Colleges open 2000-01 season with Midnight Madness

Saturday, October 14th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) _ Kentucky opened its 2000-01 basketball campaign with a ``Survivor''-themed Big Blue Madness.

The annual Midnight Madness gave 8,000-plus fans at Memorial Coliseum an advance peek at the Wildcats on Friday night.

Kentucky borrowed the event's concept from the popular TV show, hoping to become the ``last team on the island'' at season's end. To accomplish that goal, the Wildcats plan to outhustle, outplay and outlast the competition to become the ultimate survivor.

``I had a wonderful experience this summer with the U.S. Olympic team,'' coach Tubby Smith told the screaming crowd. ``I hope I can share some of those things with these guys this year.''

At 12:01 a.m., a video montage flashed on three giant screens showing each player vote a team off of the NCAA Tournament ``island.'' The largest eruption wasn't for Duke, Cincinnati, North Carolina, Michigan State or Kansas.

``In my 40 years at Kentucky, I've come to hate three things: smelly socks, dirty uniforms and the Louisville Cardinals,'' said Bill Keightley, the team's equipment manager since 1962.

Kentucky wasn't alone in kicking off the season at midnight.

Defending champion Michigan State began its season with coach Tom Izzo arriving at the Breslin Center in a white stretch limousine wearing a black tuxedo.

One-by-one, the players, wearing shiny green satin robes and boxing gloves, were introduced as they entered through the ropes of a makeshift boxing ring.

``This is unbelievable,'' Izzo said after entering the ring to thunderous applause. ``We're embarking on a new era. It's important you support this team like you have for three years.''

Meanwhile, Midnight Madness began in Indiana without Bob Knight, fired last month after 29 seasons with the Hoosiers and replaced by Mike Davis.

``I'm a Hoosier fan and I always will be,'' said Tim Holder, who traveled from Cincinnati and waited outside the gym for nearly four hours. ``There's more to Indiana basketball than Bob Knight.''

Davis added 3-point shooting and dunk contests to the repertoire, and also made the women's basketball team a first-time participant in the late-night event.

``I'm just being myself,'' Davis said. ``We did some things for the kids. We want them to have fun because (Saturday) at 4, it's going to be serious.''

At Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kan., another coach was cheered for coming back.

Roy Williams, who spurned his alma mater, North Carolina, to remain at Kansas, walked out of the locker room just after 10 p.m. to a standing ovation that lasted about 90 seconds. He bowed to the crowd, which included women with their hair dyed crimson on one half and blue on the other _ Kansas' colors.

``You can tell by the huge ovation and the sheer numbers how much Roy is wanted at Kansas,'' said junior Dave Martin, among those who began gathering about 2:30 p.m. _ hours before the doors to the gym were opened.

``They sort of adopted this dumb guy from North Carolina right off the bat,'' Williams said of his first Midnight Madness at Kansas in 1988. ``It's still one of my favorite moments.''

A hypnotist was part of the pre-practice festivities at Gampel Pavilion as Connecticut kicked off its fourth straight Midnight Madness.

Members of the national champion women's team were in the stands and two _ Tamika Williams and Swin Cash _ were part of the hypnotist show. The junior forwards were put into a trance and danced to everything from Aretha Franklin to the Village People.

Jim Calhoun's 2000-01 squad entered dancing, hip-hopping through an arc of sparklers.

Following the pre-practice hype of hypnotist and laser lights, the Huskies took the floor for 3-point and slam-dunk contests and an uptempo intersquad scrimmage.

``This team lends itself to getting up and down the floor, but it's going to be a battle at times because they're a young team and won't know what's really good for them,'' Calhoun said. ``Well, we do.''

In College Park, Md., the Maryland Terrapins welcomed back all five starters in an attempt to reach their first Final Four.

The crowd packed Cole Field House nearly an hour before Midnight Madness, believed to have been started by former Maryland coach Lefty Driesell before the 1970-71 season.

``The atmosphere is like this for every game,'' forward Tahj Holden said. ``We just got lucky and have a lot of music and lights this time. This atmosphere is what brought me here.''