ESPN Airing Live College Hoops At 6 a.m.? What?

ESPN’s College Hoops Tipoff Marathon sounded like a good idea until they remembered one thing: What were they going to show during those pesky early-morning hours, when only garbagemen and hyperactive children were starting their day? What schools would be insane enough to want to play at 6 a.m.?

Monmouth and St. Peter’s, that’s who! ESPN now has itself a real marathon, announcing today that their 24-hour hoopsfest on Nov. 17 will include the aforementioned 6 a.m. ET matchup, followed by Drexel at Niagara at 8 a.m. Wake up and smell the basketball, America!

As any TV programmer knows, those two slots are usually the easiest to fill: Just grab a few episodes of “Davey And Goliath” and you’re good to go for a couple of years. But when you’re putting together a college hoops marathon, things are a little more problematic. Last year, ESPN had no games in those two early time slots.

Says ESPN programmer Nick Dawson on getting schools to play at offbeat times: “There were definitely schools who weren’t interested. But to my surprise, lots of people were interested.”

So the marathon will officially be 12 games 24 hours, with two of those being women’s games at 7 p.m. ET and 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU. It starts with Cal State Fullerton vs. UCLA at midnight ET — last year’s Massachusetts-Memphis game in that time slot produced ESPN’s highest non-conference game rating — and then has a West Coast game (San Diego State at Saint Mary’s) followed by Northern Colorado at Hawaii before Monmouth-St. Peter’s. Some games, such as Temple-Georgetown at 4 p.m. ET, were created specifically to be part of the marathon.

The marathon ends with the first round of the Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT at Arizona State at 11:30 p.m.

Will this start a tradition of 6 a.m. Madness at colleges across the country? Let’s see what the quality of play in that Monmouth game looks like before we start scheduling those.