Illinois' Demetri McCamey (32) keeps the ball away from Toledo's Malcolm Griffin (23) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Ill., on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010. (AP Photo/John Dixon) By John Dixon
Missouri head coach Mike Anderson argues a call during the first half of an NCAA college basketball exhibition game against Harris-Stowe Friday, Nov. 5, 2010, in Columbia. Mo. Missouri won the game 114-60. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson) By L.G. Patterson
You can imagine my surprise (very pleasant surprise) when I walked into the newsroom at my normal 3 a.m. time Tuesday morning and found a college basketball game on TV (I'm in that early because I anchor Awake with News 4 from 5-7 a.m.). St. Mary's College of California had tipped off at 1 a.m. and was just wrapping up its win over St. John's. And I was in heaven. Just don't tell my bosses the game was on at my desk.
Just when I found myself emersed in Rams football, Blues hockey, and college football, the college basketball season snuck up on me. And I am happy to be caught off guard as I'm sure Illinois and Mizzou fans are. Thanks to ESPN's Tip-Off Marathon I watched games all day long. I'm reminded why I love college basketball. The potential for an upset seems far greater than in college football. And Southern Illinois fans know that all too well as the Salukis lost at home in overtime to Northeastern. The NCAA Tournament selection committee has shown over the years that these games matter. A bad loss or a big win early can carry great weight into your NCAA Tourney seeding or whether you make it in at all. And my early schedule really paid off when I got to see my alma mater Baylor (No. 17 AP) play at 1 p.m. on a Tuesday.
Here's what I'm looking forward to early in the season. Mizzou (No. 15 AP) heads to Mexico November 23rd and 24th to play their first opponents worth mentioning, Wyoming, Providence, and LaSalle. But the first real test comes November 30th in a game against Georgetown (No. 20 AP) in Kansas City. Two days later the Tigers play at Oregon. And the border war against Illinois (No. 13 AP) will be played here in St. Louis on December 22nd.
The Illini look to have a much stiffer non-conference schedule and they're not wasting time getting after it. Illinois plays Texas Thursday night in New York City. And then they'll face either Pittsburgh (No. 5 AP) or Maryland. The Illini also have a Nov. 30th date with North Carolina (No. 8 AP) at Assembly Hall and a Dec. 4th game at Gonzaga (No. 11 AP, but sure to drop after losing Tuesday). Then they tussle with the Tigers in St. Louis.
Wow, so much to look forward to this season even before conference games begin!