Probably the biggest bit of news last week was the release of the schedule for the College Hoops Marathon in November. While most people focused in on Kentucky taking on Duke, there are plenty of enticing mid-major contests to keep an eye on.
Virginia Cavaliers at George Washington Colonials, 7:30 pm, ESPN2
The Wahoos and Colonials will kick off the first mens game of the College Hoops Marathon as Tony Bennett's squad visits Foggy Bottom. The Smith Center is sure to be rocking with a likely Top 5 team visiting for the first time in who knows when. Last year GW fell at UVa 59-42 in a game where the Colonials shot just 32.7% from the field.
The atmosphere alone in this one will give the Colonials a shot and don't forget they still have Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen, Joe McDonald, and Yuta Watanabe on the roster. Mike Lonergan will also get a boost this year from Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh and lightning bug guard Alex Mitola who comes over from Dartmouth.
If defense is your thing then this will be a must watch.
Kennesaw State Fighting Owls at LSU Tigers, 9 pm, ESPNU
Plenty of people around the country will be tuning into this one just to get a look at 2015 top recruit Ben Simmons. From a mid-major angle this game will be about the return of Al Skinner to the head coaching ranks for the first time since 2010 at Boston College.
The coaching search at KSU was a bit of a mess and Owls' fans will be ready for some live action. Unfortunately the roster is still a work in progress and Skinner is giving the Owls a baptism by fire with their first three games coming against Alabama, LSU, and Arizona State (all on the road). KSU will certainly be battle tested going into Atlantic Sun play with additional match ups against Indiana, West Virginia, and Louisville.
BYU Cougars at Long Beach State 49ers, 1:45 am, ESPN2
I'll leave it up to Will Maupin to preview this one in November because I'll likely be asleep at this point, but this should be a good early test for both teams. The Beach is coming off a 16-17 season and lost their top three contributors from a year ago. Meanwhile we'll get a first glance at BYU without Tyler Haws. Kyle Collinsworth will be the go-to guy now and he's averaged over 12 points and 7 rebounds in the Cougars first two games in Spain this preseason.
Nevada Wolf Pack at Hawaii Warriors, 4 am, ESPN2
I'm not going to pretend to preview this one but this game will be about Eran Ganot as he takes over at Hawaii as the head coach. Ganot, who is only 33, comes over from St. Mary's where he was the associate head coach for the Gaels. Benjy Taylor did not get the head coaching gig despite leading the Warriors through a season of turmoil while posting a 22-13 record.
Green Bay Phoenix at East Tennessee State Buccaneers, 6 am, ESPN2
This game will be my coffee and will be a big stage for two first year head coaches in Steve Forbes at ETSU and Linc Darner at Green Bay. Darner is especially intriguing coming from Florida Southern where he went 218-72 over nine seasons, which included a national championship last season. The Phoenix are looking to replace superstar guard Kiefer Sykes, while the Bucs need to replace at star of their own in Rashawn Rembert.
ETSU has gone the transfer route to reload and should have Deuce Bello (Missouri/Baylor), Ge'Lawn Guyn (Cincinnati), and Peter Jurkin (Indiana) all eligible for this one. It's an interesting experiment in Johnson City to say the least.
This will be a great early game to see where these two teams are as they both are in semi-rebuilding mode.
Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks at Northern Iowa Panthers, 8 am, ESPN2
O if only this was last year... This game is getting kind of glanced over but should still have a lot of early morning sizzle even without Seth Tuttle and Jacob Parker. I promise you that the McLeod Center will be rocking early as the Panthers have an amazing home slate to open the year against Colorado State, SFA, and a visit from North Carolina. This game will have a little mid-major star power as well Thomas Walkup still at SFA and Wes Washpun and Paul Jesperson looking to break out for UNI.
Valparaiso Crusaders at Rhode Island Rams, 10 am, ESPN2
Speaking of mid-major star power, this game will have plenty. Rhode Island is loaded and looking to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time this century. E.C. Matthews gets a little help from Memphis transfer Kuran Iverson and sharpshooting Towson transfer Four McGlynn.
On the other side of the court Valpo is poised for another Horizon League title run with Alec Peters leading the way. Peters has already posted over 1,000 points in his first two seasons as a Crusader and also averaged 6.7 rebounds per game last season. It'll be fun to watch him go at it with Hassan Martin in November.
Alabama Crimson Tide at Dayton Flyers, 1 pm, ESPN
The last game of the day featuring a mid-major will be Avery Johnson taking his Crimson Tide on the road for the first time with a trip to Dayton. Archie Miller's squad has a ton of talent with Scoochie Smith, Dyshawn Pierre, and others, and will once again be expected to be picked towards the top of the Atlantic 10 to begin the season.
I'm sure the Dayton fans will be ready to take on an SEC opponent on national TV. Not to mention an SEC opponent that was rumored to have gone after their coach in the offseason.