Tip-off marathon makes for many odd sights
by Mike Lopresti, USA TODAY Sports
VALPARAISO, Ind. — It was 5 a.m., and the question occurred: Why was a sophomore in a Santa Claus outfit tailgating in the parking lot outside the basketball arena?
“Why not?” Joey Basio asked.
OK, he had me there. Never expect normalcy when you’ve come to see a basketball game that tips off 20 minutes after sunrise.
Tuesday was ESPN’s annual Tip-Off Marathon, which means somewhere, someone had to get up and play at an insane hour. The wake-up call for the Valparaiso Crusaders was 4:30 a.m., the team breakfast at Jimmy’s Café five blocks from campus was 5:10, and they were missing their first open shots — there’d be a few of those — by 7:10.
Usually, if players anywhere are running up and down the gym floor at 7 a.m., they’re being punished for cutting class.
Eventually the Crusaders rolled 69-46, which just goes to show that you have to get up pretty early in the morning to blow away the Northern Illinois Huskies.
“I can check that 7 a.m. game off my bucket list,” Northern Illinois coach Mark Montgomery said afterward.
Valparaiso is an obvious candidate for mid-major troublemaker come March, with all five starters back from a 22-win season. Not many teams in the country send out a lineup of all seniors. That would include reigning Horizon League player of the year Ryan Broekhoff of Australia, who looked awake enough Tuesday with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Then again, this was as close as he’s ever going to get to prime time in Sydney. Back home, it was already midnight Tuesday.
But the serious business of NCAA tournament Cinderellahood can come later. Tuesday was a quirky opportunity that the Valpos of the world can’t miss. Practice a few days before dawn to get ready? No problem.
“I’m not the biggest morning person,” Broekhoff said, “but for the opportunity to play on ESPN, I’ll always take … [For more on Tip-off marathon makes for many odd sights, click here.]