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Jay Bilas' early Marathon thoughts

Thoughts on the Tip-Off Marathon (as of Tuesday at 9 a.m. ET)

-- It is still really, really early, but there are things you can spot in games no matter when they are played. Learning how to win is important. And, even though Miami is more experienced, the Hurricanes still have to learn how to win. Neither Miami nor Memphis played well at all. The game was filled with turnovers, poor decisions, bad shots, and sloppy play. But as the game came down to the wire, after shooting just 32 percent and coughing the ball up 18 times, it was Miami in the driver's seat and the Canes couldn't finish it on the road. Memphis hit the big shot, a wing 3 by Chris Crawford, grabbed the key rebounds and hit the important free throws down the stretch. Miami is better than it played, and let a road win get away. When you hold your opponent to 32 percent shooting -- including 4 for 22 from 3-point territory -- and enjoy a plus-19 rebounding advantage, you should win. The Hurricanes just don't know how ... yet.

-- St. John's is more athletic than Saint Mary's, but the Gaels are more skilled. The match-up zone put in by Steve Lavin in his St. John's debut was good, but in taking Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova out of the game, it did allow Saint Mary's junior Clint Steindl some open shots. Steindl hit seven of 10 from 3-point land, and that was the difference. St. John's has a chance to be pretty good, though. It was fun for me to watch Dwayne Polee Jr. play because I played against his father in both high school and college. Polee, Jr. was the Johnnies' best player against Saint Mary's, and his father was a great player at Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles, UNLV and Pepperdine.

-- The ACC got off to a rough start, or at least the expected bottom half of the league did. Miami let one slip away against Memphis; Georgia Tech was pummeled at Kennesaw State; and Wake Forest was beaten by Stetson and barely squeaked by Hampton. You know that the top of the ACC will be really good (the league has won five of the last 10 NCAA championships), but the bottom of the league needs to pick it up so as not to drag down the numbers of the middle.

-- Trevor Mbakwe had a terrific debut for Minnesota in its win over Siena. Mbakwe scored 10 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and has two steals in 35 minutes. I first saw Mbakwe when he was a freshman at Marquette under Tom Crean, and I remember how big and solidly built he was, and just how big his hands were. Mbakwe has huge mitts, and he will be a really good player under Tubby Smith. Minnesota played without Devoe Joseph, but with the depth and size of the Gophers, it didn't really matter against Siena. Minnesota will be an NCAA tournament team again this season.

- Some of the non-BCS teams to watch this season are Gonzaga, Butler, San Diego State, and Wichita State, but keep an eye on Pacific, Murray State and VCU. The Rams are led by Joey Rodriguez, who is averaging 18.5 points, 12.5 assists and two steals in his first two games.

-- In tonight's games, here are some things to watch for:

1. South Carolina freshman guard Bruce Ellington. He's a 5-10 speedster and winner that played quarterback in high school and was considered even better as a football player than he was a basketball player. He can be really good concentrating only on basketball.

2. Virginia Tech's performance on the road against Kansas State. Seth Greenberg took a beating over his nonconference schedule last year (and defended a schedule ranked below No. 300 in Division I by saying that playing at Campbell is really tough), but this year's schedule is a killer. A win over Kansas State to start the season would be a big boost to a group of players that has been very close to cracking the tournament.

3. The battle between Baylor's frontline of Perry Jones, Quincy Acy and Anthony Jones against LaSalle's 6-10 accomplished big man Aaric Murray. Baylor also needs to shut down 6-6 wing Ruben Guillandeaux, too. Guillandeaux put up 29 points against Columbia.

4. The point guard position for Ohio State when it plays Florida. Thad Matta has tried William Buford there in practice and David Lighty can bring the ball up, but freshman Aaron Craft is the long-term answer for the Buckeyes at the point. Craft is another former quarterback that has great toughness and leadership ability. The Gators will press and force Ohio State out of the framework of its offense. How the Buckeyes handle the pressure will determine the game.