A viewer's guide for action leading up to Michigan State-Kentucky, Duke-Kansas
Although basketball season started Friday, tonight will mark the unofficial start of 2013-14.
ESPN will begin its 24-hour tip-off marathon at 11 p.m. Eastern when BYU visits Stanford with a handful of juicy matchups culminating in the marquee games Tuesday evening.
The final games in the marathon could easily be Final Four previews as Kentucky faces Michigan State and Kansas faces Duke in the Champions Classic in Chicago. The two matchups include four of the top five teams in Athlon Sports’ preseason top 25.
The rest of the featured teams in the marathon include five more Athlon top 25 teams (Florida, Wisconsin, Baylor, VCU, Wichita State), a Final Four team from 2013 (Wichita State) and the darling of last year’s NCAA Tournament (Florida Gulf Coast).
You may need a boost to get through the entire marathon, that’s why we’ve given each game a “caffeinated beverage rating” to help viewers push through.
College Basketball Tipoff Marathon Viewer’s Guide
*All times Eastern
Read previews of every top 25 team and more in the Athlon Sports College Basketball Preseason Rankings.
Two proud programs have been quiet recently, but there’s plenty of reason to believe both will be interesting this season. LSU adds highly regarded freshman Jarell Martin to a frontcourt that already features Johnny O’Bryant. UMass adds Western Kentucky transfer Derrick Gordon to a backcourt that already includes Chaz Williams, who leads the Minutemen’s up-tempo offense and pressure defense.
Caffeinated beverage rating: Grande Coffee
West Virginia at Virginia Tech (1 p.m., ESPN)
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins added junior college transfers with hopes of avoiding the dysfunction of last season. Little hope is on the way for Virginia Tech, however.
Caffeinated beverage rating: Sugar-Free Red Bull
South Carolina at Baylor (3 p.m., ESPN)
Baylor has a roster with plenty of pro talent thanks to the return of Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson. The Bears need newcomers like Kenny Chery, Ishmael Wainright and Royce O’Neal to improve play in the defensive end. South Carolina is getting better under Frank Martin, but the roster rebuild is still in its early stages.
Caffeinated beverage rating: Diet Mountain Dew
NC State at Cincinnati (5 p.m., ESPN)
The Wolfpack enter this season with none of the fanfare from last season with almost every key player gone from last season. Maybe that will be a good thing for NC State. Cincinnati also has had little press in the offesason, but Mick Cronin returns Sean Kilpatrick and adds freshman Jermaine Lawrence on what should be an NCAA Tournament team.
Caffeinated beverage rating: Red Bull
VCU at Virginia (7 p.m., ESPN2)
VCU and Virginia share a state and little else in common. The Rams are among the most exciting teams in the country to watch due to their defense while Virginia, well, is not. Still, the Cavs' Joe Harris is a ACC player of the year candidate going up against a defensive team that will keep him on his toes.
Caffeinated beverage rating: Five-Hour Energy
Michigan State vs. Kentucky (7:30 p.m., ESPN)
Full Game Preview
Tom Izzo’s veterans vs. Kentucky’s youth. Pro players everywhere.
Caffeinated beverage rating: Monster Energy Drink
Florida at Wisconsin (9 p.m., ESPN2)
Florida heads to Wisconsin with a depleted roster without Scottie Wilbekin, Damontre Harris and Dorian Finney-Smith. The Gators need Patric Young and Will Yeguete to take advantage of a Badgers frontcourt replacing three starters. Wisconsin guards Josh Gasser and Ben Brust will try to take advantage of a Florida team without its top perimeter defender.
Caffeinated beverage rating: Two espresso shots
Kansas vs. Duke (10 p.m., ESPN)
Full Game Preview
There’s no easing into the season as Andrew Wiggins faces Duke in his second career game.
Caffeinated beverage rating: Rockstar Energy Drink