It’s time to get manic

The USF men’s and women’s basketball teams begin the season on Saturday when NCAA teams are permitted to begin practice.

On Friday the teams will host Midnight Mania, a two-hour event to countdown to the beginning season. The night will include a 10-minute scrimmage from each team after midnight hits and will offer the first glimpse at the new men’s coach, Robert McCullum.

Women’s coach Jose Fernandez said the program uses the event to allow fans to learn about the teams. He said the scrimmage is not about practice, but celebrating the arrival of a new season and allowing the team to be seen.

“I think it is a good chance for the team to extend to the community and the school,” Fernandez said.

The event also marks the season opening, a time when the teams are full of hope and speculation.

Fernandez said he is optimistic entering the season, and that the women’s team should justify the preseason excitement.

“It gives everyone a sense of excitement, not just within the program but around the college,” he said. “I am extremely excited because I have a good core of players coming back that have been to battle and are ready to play.

“When you add in junior college stars (Rae Rae Sayles and Anedra Gilmore) and transfer players (Ezria Parsons from Auburn and Andrea Armstrong from Kansas State), you can’t help but be excited. I am more excited about this team than any other team in my four years here.”

The women’s team has seven new players, with two seniors among the six returning players. The new-look roster will look to bounce back from a 7-20 season in 2002-03 that saw them finish 2-12 in Conference USA.

The men’s team features one new freshman and two junior college transfers. The team will look to improve upon a 15-14 record (8-10 in C-USA) last season that ended with a loss in the second round of the C-USA tournament.