The glut of preconference tournaments is over. The nightly inundation of classics, tipoffs, invitationals and shootouts has ceased. We made it to December.
There will still be a few special events as we head to the holidays, but for the most part we have seen the last of the multi-team, multi-site, sponsor- and television-driven early season get-togethers.
The best of the games were two that could be played again late in March: Duke 77, Marquette 73 in the finals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational, and UCLA 68, Michigan State 63 for the title at the O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic.
The biggest upset was a no-brainer: Gardner-Webb's 84-68 victory AT Kentucky in the second round of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic. A solid runner-up, however, was George Mason's 87-77 first-round win over Kansas State at the Old Spice Classic.
So basketball returns now to campus sites and we put away the exotic datelines of Hawaii, Alaska and the Virgin Islands - until next year. The Old Spice Classic is loaded and the Maui Invitational has another good field in 2008.
NEW NAME? This was the ninth year of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge and there should be a change heading into the 10th anniversary: a new name. This has been anything but a challenge for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
This year's 8-3 thrashing of the Big Ten keeps the ACC undefeated in the made-for-TV event that is played at campus sites over three days. The ACC has won the challenge all nine years it has been held.
The ACC leads the overall standings 56-30, and Duke, which beat Wisconsin 82-58, is the only team from either side with a perfect record at 9-0.
Michigan State, which beat North Carolina State 81-58, is the only Big Ten team to participate regularly and have a winning record, 5-3.
There are two other matchups between conferences.
The Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series started a four-year run this season. It started Sunday with Kansas' 76-72 overtime victory over Arizona and six of the matchups are this weekend. It concludes Dec. 22 with Stanford against Texas Tech.
The Big East/SEC Invitational has doubleheaders on consecutive nights with Georgetown playing Alabama and West Virginia facing Auburn at Birmingham, Ala., on Wednesday, and South Carolina meeting Providence and LSU against Villanova at Philadelphia on Thursday.
FAMILY TIES: It's not often that a jersey gets unretired. At Northwestern State it made perfect sense. There's been a long line of McConathys at the school, starting with All-American Johnny McConathy, the father of current Demons coach Mike McConathy.
Johnny McConathy was the fifth pick in the 1951 NBA draft and had his No. 14 retired at Northwestern State in 2002. Now, two of his grandsons are playing for the school and sophomore guard Michael McConathy is wearing grandpa's 14. Logan McConathy is a freshman guard for the Demons.
``Our grandfather, Johnny McConathy, was a great player back in the 1950s,'' Michael McConathy said. ``His two brothers, George and Leslie, also played basketball here. Leslie was a teammate, and George came a couple of years later. So Logan and I are the fourth and fifth McConathys to play here.
``I'm so honored that the school let me wear his jersey, which had been retired in Grandpa Johnny's honor. When you walk into our arena, the first thing you see is a big banner with Grandpa Johnny's name and the big No. 14 on it. So it's really special for me, and I know he's very proud also. He comes and sees all our home games, but he's not much of a traveler anymore.''
Coach Mike McConathy's team has reached the Southland Conference tournament championship game the past three seasons.
``They're great kids who play hard and well,'' Mike McConathy said of coaching his sons. ``I'm very proud of them both, and I know my dad feels the same way.''
As of now, there aren't any more McConathys in line to play for the Demons.
``I'd have to say we have a rather unusual family tradition going on here,'' Logan McConathy said. ``I guess this is all pretty unique. I don't know of any other family like ours. Plus, we're playing for our dad for the first time, too, which makes it even more unusual.''
MEDIA HONOR: Duke named the Cameron Indoor Stadium media room in honor of longtime sportswriter, alum and donor Bill Brill.
Brill, who graduated from Duke in 1952, worked for the Roanoke Times from 1956-1991, the last 31 years as sports editor. He was executive sports editor at the Durham Herald-Sun from 1992-1994. He has lived in Durham since retiring, became a fixture at Duke and wrote a book with coach Mike Krzyzewski.
He said he saw 118 consecutive North Carolina-Duke games, a streak broken a couple of years ago when he went on a cruise with his wife.
His first memory of Cameron is of ``Dick Groat doing something as a freshman,'' and his best was the Carolina-Duke game in 1981 - Krzyzewski's first season - when Gene Banks hit a long jumper at the buzzer to tie it and the Blue Devils won in overtime.
``This building is basketball like it used to be, not the way it's changed everywhere else,'' he said. ``This place hasn't changed a hell of a lot.''
FRUSTRATING REUNION: Ernie Kent acknowledged he probably would never have brought his Oregon team to play at Saint Mary's had it not been that the Gaels were honoring him and his 1997 NCAA team that won the school's lone West Coast Conference tournament title.
Kent and the Ducks left the Bay Area with a startling 99-87 defeat. Their first loss of the season dropped them from 12th in the poll to 17th.
Why would a top program want to make the trek to the tiny campus in Moraga, Calif., in San Francisco's East Bay suburbs?
``There is no incentive,'' said Kent, whose first head coaching job was at Saint Mary's. ``I dealt with the same thing when I was here.''
He probably won't be back.
Gonzaga, on the other hand, doesn't have a choice. The Gaels are expected to challenge the Zags in the West Coast Conference.
SMOOTH START: Florida State's Ralph Mims started the night on a good note and it only got better.
The senior guard sang the national anthem before Tuesday's night home game against Minnesota, then had 13 points and eight rebounds in the 75-61 victory.
``He's always telling me he can sing,'' Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said. ``He did a heck of a job. Who knew? One of these days maybe we'll all be coming here to hear a Ralph Mims concert.''
Mims said he was nervous before singing.
``Oh yeah, I had the bubble guts, man,'' he said. ``I'd never sang before a crowd like this or on television either.''
THIS WEEK: Tuesday is Kids Night at Madison Square Garden when freshmen stars Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo and Derrick Rose are all in New York to play in the Jimmy V Classic. Beasley and No. 25 Kansas State play Notre Dame in the opener and Mayo and No. 22 Southern California meet Rose and No. 3 Memphis in the nightcap.
There's one of the best backyard brawls in the country on Wednesday when No. 6 Washington State makes the short trip to No. 19 Gonzaga.
On Saturday, the Midwest hosts two double-ranked games with No. 21 BYU visiting No. 10 Michigan State and No. 13 Marquette at No. 20 Wisconsin.
Sports writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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