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Previewing the College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon

For the third straight season, ESPN will be airing their 24 Hour Tip-Off Marathon, which starts at midnight tonight. Twenty games in total, over the course of 25 hours. Its what every college basketball fan dreams about.

Here is the full schedule:

Midnight: Miami at Memphis, ESPN
2:00 am: St. John’s at Saint Mary’s, ESPN
4:00 am: Central Michigan at Hawaii, ESPN
6:00 am: Stony Brook at Monmouth, ESPN
8:00 am: Robert Morris at Kent State, ESPN
10:00 am: Northeastern at Southern Illinois, ESPN
Noon: Oral Roberts at Tulsa, ESPN
2:00 pm: La Salle at Baylor, ESPN
4:00 pm: Virginia Tech at Kansas State, ESPN
5:30 pm: Marist at Villanova, ESPNU
6:00 pm: Ohio State at Florida, ESPN
6:00 pm: Baylor at Connecticut, ESPN2
7:00 pm: Detroit at Syracuse,
7:30 pm: Miami (Ohio) at Duke, ESPNU
7:30 pm: St. Joseph’s at Penn State,
8:00 pm: Butler at Louisville, ESPN
8:00 pm: North Dakota at Wisconsin,
9:30 pm: Belmont at Tennessee, ESPNU
10:00 pm: South Carolina at Michigan State, ESPN
11:00 pm: San Diego State vs. Gonzaga (in Spokane, WA), ESPN2
11:30 pm: Nevada or Pacific at UCLA, ESPNU (Note: Nevada and Pacific play today at 5:30 pm PST while UCLA will play Cal State Northridge. The winners will advance and play each other.)

Here is the rank and preview each of the twenty games:

1. 6:00 pm: Ohio State at Florida: A rematch of the 2007 NCAA title game, the Buckeyes will once again have a uber-talented freshman manning the paint in 6'8" Jared Sullinger, who had 19 points and 14 boards in the Buckeye’s opener. There is plenty of other talent on the OSU roster, however. Another freshman -- DeShaun Thomas -- had 24 points in the opener, while David Lighty, William Buford, and Jon Diebler all return on the perimeter. Perhaps the most important piece for this team will end up being Aaron Craft, a freshman point guard that went for 8 points, 9 assists, and 0 turnovers in his debut.

With Enes Kanter done for the season, the Gators look to be the favorite to win the SEC East. They have a super back court with Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker, and with guys like Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus up front, Billy Donovan had plenty of length and athleticism. The biggest issue for the Gators is how they will go about slowing down Sullinger, who is much stronger than Gator’s front court. Freshman Patric Young was brought in for situations like this, but he looked like a freshman in the first game.

BIAH Prediction: Ohio State 70, Florida 67

2. 11:00 pm: San Diego State vs. Gonzaga (in Spokane, WA): Believe it or not, this could very well be a matchup of the two best teams on the west coast. This game will also provide us with the best individual matchup as Elias Harris and Kawhi Leonard (hopefully) spend the evening going at each other. Harris is the more polished of the two right now, as he has the ability to attack from the perimeter. Leonard is probably more aggressive and more athletic at this point in their careers and does most of his damage in transition and on the offensive glass.

SDSU is known for their front court, but this season the Zags has a big and talented front line. What this game could come down to is who gets the most out of their back court. Steven Gray is playing some of the best basketball of his career right now, averaging 21.0 ppg, 8.5 apg, and 7.5 rpg, but between DJ Gay had 20 in the opener for the Aztecs while James Rohan knocked down three huge threes in the second half.

BIAH Prediction: Gonzaga 81, SDSU 72

3. 4:00 pm: Virginia Tech at Kansas State: If Kawhi Leonard and Elias Harris isn’t the best individual matchup of the marathon, Malcolm Delaney and Jacob Pullen is. Not only are these two arguably the two best lead guards in the country, they may very well be the two best scorers in the country.

Kansas State’s advantage is obviously on the interior as Tech is missing JT Thompson and Allan Chaney, but that advantage looks to be mitigated. Curtis Kelly will sit out for the second game in a row, and his replacements (Freddy Asprilla and Wally Judge) finished with 2 points, 5 boards, 6 turnovers, and 7 fouls.

BIAH Prediction: Kansas State 69, Virginia Tech 59

4. 2:00 am: St. John’s at Saint Mary’s: Steve Lavin is returning to the West Coast, where he has been absolutely cleaning up on the recruiting trail. The Johnnies, under their new head coach, look to make their first tournament trip in a long, long time. St. Mary’s kicks off their post-Samhan era by hosting a team from the Big East. There are enough storylines here to overshadow the fact that this is an early season non-conference game with a ton of significance. Both of these teams will be in or around the bubble come March. Will this result play a part in who gets in and who doesn’t?

And yes, I just referenced the bubble. Before Thanksgiving.

BIAH Prediction: St. Mary’s 76, St. John’s 75 OT

5. 8:00 pm: Butler at Louisville: Butler gets their first real test of the season as the head to Louisville to christen the brand new KFC Yum! Center. I find it very difficult to believe that the Bulldogs will be nearly as good as they were last season. I love Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored, but without a future pro like Hayward, I think Butler simply regresses to “very good mid-major” as opposed to “national power.” Having said that, if Howard can play big inside, the Bulldogs are more than capable of knocking off a Cardinals team that is depleted due to ineligible freshmen and injuries.

BIAH Prediction: Butler 59, Louisville 50

6. Midnight: Miami FL at Memphis: Memphis may not have Jelan Kendrick, but this is still going to be a very good basketball team. Just how good remains to be seen. This is a deep team with a lot of weapons offensively -- Joe Jackson, Will Barton, Wesley Witherspoon, Angel Garcia. They should be, at worst, a top 25 team and win C-USA. But Miami isn’t terrible. They have some pieces with Reggie Johnson inside and Durand Scott, Malcolm Grant, and DeQuan Jones on the perimeter. At the very least, we should get a number of highlight reel dunks.

BIAH Prediction: Memphis 78, Miami FL 64

7. 10:00 pm: South Carolina at Michigan State: The Gamecocks lost a ton of talent in the offseason, led by the graduation of Devan Downey. Michigan State has essentially the same group of guys that have made back to back Final Fours. I’m intrigued, however, to see how far along Kalin Lucas is in his recovery, as well as the improvements made by Durrell Summers in the offseason.

BIAH Prediction: Michigan State 80, South Carolina 62

8. 7:00 pm: Detroit at Syracuse: If there is going to be an upset of a major conference team by a mid-major, this looks like the most likely candidate. Detroit has some buzz during the offseason. They returned much of a roster -- including Eli Holman, who went for 15 points and 13 boards against New Mexico in the opener -- that went 9-9 in the Horizon last season and added one of the best point guards in the country in Ray McCallum, Jr. (Sr. is the head coach). Syracuse is talented, but they have not looked great in their two wins this season. They’ve struggled from the perimeter, Fab Melo has looked raw inside, and Kris Joseph hasn’t exactly turned into the star everyone expected him to be. So do I think the Orange will get upset?

BIAH Prediction: Syracuse 84, Detroit 61

9. 11:30 pm: Nevada or Pacific at UCLA: I’m hoping this ends up being UCLA and Nevada, as the Wolfpack are a sleeper team in the WAC. While Armon Johnson and Luke Babbitt both left for the NBA, Nevada went out and reloaded with transfers and talented freshmen. Watch out for Deonte Burton, a high-scoring, high-flying point guard from LA. UCLA, on the other hand, looks like they just might be back to being UCLA. The key may actually be JuCo transfer Lazeric Jones at the point, who has seemingly taken over for Jerime Anderson.

To be fair, if Pacific does win against Nevada, they have a chance to be a mid-major darling as they have already beaten UTEP.

(I’ll update this prediction once I find out who the Bruins are playing.)

10. 8:00 am: Robert Morris at Kent State: Robert Morris may have lost their head coach, but they bring back Karon Abraham, who was the team’s leading scorer a year ago. Kent State, who, like Bobby Mo, won 23 games last season, has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, losing to Cleveland State, but this is still a group that should compete in the MAC. The Golden Flashes are led by forward Justin Greene. This may not be the highest level of basketball, but these are two good teams with NCAA Tournament potential.

BIAH Prediction: Kent State 68, Robert Morris 61

11. Noon: Oral Roberts at Tulsa: This game lost some of its luster when Tulsa lost over the weekend to Appalachian State. That said, these are still two of the best basketball programs outside of the Big Six, and both are coming off of 20 win seasons.

BIAH Prediction: Tulsa 74, Oral Roberts 70

12. 2:00 pm: La Salle at Baylor: Baylor will play their second game without LaceDarius Dunn, who is suspended for three games after hitting his girlfriend over the summer. It will be interesting to see if AJ Walton played tomorrow; Walton was expected to start for Baylor before being suspended for the first game. The Explorers aren’t terrible this season, either. They bring back some size -- Aaric Murray inside -- and some versatility on the perimeter.

BIAH Prediction: Baylor 77, La Salle 64

13. 9:30 pm: Belmont at Tennessee: After Detroit-Syracuse, I think the second most-likely upset of a major conference team is Tennessee. Belmont is a good program. They return a lot of experience from a group that won 19 games and finished in a four-way tie atop the Atlantic Sun. Tennessee is relatively inexperienced, they are dealing with a ton of off-the-court issues, and they have not looked anywhere near dominant this season.

BIAH Prediction: Tennessee 74, Belmont 67

14. 8:00 pm: North Dakota @ Wisconsin: Wisconsin isn’t a team generally known for scoring a lot of points. They put 99 up against Prarie View A&M. North Dakota won eight games last season.

BIAH Prediction: Wisconsin 85, North Dakota 51

15. 7:30 pm: Miami (Ohio) at Duke: Yes, Miami OH can play a little. And I fully expect them to make a run at the Devils early in the game. But this Duke team is, simply put, just too damn good this year.

BIAH Prediction: Duke 89, Miami OH 61

16. 5:30 pm: Marist at Villanova: Marist won one game last season. One. Villanova has a chance to win the Big East. This could get ugly quickly.

BIAH Prediction: Villanova 84, Marist 46

17. 10:00 am: Northeastern at Southern Illinois: SIU has fallen on hard times as Chris Lowery has gotten away from his grind-it-out defensive style. Northeastern lost so much from their team last season that it is difficult to see them competing this quickly in the CAA. Also, keep in mind neither of these teams score all that much.

BIAH Prediction: Northeastern 51, Southern Illinois 44

18. 7:30 pm: St. Joseph’s at Penn State: The bottom of the A-10 versus the bottom of the Big Ten. Yay. If there is any reason to watch this game, it is Talor Battle, who is one of the best point guards in the country. But even then, its not worth missing Ohio State-Florida or Louisville-Butler.

BIAH Prediction: Penn State 79, St. Joseph’s 58

19. 4:00 am: Central Michigan at Hawaii: Yuck. Central Michigan and Hawaii are both rebuilding programs, and this game is being played at 4:00 am EST. If your goal is to make it for all 24 hours, and you think you’ll need a nap to pull it off, schedule it for this game.

BIAH Prediction: Hawaii 63, Central Michigan 58

20. 6:00 am: Stony Brook at Monmouth: Monmouth was picked 10th in the NEC preseason poll, and while Stony Brook is a pretty good team, they aren’t good enough to draw your attention to a game that tips when everyone should be sleeping. 6:00 am basketball is not conducive to having your legs. If you are awake, however, its worth it to watch this game if nothing else than to see the dedicated fans that make it to the gym at 6:00 am on a Tuesday.

BIAH Prediction: Stony Brook 74, Monmouth 55

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.