Tip-off marathon: The highs and lows of 24 straight hours of college hoops

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Spor

For a third straight year, SB Nation college basketball editor Mike Rutherford watched college basketball for more than 24 consecutive hours without sleeping. He's still unsure why.

There are few things more unsettling than waking up one the morning and realizing that you've somehow lost an entire day. That's the exact feeling you get when you begin watching college basketball on a Monday evening and finish watching college basketball in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, all without a wink of sleep between the two bookends.

For the third straight year, I stayed awake for more than 30 hours in order to watch games that were sometimes entertaining, sometimes tolerable and sometimes unwatchable. It was awesome, and it was really, really stupid.

Here's a rundown of all the bests and worsts from year three of the marathon experiment:

Best Game: Kansas/Duke

A quick look at the list of final scores (and national rankings) makes this choice a puzzling one on the surface, but anyone who actually sat through all 40 minutes of Duke/Kansas knows how high the level of play was. The game had a superior flow to it, and it was more competitive than Kentucky/Michigan State for the first 35 minutes. Then the officials kind of took the shine off it late by awarding Kansas 13 free-throws in their last seven possessions. Basically, it was superior to the game before it for 35 out of a possible 40 minutes, but couldn't match the opener's final act. I still think that's enough to warrant the top spot.

Worst Game: Saint Mary's/Akron

I'm always disappointed at just how scarce the attendance is at this game every year, mainly because Saint Mary's home games are so entertaining to watch during the regular season. You could hear the students getting rowdy throughout the game, but the camera was set up in a way so that you couldn't see them, which gave you a visual of about 15 people who didn't appear to be wearing the home team's colors and looked like they'd rather be anywhere else. It's not exactly a shot of a caffeine at a time when you need it the most. Also, this was the least competitive game of the marathon.

Best Revelation: Tyler Haws is Mickey Parke's identical twin

For real though.


This led to a 2gether theme which made continuous appearances for the first six hours or so of the marathon.

Hardest Game To Stay Awake For: La Salle/Quinnipiac

I'm not going to lie to you, I don't really remember any of this game. In the two years previous, the 3-7 a.m. stretch was by far the hardest for me. Then the sun would come up and I'd go about my normal morning routine and my brain would become convinced that this was just like any other day. That did not happen this year.

My guess is that the successfully-achieved nap I took the night before -- something I couldn't manage in 2011 or 2012 -- had something to do with this. All I know is that I was fine through the wee hours of the night and then dead when the sun came up...and then dead again in the late afternoon during the start of Baylor/South Carolina. The flip side was that I felt way more awake when I finished than I had the previous two years. I don't know why any of this happened or what it means. I probably need to stop doing this.

Best Announcing Performance: Bob Valvano

This is the first year that the revered Kanoa Leahey from Hawaii hasn't received honor. E kala mai iaʻu, my man.

I'm giving the nod to Bob (heh) because he called the Saint Mary's/Akron game at 3 a.m. local time, and then somehow flew to Louisville to call the U of L/Hofstra game a mere 14 hours later. That's a pretty unreal day, which means something coming from me.

Best Fans: The Wichita Rockstar Grannys

This category is obviously just an excuse to bring them up and honor them with the full amount of praise they deserve.

You young ladies truly are...rockstars.


Stay golden.

Best Home Atmosphere: Florida Gulf Coast

This award probably belongs to Wichita State, but since we just honored the grannys, I felt like we should go in another direction. It's like when the big award winner actually deserves all the smaller awards too, but you have to give them to other celebrities to make sure that they'll come. It's exactly like that.

Anyway, the Dunk City fans were terrific. I had no idea that they would embrace the event the way that they did, but kudos.

Worst Home Atmosphere: Stanford

This isn't what you want to see...

The Oregon win was almost a week ago. Move on.

Best Team Performance: BYU

Outside of Duke/Kansas, this was the one game I would have been completely wrong about had I made predictions. I came in thinking the Cougars didn't have the size or athletes to hang with a team featuring Chasson Randle and Dwight Powell, and I left (figuratively) believing that they'll be right there with Gonzaga and Saint Mary's competing for the WCC crown. Matt Carlino and Tyler Haws can play with any guards in the country.

Worst Team Performance: Akron

The Zips did not look like a team expected to win their division, which could have had something to do with the travel and tip time. If you're going to wear a Z on your chest, you have to bring more than that...even if it is 4 in the morning.


West Virginia gets an honorable mention here for losing to a bad Virginia Tech team that it had down by 15 points for most of the first half. The Hokies were coming off of a season-opening loss to USC Upstate.

Best Individual Performance: Chase Fieler, Florida Gulf Coast

Plenty of options here, but Fieler made up the highest percentage of his team's points and almost single-handedly turned a game that FGCU trailed by 12 early into an Eagle blowout.

Best Ending: Kentucky/Michigan State

Another category with multiple options worthy of the distinction, but Branden Dawson's tip-in with 4.4 seconds to go to ice the game may have been the single biggest moment of the marathon. Obviously, No. 1 vs. No. 2 coming down to the closing seconds earns some bonus points.

Worst Ending: Baylor/South Carolina

While this may have been the most dramatic ending of the day, a lengthy referee huddle followed by an announcement that the game was over provided the most unfulfilling marathon finish. You would have loved to have seen the Gamecocks have a shot to send the game into overtime with zero seconds on the clock, especially since it was a game you kind of felt like they deserved.

Best Highlight: Jabari Parker's one-handed alley-oop finish

It's impressive enough on its own...

But it gets even cooler when you examine the eerie similarities between it and Grant Hill's dunk for the same team, against the same opponent.

Biggest Disappointment: Jarrell Martin's injury

The highly-touted LSU freshman tweaked his ankle just one minute into his first college game and never returned. The Tigers still played UMass down to the wire in one of the marathon's more entertaining games.

Full Game Rankings:

1) No. 5 Kansas 94, No. 4 Duke 83

2) No. 2 Michigan State 78, No. 1 Kentucky 74

3) BYU 112, Stanford 103

4) No. 23 Baylor 66, South Carolina 64

5) Massachusetts 92, LSU 90

6) Virginia Tech 87, West Virginia 82

7) Cincinnati 68, NC State 57

8) New Mexico State 95, Hawaii 88

9) La Salle 73, Quinnipiac 67

10) No. 16 Wichita State 66, Western Kentucky 49

11) Florida Gulf Coast 65, Hartford 51

12) Saint Mary's 85, Akron 63

All Tip-Off Marathon Team

Chase Fieler, Florida Gulf Coast: Scored a career-high 30 points as Dunk City overcame a slow start to take care of business against Hartford.

Julius Randle, Kentucky: The freshman star dominated the middle against Michigan State, scoring 27 points to go with 13 rebounds.

Jabari Parker, Duke: Introduced himself to the sports world with a dazzling 27-point performance that was highlighted by a one-handed alley-oop cram.

Tyler Haws, BYU: Poured in a marathon-high 31 points as the Cougars dropped 112 on Stanford in what might have been the most impressive performance of the 24 hours.

Chazz Williams, UMass: The marathon darling notched 24 points and dished out eight assists as the Minutemen held off LSU, 92-90

Food And Drink Consumed

1 Mountain Dew Kickstarter

1 Rockstar energy drink

2 Cups of coffee

3 Cheese sticks

1 Weird asian fried rice thing

3 No-bake cookies

2 Pieces of caramel coffee cake

9 Bagel bites

8 Pretzel sticks with dip

5 Handfuls of sweet tart minis

2 Gummy vitamins

It will take my body no less than two weeks to fully recover from this exercise. For the third straight year, this feels like it was a massive mistake.

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