of the half-time break to finish up some work from my “other” job.
Wow, did anyone see Arizona’s Chase Budinger’s bang on Florida Atlantic? If not, find it. In the half-court, mind you.
11:22 p.m. — Just a few minutes into the second half, and Tyreke is reminding me of a slightly smaller, LeBron. The manner in which he moves on the court, the way he floats through traffic and the body-type are strikingly similar.
11:30 p.m. — Memphis is staring to pull away a bit. I really like the energy and body on this Witherspoon kid. Tigers up 12 with 15 left.
11:43 p.m. — Memphis stretches its lead to 15 for the first time with 10:45 left. Game has been played much cleaner in this half, but there is still a lull in the game with an obvious mismatch in talent and team strength size. In addition, UMass looks tired and worn out. Lack of depth against a fast-paced, deep and talented ball club never works in your advantage.
11:51 p.m. — With midnight approaching MST, I am doing well with the coffee power drinking I put forth in the first game. Memphis appears to be well in control and again have at least four or five solid pro prospects.
12:04 p.m. — Have I mentioned that Wesley Witherspoon is really, really nice? He’s a 6-8 guy with the ability and gumption to play the point with pace, control and a bit of toughness. Some weight room/cafeteria/Memphis eatin’ should do this Atlanta native well over the next few months. Curious to see where his first college season leads.
12:06 p.m. — “One of the best players in the nation, Patty Mills,” ESPN teases the already started Fresno vs. St. Mary’s game. Oh yeah, Memphis is up 25 now. I assume the worldwide leader is eagerly cueing a bunch of “Mills blowing by Chris Paul” highlights.
12:07 p.m. — Colorado Avalanche sign Peter Stastny to a five-year extension! He is the next Joe Sakic for that team and a fun guy to watch play hockey.
12:11 p.m. — I require Fresno vs. St. Marys, not the end of what has become a blow-out. Twenty-seven seconds left…
WE GO LIVE TO TERRY GANNON AND STEPHEN BARDO IN MORAGA CALIFORNIA IN SAN FRANCISCO’S EAST BAY!
12:15 p.m. — Seeing that gym brings backs memories as I did play against the Gaels while in college. I would hate to bring up tough memories, but a certain former roommate and teammate, not to mention a current NBA assistant got banged on horribly there; really bad. It was part of a fun west coast trip over the New Year, which we spent out in the city.
12:16 p.m. — Believe the fact that the WCC will be ridiculous this year. Gonzaga might have its best team ever; St. Mary’s and San Diego can beat any team in the nation.
12:22 p.m. — St. Mary’s is deeper than I even remember. I haven’t seen their back-ups play a lot, but they seem perfect for the system. Patty has not stood out during the few minutes of televised action we have seen, although his on-the-ball speed is obvious and is world-class.
12:26 p.m. — Gannon and former Illini great, Stephen Bardo are discussing Diamon Simpson and his lack of national recognition. If he can add a three-point shot, he has always given me a Matt Barnes/Shawn Marion feel. (His partner’s college greatness aside, I love that Gannon actually played major minutes for Jimmy V’s 1983 National Championship team at N.C. State.)
12:28 p.m. — Holy crap! FRESNO’S PAUL GEORGE CRAMMED ON MY MAN!!!! Freshman 6-7 swingman went into the lane and did not miss. Early college “dunk of the year” candidate. Find that highlight, as well as the Budinger one if you can. St. Mary’s is up nine, by the way, and just playing a better game than Fresno, who is stereo-typically full of unpolished, athletic, individuals.
12:31 p.m. — Just wondering how many current Fresno players are in the League? Melvin Ely, Skip, hmmmm…
12:37 p.m. — Patty just made a brilliant steal and a difficult finish flying down the lane.
12:38 p.m. — I have seen this broadcast group a few games in the past, but I have decided that I like Stephen Bardo. Bardo is like a fledgling Cris Collinsworth, with just great analysis. I have always like Gannon, largely familiar with his golf work.
Patty just nailed a deep three and he now has 16 in the game and the Gaels are suddenly up 18 with six minutes left. This game is being played more efficiently than the first one.
12:44 p.m. — Fresno seems to not have any guys over 6-7.
MILLS HITS ANOTHER THREE! 19 IN THE FIRST HALF! St. Mary’s up 19.
12:47 p.m. — St. Mary’s is 7-11 from three. Bardo is right, great floor spacing.
12:54 p.m. — Halftime comes and the Bulldogs have scraped their way back into a workable 55-42 deficit.
1:18 p.m. — St. Mary’s comes out quick and puts Fresno down 23. Gael center Omar Samhan would love to play short teams like this every week.
1:24 p.m. — As should be expected in every game of basketball, a 7-0 run by Fresno.
1:31 p.m. — A tough call on a St. Mary’s attempted block shot and the crowd immediately goes into the “BS, BS” chant. Never hear that at an NBA game, which is unfortunate.
2:10 p.m. — I took in the remainder of another blowout on my desk-side recliner and I start dozing off as they switch off the 99-85 St. Mary’s win. Patty Mills finishes with 27.
2:20 p.m. — I attempt to start watching the Idaho State (who I watched last year actually) and Hawai’i, but it is no use. I’m gonna grab some winks and I’ll catch back up with soon!
Check Cub Buenning’s scouting website for weekly player reports. Many players highlighted in Cub Scouts are thoroughly covered on the site.