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Return of the Midnight Madness

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Oct. 13, 2005

College hoops kick off on Friday night with Midnight Madness! I am so excited about this upcoming season, and I can't wait to tip it off, baby! Many schools across America will begin with a practice or event that should get the fans going.

Midnight Madness was created by the left-hander, Charles "Lefty" Driesell, when he proclaimed Maryland would become the UCLA of the East. It created such fanfare and it is now simulated all over the nation. It is now the official tip-off of the season.

Looking at the ACC, everybody is screaming D-U-K-E! The Blue Devils are flat-out loaded with J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams leading the way. They are the best 1-2 punch in America. Coach K's guys will find their share of challengers in the conference.

The arrival of Boston College makes the ACC even tougher. The Eagles will get some PR with an outstanding nucleus returning, led by Craig Smith and Jared Dudley. Al Skinner's club will definitely make noise in the ACC.

One team people aren't talking about is NC State. Herb Sendek's club quietly and efficiently is going to be effective. Sendek can flat-out coach.

The post-Julius Hodge era will still be exciting down in Raleigh. Hodge, after four years with the Wolfpack, has moved on to the NBA's Denver Nuggets, but the cupboard is not bare. Names like Atsur, Evtimov, Brackman … watch out for the Wolfpack, a potential Rip Van Winkle, sleeper team in the ACC.

Maryland and Miami could make some noise too. Gary Williams' team gets D.J. Strawberry back after an injury-plagued season. Nik Caner-Medley and Travis Garrison should have big seasons up front. The Hurricanes have solid backcourt play and Frank Haith's team has more confidence after surprising some people last season.

Then there is defending national champion North Carolina. Roy Williams' team lost Sean May, Raymond Felton, Marvin Williams, Rashad McCants and Jawad Williams. The Tar Heels will have a young squad, but there is talent. With the incoming recruiting class of 2005 and 2006, North Carolina will be back in the upper echelon of the conference sooner rather than later.

It all tips off with Midnight Madness this weekend. Basketball is back, baby!

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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