The Uni Watch college basketball preview   

Updated: November 10, 2008, 4:07 PM ET

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The Uni Watch mailbox received about a million e-mails during the last college basketball season, and 999,999 of them asked the same question: "Why is the 'C' on UCLA's jersey a different color this season?" (Answer: It was part of the school-wide celebration of UCLA's 100 national titles across all sports. C = 100, get it?)

Uni Watch

Uni Watch is bracing for a similar e-mail onslaught this season, thanks to the new uniforms being worn at Kentucky. The Wildcats' new attire features a black-outline "K" on the home jersey and a black K on the road jersey. What's it all about? Please pay close attention, because Uni Watch will not be responding to e-mail queries on this topic: The black K is a memorial for former Kentucky equipment manager Bill Keightley, who died earlier this year. That black shoulder band is for Keightley as well -- it's inscribed with his nickname.

So begins Uni Watch's annual college hoops column, which finds dozens of schools with new attire. We'll get to the team-by-team breakdown in a minute, but first let's take a closer look at Kentucky, because those Bill Keightley memorials are just part of the story. The new design is a thematic shout-out to Kentucky Derby legend Secretariat, whose blinkers and jockey's silks were designed with a blue-and-white checkerboard. So the new UK uniforms have a checkerboard pattern (although it's hard to see from a distance), and the little checkerboard on the waistband features the years of UK's seven national championships (the lower-right square is blank, to provide motivation for an eighth title). Judging by the early returns, lots of readers think this all adds up to a disaster, but Uni Watch is OK with it, especially since it honors Kentucky's regional heritage -- always a good thing.

As for the other schools with new uniforms this year, the big story is the continued rise of the SoD Squad -- a reference to, of course, Nike's "System of Dress" concept. Uni Watch originally mocked the SoD but has come to like its snug-fitting jerseys with their clean, no-nonsense designs. Even the SoD's baggy shorts have turned out to be no worse than most other basketball shorts these days.

Here's the full SoD Squad breakdown, along with the rest of this season's new designs (with the usual caveat that there are probably several new designs that have so far eluded Uni Watch's notice, so feel free to send additions and corrections here):

• Upgrade of the year goes to Alabama, which has scrapped those miserable NikeWorld collarbone horns and replaced them with a retro-styled design that hearkens back to the 1970s (you can see lots of additional photos here). Bravo.

Boston University has a new 100th-anniversary logo, although it appears they're not wearing it as a patch. They'll be retiring Jack Leaman's No. 10 as part of the anniversary celebration.

Dayton, which looked like this last year, has joined the SoD Squad. Here's the rear view, and here's how they look on the court.

Eastern Illinois has added a double-zero memorial band for Kevin Duckworth.

George Mason is joining the SoD Squad as well, which should be an improvement over the mish-mash of styles they'd been wearing.

• Major upgrade for Illinois, which had been wearing the NikeWorld collarbone horns and has now joined, of course, the SoD Squad (additional pics here and here).

• Similar upgrade for Iowa State: Compare the old to the new -- no contest (and dig that new insignia font). New banners in the arena, too.

Maryland has switched from Nike to Under Armour, which has made the uniforms a bit flashier, but not better. The road uni is here, and there are lots of additional pics here.

Memphis, which had that weird one-sided striping last year, is another team that has opted for the minimalist SoD Squad approach. Lots of additional photos here.

Michigan has switched from Nike to adidas, with very minor changes: The front collar has changed from this to this (which is an improvement, right?), and the rear neckline has changed from this to this (which looks really lame-o, right?). They've got a new court design, too.

Miami (the one in Ohio, not in Florida) has added a MAC patch. Uni Watch believes the other MAC teams will be doing likewise, but so far there's no visual confirmation.

Michigan State is another team that traded in its NikeWorld collarbone horns for the clean look of the SoD Squad. They also have a set of 1979 throwbacks that they'll break out for special occasions.

• Here's a rare case of the SoD actually making things more cluttered, if just slightly: Minnesota has gone from this to this. Looks pretty plain from the front, but there's some rear piping that starts on the shoulder blade instead of going along the side seam -- odd.

• New collar style at North Carolina, where the crewneck has been replaced by a navy-outlined V-neck. Lots of additional pics here.

Oklahoma was already in the SoD Squad last season, but they've gone to a more streamlined version this time around. See them in action on the court here.

Oklahoma State has gone from this design to the SoD Squad. Additional versions here and here, and lots of action photos here. The Cowboys have a new court design, too.

• Here's your obligatory bit of annual weirdness from Oregon: Remember those bizarro black uniforms they broke out last year, with the illegible type? They appear to have added white and green versions this year. Let's all treat this like some pathetic trenchcoat geezer who desperately seeks attention by flashing people in the park: Roll your eyes a little and then just continue on with your business.

• Slightly cleaner look for Pitt -- compare last season to this season.

Saint Mary's road uni has gone from white-trimmed to red-trimmed. And check out the team name on the shorts!

• Minor change for Tennessee, where the collar and armhole trim have changed from this to this (lots of additional pics here). Too bad about the logo on the back.

• Yet another SoD Squad convert: Vanderbilt (old, new, additional photos, additional details).

• Cleaner look for Virginia, which has gone from this to this. Lots of additional photos here.

• Major overhaul for Virginia Tech, which is changing from this and this to this and this. Traditionalists will no doubt howl, but Uni Watch is intrigued -- let's see how this one looks on the court.

West Virginia's court design is changing from this to this.

• Looks like an upgrade for Wichita State, which has gone from this to this. Plus they've got a new court design.

• On the footwear front, Nike-outfitted schools will be wearing Hyperdunk sneakers. Schools that will have their own versions include Syracuse, Texas, Oregon (here's a closer view), Florida, and Kentucky (here's the front view).

That should be enough to keep everyone busy for now, but Uni Watch is fairly certain there are other new designs lurking out there. Know of any schools that were left off the list? Send info and links here, and Uni Watch will run updates in subsequent columns.

(Special thanks to Uni Watch bench coach Phil Hecken for his photo research assistance.)

Meanwhile, Over on the Diamond …
At some point over the past few years, you've probably thought to yourself, "OK, so Oregon has ruined the look of football and basketball, but at least they don't have a baseball team." That will change next spring, however, when the Ducks field their first NCAA baseball team in 29 years. And as you might expect, the uniforms aren't for the faint of heart. Full details (including a closer look at history's most bizarre pinstripes) here.

Some MLB teams are starting to unveil their new 2009 designs as well. First up: the Nationals, who have new road, alternate, and very alternate jerseys. Full coverage of that is available here.

Paul Lukas hereby requests that Oregon refrain from ever having a hockey team. His Uni Watch blog, which is updated daily, is here. Want to learn about his Uni Watch membership program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.


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