The Tip-Off Marathon

 Last Tuesday marked the day (and night) that every die-hard college hoops fan scribbles into their diary as soon as the date is announced. It’s not March Madness…but it’s the next best thing: The Tip-Off Marathon.
For anyone not familiar with the concept of the tip-off marathon, prepare to be indulged into the passion and commitment that so many colleges and individuals share toward this sport. 
Beginning at Midnight (American Eastern Time) with a West Virginia @ Gonzaga matchup (more on that later), the Tip-Off Marathon is 24-hours on non-stop basketball action. In TV terms, that’s twelve high-end, fast-paced games in a row! How can it possibly get better than that? During this amazing 24-hour span, the marathon features twelve teams that reached last seasons NCAA Tournament, has representatives from sixteen different conferences and crosses four time zones. Not bad, huh?
Although this is technically not the beginning of the NCAA season — many teams had already played one or two games prior — the Tip-Off Marathon essentially symbolises the beginning of the season; hence the “Tip-Off” part of the name. So when you look into that diary of yours and you see those three words inked across a whole square, you can’t help but feel the excitement of a fresh and unpredictable beginning to a season. 
Now before I ramble on any more on the pure genius of the event (both from a marketing and spectator perspective), it’s important to note that there was more tying us as Australians to this all-day attraction than just the love of sport. In fact, many of our own were representing their respective colleges in the event, however only one was televised. Senior Ryan Broekhoff (born in Frankston, Melbourne) was representing his Horizon League Valparaiso in the 8:00am (midnight our time) game as they took on Northern Illinois. 
Prior to this season, Broekhoff had already established himself as a player to look out for, winning last seasons Horizon League MVP after averaging 14.8 points and 8.6 rebounds (first in the Horizon League) a game, and, let me tell you, his skills were certainly on display once again. In 30 minutes on the court, the 6’7″ Forward shot 50%FG including 4 from 8 from the 3 point line for 20 points. There’s no denying his form was red hot, with 13 rebounds to give him a double-double. The whole Valparaiso squad shot very well from the floor — and in particular beyond the perimeter — all night, which eventually secured them a 69-46 win.
Another ESPN televised game that would have been of interest to some Australians — but for less obvious reasons than the Valparaiso match-up — was the opening game I touched on before; West Virginia @ Gonzaga. For anyone who has been following the Australians playing Div 1 college ball over the past few years, in particular the St Mary’s team, would know that the Gaels most fiercest rival, and the team with who they have been battling for the WCC conference title the past few years, are the fifteenth ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs. Traditionally a powerhouse of the West Coast Conference, the past few years — since the pouring of Australians have entered the St Mary’s system — have seen the Bulldogs’ reign become less and less dominant.  I’m talking to the point where they lost their first WCC title since 2000 (of course, to St Mary’s). I’m sure many Australians across the country were hoping for the same result this season; with the Gaels leading-man and now Olympian Matthew Dellavedova back for his Senior year. But straight from the get-go of this contest, the Bulldogs showed that they have improved…and then some. Off the back of Sophomore Gary Bell Jr’s shooting performance ( 6-13 FGM-A, and 3-5 3PM-A for 15 PTS), and David Stockton’s court vision (5 AST), as well as 6-foot-8 Elias Harris’ presence in the paint (7RBS), the Bulldogs cruised to an 84-50 victory. Nothing short of impressive.  If anyone is going to stop St Mary’s from another fairy tale run to the Sweet 16 like they had a few years back, it will again be the Bulldogs.
Now back to the Aussies. starting with a team everyone in Australia should familiarise themselves with sooner rather than later: Boise State. Their match-up against Oakland, which they ended up winning 88-80, saw two Australians perform amongst the best in Anthony Drmic and Igor Hadziomerovic. Drmic had a game high 25 PTS, 10 RBS (as well as 5 AST) — a very respectable double-double — while Igor contributed for 15 PTS and 5 AST.  The last of the Aussies playing the Tip-Off Marathon were Cameron Bairstow and Hugh Greenwood for the New Mexico Lobos who took on — and beat — Davidson 86-81 after being down by 16 points in the second half. The Aussie duo shot 9 and 5 PTS as well as 4 and 5 RBS respectively. Certainly nothing to be scoffed at.
There’s no doubt that any Australians who watched or followed the marathon would have been more than pleased with what was on show, especially considering that all our boys managed to get a W. Now we only have to wait another three-hundred-and-sixty-something days before we can do it all over again.
Christopher Tyler


November 23rd 2012
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