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Friday, October 16, 2009
Midnight madness: College hoops time in Texas

All the talk may focus on the Texas-Oklahoma football game, but college basketball teams around the area are beginning practice for the upcoming season. Many held Midnight Madness events late Thursday night (well, early Friday morning, really) to kick things off.

In Austin, Texas coach Rick Barnes is just excited to have so many seniors back, including Damion James, Dexter Pittman, Justin Mason and Matt Hill.

"[They've] played a lot of basketball since they have been here, and we are really pleased with the leadership and the way they have embraced the younger players," Barnes said. "The younger players have embraced them, too. They are doing well in terms of knowing that these seniors have been through it. Those seniors know what it takes to be on the court, and they lead by example. As talented as some of these younger guys are, they are learning that it takes more than talent, and they are learning that the work ethic that goes in is important. I'm excited about the way the older guys have led the team up until this point."

Texas was picked second to Kansas in a preseason Big 12 poll of league coaches. They will find themselves in the top 5 in most rankings when the season begins.

Today, we'll take a look at the men's teams. We'll preview the women's teams next week. Here's a quick look at some of the other area teams as practice begins:

Oklahoma: Blake Griffin is gone, but talent remains on a team picked third by the league's coaches. Sophomore guard Willie Warren (Fort Worth North Crowley) was named to the preseason All-Big 12 team. The conference's freshman of the year had seven games of at least 20 points last season, the most by an OU freshman since Tim McCalister in 1983-84. The Sooners will need him to be one of the team's leaders -- on and off the court -- in 2009-10.

Texas A&M: The Aggies open practice today at 5 p.m., but it's closed to the public. They'll do their own "Maroon Madness" on Oct. 30 as part of Midnight Yell Practice at Kyle Field before the football team faces Iowa State. Donald Sloan (Seagoville) was the team's second-leading scorer last season and he returns for his senoir year. Bryan Davis (Grand Prairie) is also back. But the Aggies won't have inside presence Chinemelu Elonu or scorer Josh Carter.

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys were picked sixth by Big 12 coaches, but don't think that means the Cowboys are in for a tough year. They do return four of their six leading scorers, led by junior shooting guard James Anderson (18.2 ppg).

Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have a 5 p.m. practice open to the media today. Pat Knight has nine players from last season's squad returning, including seniors Darko Cohadarevic, Trevor Cook and Nick Okorie. Junior guard John Roberson (Plano) averaged 13.9 points last season.

Baylor: Scott Drew's team hopes to build on an impressive run in the NIT last season (they finished second). The Bears lost leading scorer Curtis Jerrells, but still have LaceDarius Dunn (second-leading scorer from last season) and guard Tweety Carter. The Bears have some Dallas-Fort Worth flavor with Mesquite Horn's Quincy Acy (sophomore forward) and Richland High School's Nolan Dennis (guard).

SMU: Matt Doherty hopes his fourth season means improvement for the Mustangs. Doherty named Mouhammad Faye, Paul McCoy and Derek Williams as team captains at a tip-off dinner Thursday. The backcourt should be a position of strength as guards Williams and McCoy were co-MVPs of the team last season. McCoy became the first freshman to lead SMU in scoring with 13.4 points per game in 2008-09. Williams was second with 12.7 ppg and led the team with 3.5 assists. Faye is a senior forward and was third on the team in scoring.

TCU: The Frogs begin practice at 7 p.m. tonight. They were predicted to finish seventh in the Mountain West Conference in a preseason poll of coaches. Forward Zvonko Buljan, from Croatia, was selected as a preseason All-MWC player this week. Buljan was second in the conference in rebounding last season (7.8 per game) and averaged 12.3 points. He was the MWC Newcomer of the Year last season.

UNT: The Mean Green have hopes for a Sun Belt Conference title after three straight season of at least 20 wins. Eric Tramiel and Josh White lead the Mean Green, which has an excellent backcourt. The team returns all five starters for last year's squad, which nearly went to the league title game. They will practice today at 5 p.m.

UTA: The Mavericks will have Midnight Madness festivities today at 8 p.m. at Texas Hall. Senior guard Marquez Haynes (Irving) leads the Mavericks. Coach Scott Cross was given a contract extension that takes him through 2012-13.