Certainly there's something odious about a blatantly made-for-TV event like ESPN's "Tip-Off Marathon" that's artificial, generally doesn't pair up quality teams, and makes life miserable for those scheduled overnight. But there's nothing objectionable about having college basketball back in our lives.
It wasn't even a "tip-off" for most of the teams. Kent State, with their win over Robert Morris (what, you wanted a better game at 8 a.m.?), moved to 3-1 on the year. And the scheduling plays havoc with some poor schools. St. John's flew to St. Mary's in California for a 2 a.m. game, now flies back east for Columbia, then back out for the Great Sarah Palin's Alaska Shootout. (That screengrab is the mother of St. Mary's Clint Steindl, who's warned her repeatedly not to spell his name in all caps, or it looks like another, naughtier word.
But that's all right. No one held a gun to our heads to make us stay up until 4, or wake up at 8. And there were a couple of gems in there, in what hindsight tells us were the most obvious places. Butler played out of their minds and possibly over their heads last year; without Gordon Hayward, they were absolutely thumped by a Louisville team that everyone's writing off. Gonzaga's put together a tough schedule to show they belong with the big boys; it bit them in the ass early, with a home loss to San Diego State.
Then there were the matchups of ranked teams, which would ostensibly tell us a lot about who's for real. K-State looks legit, spanking Virginia Tech. But the real winner of the 24-hour marathon is Ohio State, answering a ton of questions about their Final Four dreams this season by shutting down a talented Florida side. Billy Donovan thinks they'll be better this year than last, even without Evan Turner. We're hard-pressed to disagree, with the small sample size we've got.
So, yes, college basketball is back, and it's quite pleasant. After one of the more intriguing tournaments in recent memory, an NBA draft that didn't go too far in sapping the college ranks' talent, and an entire offseason of Duke being hyped as the clear favorite this year, we're more than ready to get back into things. And as the air turns cold and miserable across much of the country as winter comes, it's reassuring to know that just as these students and teams start to play the games that really matter, it'll be spring again. Turn, turn, turn.
(Thanks to Ben for the screengrab)