Midnight Madness returns

Let the madness begin.

After a two-year hiatus, the men’s and women’s basketball programs will kick off the 2001-02 season with Midnight Madness tonight at 8 at the Sun Dome.

“It’s for the students and that’s why we’re doing it, plain and simple,” men’s coach Seth Greenberg said.

While many college basketball fans may be familiar with March Madness, the term used to describe the NCAA Tournament, some might not be aware of what Midnight Madness means. The event translates into a pep rally for the basketball program, providing students a chance to get a sneak peek at the teams.

“It’s a great feeling,” forward Altron Jackson said. “Last time we had it was my freshman year, and it’s good to have the fans involved and interacting.”

Midnight Madness will encompass scrimmages, giveaways and fan interaction in order to drum up support from the students and community for the upcoming basketball season.

“I was at the last (Midnight Madness) on my recruiting visit,” sophomore center Gerrick Morris said. “I thought the fans enjoyed it, so we needed to bring it back again to start everything off right.”

And starting things off is the basis of the Midnight Madness concept. The first time college basketball teams are allowed to practice is Oct. 13 at 12:01 a.m. The event has grown into a celebration of the beginning of the season for most successful programs around the country and their fans.

And for a team that only averaged slightly more than 5,000 in attendance per game, getting fans to fill up the 10,411-seat Sun Dome is crucial.

“I hope (the fans) come with their school spirit, not just to the Florida game (Dec. 8), but to all games,” guard Jimmy Baxter said. “Because we’re interested in them just as much as they’re interested in us.”

It is unclear why Midnight Madness was canceled the past two years. Greenberg said this summer it had to do with the expense involved with putting on such an event, which he said “costs about $7,000.” But student body president Mike Griffin and vice president Dave Mincberg pushed through the necessary legislature – something Greenberg praised.

“They committed to doing (Midnight Madness),” Greenberg said. “(Griffin and Mincberg) have got great passion and energy for trying to get us to shed our commuter college (image).”

But according to point guard Reggie Kohn, there is more to Midnight Madness than just putting on dunk exhibitions and player skits.

“A lot of us are just looking forward to the start of practice,” he said. “We’ve been going against each other all summer … preparing for the season, and we’re looking forward to (the season) starting.”

But the dunk exhibition is surely the most anticipated event of the night. When asked who was the odds on favorite to impress the crowd, there was a consistent answer heard from the team: freshman guard Marlyn Bryant.

“I’m going to try and do a little something for the crowd,” Bryant said. “I might jump over a couple of people or something like that. I’m going to do something just to get the crowd into it.”

  • Brandon Wright covers men’s basketball and can be reached at oraclebrandon@yahoo.com