If the college basketball schedule has one major deficiency, it's that the season begins with something of a whimper. Sure, there are interesting matchups in November and December, but there's no uniform, organized, concentrated "capital-O" Opener like there is in college football. And when you're competing with college football viewers until the first week of January, you probably need some sort of organized event.
It may never take the place of real, actual competition, and it may never be as big as Boise State-Virginia Tech, but Midnight Madness -- the art of holding a public practice as the clock strikes 12 a.m. on the first full allowed practice day -- is a pretty good substitute. I freaking love Midnight Madness. I don't need real competition, at least not on Oct 15. All I need is basketball, dunk contests, T-shirt cannons, "Pump Up The Jam," and Tom Izzo wearing his latest zany costume. I'm a man of simple tastes.
Fortunately, you don't have to be on campus to witness the madness. For the fifth year, the fine folks at ESPNU will have cameras in a handful of gyms across the country covering the various hoops festivities until you drift asleep on the couch. According to an ESPN release, the sites of this year's televised fun are Connecticut, Duke, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Memphis and Kansas State. The ESPNU broadcast will bounce around from gym to gym throughout the evening.
There are a couple of interesting caveats in this announcement, both of which relate to Connecticut. For the first time ever, ESPNU's Midnight Madness broadcast will focus on UConn women's team. That's probably only fair, given that the UConn women are only 10 games away from reaching the John Wooden-era UCLA Bruins' consecutive win streak.
It's also convenient, given that Oct. 15-16 is when the Huskies men's staff is scheduled to appear before the NCAA Committee on Infractions. According to a spokesman, UConn expects its men's team to practice and participate at the evening's festivities, but head coach Jim Calhoun may not be there if he is still required in Indianapolis. Which may or may not be a tad bit awkward.
In any case, there you have it. Naturally, these aren't the only programs participating in Midnight Madness, but if you're out of market, they're likely the only ones you'll be able to watch. Whatever. It's college basketball, and as of Oct. 15, it's back. Sort of. Not really. (But we'll take it.)