Midnight Madness went off at several venues around the country tonight, and as a result the message boards and blogs have been buzzing all night long with news about how players looked and speculation on what to expect this season. Since ESPN was
typically worthless no help whatsoever in letting us see how some of these teams looked, we decided to try to piece together some fan commentary and photos (and in a couple cases, video footage) of opening night impressions.
We start with Indiana, where expectations are sky high with the unveiling of uber-frosh Eric Gordon in a Hoosier uniform. From The Hoosier Scoop blog:
Kelvin Sampson walked out to the middle of the court, microphone in hand. It took a minute, at least, for him to actually be able to say anything. The fans kept chanting his name.
Sampson is thanking the fans for being here, and telling them how excited they are to start a new season.
He’s called Holman out to the middle of the court, and has congratulated him on being eligible. Crowd loves that.
Now DeAndre Thomas has been called out to mid-court. Sampson is discussing his weight, opening with the line “I don’t want to make a big deal of his weight . . .” I think it’s already become a big deal, with 14,000 people watching. Thomas has gone from 356 to 299.
Now Sampson is talking football, saying that he’s looking forward to watching the Hoosiers beat the Spartans tomorrow. And he’s saying “Why not a BCS bowl?”
What will happen when Gordon faces a little adversity? When his shot doesn’t fall, or he’s fouled four times in a row by a team trying rattle him?
Well, Gordon missed his first dunk attempt during this drill — which is nothing more than the guys running up and down dunking. But then he came back with a behind-the-head slam that was so utterly resounding I only hope somebody got it on video.
After the dunk practice, Indiana ran a transition drills, with three players breaking down the court against two defenders and then, following a possession, those two defenders breaking the other way again one player. Sampson has stated that this team will score more in transition, and here’s early proof.
Oh, and the passes made by Eric Gordon in this video sequence are pretty sick.
What about Billy G. over at Kentucky? 23,000+ filled Rupp Arena to greet the new coach and rooks Patrick Patterson and Alex Legion. Gary Parrish has the take:
We’re Diggin the New Nike Warmups, Mr. Meeks
And then the curtains dropped.
And right there behind them, there he was, the person who made this always wild atmosphere even wilder than normal. Standing and waving and flashing that big old goofy smile, Billy Gillispie received an ovation fit for, well, fit for the new basketball coach at Kentucky. And when the chant died down and the clapping finally ceased, this Texas man who was an assistant at Illinois just six years ago was handed the microphone and asked for his first impressions.
“I can’t talk,” Gillispie said.
Ahhh, (Wild)cat got your tongue, Billy?
But in all seriousness, it’s difficult to blame Gillispie for being totally overwhelmed. Because regardless of all the games he’s won and lost in his still relatively young career (featuring stops at UTEP and Texas A&M), there’s nothing in Gillispie’s 47 years on this planet that happened before Friday night that could’ve possibly prepared him for what it’s like to stand in the middle of Rupp Arena and give other humans goosebumps.
No, I’m not exaggerating.
Over in Lawrence, RTC’s preseason #1 Kansas Jayhawks put on a show in the Phog.
Sherron Collins led all scorers with 13 points coming on 6-of-13 shooting. He hit only one of his six three-point attempts, but that’s no big deal because, well, no one ever looks all that sharp in Late Night scrimmages.
More important on Collins is that he looks like he did in mid-season as a freshman. He drove to the basket in a smart manner, only recorded one of the game’s 14 turnovers and looked noticeably lighter and bouncier.
He put on a display of mid-air acrobatics before the game in layup lines. When asked after the game if he could have done all that a year ago, his answer, with a smile, was simple: “Absolutely not.”
He was also a pretty good dancer, to boot.
Jeremy Case led the Red team with 12 points on 5-for-5 shooting, including a pair of threes. Now, of course, nothing concrete in terms of Bill Self’s rotation can come from tonight’s scrimmage, but Case looked at ease on the Fieldhouse floor. That, too, could be because he’s entering his fifth season as a Jayhawk.
Case said he’s playing right now with no pressure on him, which could do nothing but help his basketball endeavors. It’ll be interesting to see how having his degree out of the way already helps Case as he tries to work himself into the rotation. He could be this year’s feel-good story, I would predict if solely based on what we saw tonight.
Elswewhere… Sasha Kaun had a workmanlike nine points and six rebounds for the Red team, though should probably stay away from wearing top hats, which he donned as a backup dancer during Russell Robinson’s ‘New York, New York’ performance. With his fledgling afro, it wasn’t the greatest of looks…Darrell Arthur was third on the red squad with eight points, while Mario Chalmers paced the offense up and down the floor repeatedly, notching five points, five assists and two steasl in 15 minutes on the floor…Conner Teahan, Brady Morningstar and Darnell Jackson each had six points for the Blue team. Jackson also registered six rebounds, three assists and three steals, giving him the most balanced line of any Jayhawk on the night.
An enterprising and informative Memphis Tiger fan had this to say about his Blogpoll #1 squad:
Rose: Looked confident running the team. You can just tell that this kid has “it.” He showed freakish athleticism on his one dunk in the dunk contest. He is very fast and seems to play under control. He probably will get lost during the season as most freshman do, but once he figures it out. Dorsey: Just a physical freak. He dunked anything he could get his hands on. Douglas-Roberts: CDR always looks uncoordinated, then he just puts the ball in the basket. His upper body looked bigger. He had a sweet stroke on one three pointer. If he improves from behind the line, how do you defend him. Anderson: Didn’t really notice Antonio much, but he always does the dirty work that doesn’t get noticed anyway. Dozier: Definitely looked bigger. Rob showed some fire when dunking the ball, which seemed to be lacking last year. Maybe going up against Taggart every day will turn Dozier’s potential into improved stats. Kemp: Willie looked good. He shot the ball well from behind the line. I think he will do well backing up Rose at the point this year. Probably will play some two guard with the way he can shoot. Mack: I think Doneal hit 12 or 13 three pointers in the three point contest. His shot looked really good. I liked how he dunked the ball during the scrimmage. He has the hops to turn drives into highlight dunks. It is incredible the amount of talent on this roster. No offense to guys on past teams, but it amazes me that we used to start guys like Chad Allen and Michael Brittain in the post.
JTIII and friends had a roaring time in McDonough Gym on the campus of Georgetown, as one fan who got a coveted seat (only 2000 available) reports:
I think it was well received by the recruits, at least the couple I was sitting upstairs with. They were into it and yelling along. I thought the crowd inside was great, loud and much better behaved than last year and Athletics did a great job getting folks in the gym. Some quick hits:
Step team’s routine was 5 minutes too long and way longer than any other performance (wife-beaters, really?). Dance team … well, I’m gonna leave it at that. Groove Theory awesome as usual. Two new male cheerleaders, so now a total of three. Cheerleaders still look as though they are in Junior High. A lot of Soulja Boy, and extended dancing this year (more dancing then anything else): each of the players as they were introduced; men’s vs women’s team; and both teams with AKD’s little brother.
Coach’s dance moves were old school smooth. The appearance of Jeff Green’s mom and dad was great (the unveiled his jersey). The seniors unveiled the 2007 Final Four banner … in fact, they now have new Final Four banners along with a Championship banner on the opposite wall of the jerseys (main entrance side).
Lay-up line turned dunkfest (Tyler Crawford is gonna be a beast this year, you already see the aggressiveness … him, Wallace and Sapp had some solid dunks). A nasty scoop behind the back dunk by Ewing Jr was best dunk of the night. Coach said they probably dance better, so he stopped the drill and they started dancing again: both teams together; both teams vs the crowd; and Ewing Jr. tutoring Mr. Rice for the Soulja Boy.
They did the five man weave full-court drill as well. But it seemed that the program was running long and the team seemed to tucker out a bit towards the end. Gotta say, it was a shame not to see the women’s team get a little bit of time to run drills (they basically sat around and watched the men, was kinda awkward). I know ESPNU was covering the men’s team but some time would have been nice.
Overall I thought the event inside the gym was great and the teams represented Georgetown in a great light for the recruits (recruits busted up at some of the dancing on the women’s team and a few of the guys as well).
We have to go to Yahoo for a report on USC and OJ Mayo:
Southern California has got Mayo, as in O.J. Mayo, and the Trojans showed off their star recruit when he and the rest of the team scrimmaged for fans Friday night.
The Midnight Madness session kicked off the start of practice for the Trojans, who open the season Nov. 10, at home against Mercer.
Introduced next-to-last, Mayo jogged onto the court with the index and middle fingers on both hands signaling the Trojans’ V-for-victory sign. He wore a No. 32 jersey in tribute to his favorite player, Magic Johnson.
Mayo teamed with a female fan in a 2-ball game, with each of them trying to make as many shots as possible in 60 seconds. He tossed up an air ball on his first attempt and smiled as he chased after the ball.
Mayo made four of nine shots, mostly from the perimeter, capped by a miss on a half-court attempt.
Late Night with Roy in Chapel Hill was another exercise in weirdness, but the Heels fans were generally pleased with what they saw, as a fan reports:
I was very pleased with Graves. I believe that we did not look quite as explosive as last year. I will kind of run down the players for you. I will put them in order as to the way that I thought that each player played with an emphasis on expectations.
1. Tywon A+ I thought that he looked a little winded/slow to start, then he settled down, and he was slap awesome!!!! I think this will be his last year.
2. Tyler A+ His usual self!
3. Graves A+ I was very pleasantly surprised. I will preface the rest of my reports to say that I was in the nose bleed section, and much of my view was heavily obstructed by everyone leaving. It seemed that halfway through the scrimmage, half of the audience was gone. It seemed that 1/4 left at the beginning of the scrimmage, and they just kept filing out one by one. I was most surprised at his intensity and tenacity on the defensive effort that he put out there. Then he was equally effective on the offensive side of the ball. Some one needs to tell him that he is not McCants. He even guarded Bobby pretty well.
4. Danny A I will bet that we play a lot of small ball this year. Danny did very well rebounding, and he played under control. His shot was also falling.
5. Marcus A Great job did very well.
6. Bobby A steady, ran the team, knocked down a few shots.
7. Wayne B It was very obvious, he is intent at taking it to the rim, but not great at it yet, and probably to the detriment to his shot. I don’t think he hit any jumpers. I was pretty disappointed with him. I would say that he def. looked like a 4 year player. I hope that his shot returns. His will to drive might well pay off if he can get his shot back on.
8. Alex B about what I expected. I think that he was trying to tear the rims off. He will be a defensive force!! He bobbled the ball some on offense.
9. Deon B- He was kind of transparent in that I did not notice him do very much, except one steal and ran the break. Other than that, I am not sure he was even on the court. He ties with Wayne as the two biggest disappointments of the night.
Over all, I think that we will have a slightly worse regular season, but may actually make it to the final four, because we should have last year. I think that we will def. play small ball a lot. From what I could tell tonight, Deon and Alex were not ready. Of course it was pick up style, and one bad game does not a season make, unless it is in March.
We conclude with Illinois for two reasons – 1) we really wanted to show this pic of Jeffrey Jordan wearing his dad’s jersey rising for a monster flush; and 2) it was kinda neat that everyone in the crowd wore pink as a show of solidarity to fight cancer. Two Illini fans gives their takes on Weber’s squad:
1. shaun pruitt is GOOD. i mean GOOD. ive always been hard on the guy but he brought the ball down the court once and was doing all this ball handling and i thought it was one of our guards at first til he stood up, i was like, what the heck! looks much more mobile and better handles.
2. jeff jordan jumps OUT OF THE GYM. hes short, but good lord can he jump. he did a 360 in warm ups.
3. as someone mentioned in another thread, carlwell wearing jamars jersey was good to see. i think in the end, believe it or not, jamar will be a better person from all this.
4. besides the outside threat, we could be a very solid team. alexander and davis are both very very athletic and seem to have decent shots. mccamey has mad ball handling skills and i thought holdren looked very well too.
5 things i noticed:
1) Mike Davis is a freak of an athlete. He can jump high and far and in control.
2) I agree with Quadcities that Jeffrey Jordan inherited his father’s ability to jump.
3) I also agree with Quadcities that McCamey had some really really impressive ball handling skills
4) Rodney Alexander looks very fluid, smooth, and an overall great package
5) This team is going to be better and more athletic than last years team. I really believe that.
If you seek even more info, Andy Katz gave this report on several other places, including Texas A&M and Washington St. Also, CSTV live blogged several events tonight, although the depth of detail is a little lacking. We guess they get ESPNU on their package.