Big Blue Madness is the maddest of them all



By Les Johns

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College basketball teams across the country celebrated the official start of practice with “Midnight Madness” events Friday.

Although very few actually played at midnight, their tactics were definitely maddening.

Maryland Madness, in a half-filled Comcast Center, featured acrobats flying through flaming hoops — not basketball hoops, more like huge hula-hoops set ablaze.

Attendance was soft, it was stated, because both the Orioles and Nationals had Game 5 Division Series games that day.

According to Baltimore Sun columnist Don Markus, many of the fans who were there believe the Terrapins will be better off without the Harrison twins, who verbally committed to UK on Oct. 4.

“Many believe the Harrisons would have disrupted the chemistry that Turgeon is building this year,” Markus wrote.

I get it. Who would want two top-five recruits? Maddening.

Indiana did receive exclusive ESPN coverage for its madness special, but “Mid-Afternoon Madness” just doesn’t sound thrilling. A 5 p.m. start in a nearly empty Assembly Hall was home for a mundane practice. Maddening.

For excitement in Lawrence, Kan., the Jayhawks had head football head coach Charlie Weis address the crowd. Weis, coming off a 56-16 loss to Kansas State, holds a 1-5 record and a damaged national reputation after admonishing the student newspaper’s reporting on his program.

If Weis didn’t fire up the Jayhawk faithful, perhaps basketball head coach Bill Self did the job in his speech. “Kentucky didn’t beat us,” Self told the crowd. “We just ran out of time.” Maddening.

If acrobats flying through hula-hoops, empty arenas, motivational speeches from desperate coaches and rampant hyperbole aren’t your cup of tea, then maybe you would enjoy watching freshman players dance in tutus.

That is precisely what went down in Chapel Hill, N.C., during “Late Night with Roy” for the North Carolina Tar Heels. I am sure the recruits in attendance were all thinking: “This is where I want to be next year.”  Maddening.

Then there was Big Blue Madness.

UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell summoned MC Hammer, the players scrimmaged for a few minutes, all eight national title banners were ceremoniously re-raised by members of those teams and UK basketball head coach John Calipari delivered another sermon to the masses.

Special guest this year? The basketball court turned into a projection screen.

A three-minute video played on the court chronicling classic teams and plays from UK lore.

The light show that wowed the Rupp crowd cost UK between $250,000 and $300,000, according to a Lexington Herald-Leader report. Money well spent, according to crowd response.

After the light show and player introductions concluded, the Cats played what amounted to a glorified pickup game that revealed little about the 2012-13 Cats.

Sophomore point guard Ryan Harrow has bulked up since arriving in Lexington but is still extremely quick to the basket.

If Calipari does indeed play freshmen Willie Cauley-Stein and Nerlens Noel together, an uncontested basket being scored in the paint is tough to envision.

Returning sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer and transfer graduate student Julius Mays can shoot the ball well and will be counted on to be consistent outside threats.

What was learned, however, is that UK basketball knows how to put on a show. The players were allowed to be themselves and had fun dancing for the crowd and playing some basketball.

Big Blue Madness played well to everyone in the crowd, including potential recruits.

For the rest of the country it was just maddening.