The 10 Best Moments from ‘Midnight Madness’ Celebrations Around the Country

The games themselves mark the true start of the 2014-15 college basketball season, but at this point we’ve gone long enough without hoops action that any glimpse of what’s in store is welcomed with open arms.

Midnight Madness definitely did the trick.

Since practices officially began Oct. 3, schools throughout the country have been holding events that are heavy on flair and light on actual basketball. Meant to hype up the fanbase for the season ahead, some schools go a little overboard trying to make their Midnight Madness celebrations stand out.

This leads to highlight-reel dunks, high jinks and hilarious getups, as you’ll see in our ranking of the best Midnight Madness moments.

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Drake is at Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness

He can’t be good at everything.

      
 

 

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Kentucky’s deep squad delights at Big Blue Madness

Kentucky’s talented 12-deep roster has physical workout during sold-out Big Blue Madness

      
 

 

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Kentucky wows at Big Blue Madness

Wildcats embrace the spectacle as they get to work.

      
 

 

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Kentucky’s deep squad delights at Big Blue Madness (Yahoo Sports)

The Kentucky Wildcat mascot descends from the ceiling during the team's NCAA college basketball Big Blue Madness, Friday, Oct. 17, 2014, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Just as Drake appeared to draw the biggest cheers at Big Blue Madness, the rapper introduced Kentucky coach John Calipari and the noise then became a roar.


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Kentucky Big Blue Madness 2014: Recap and Twitter Reaction for Wildcats

The Kentucky Wildcats have national title aspirations, but Friday night’s Big Blue Madness was all about enjoying the arrival of basketball season and entertaining their legions of fans.

If there was any doubt just how big basketball is in the state of Kentucky, every ticket to the event was snatched within the first 30 minutes of availability on Saturday morning. Steve Jones of The Courier-Journal set the stage:

Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio noted that the Wildcats players weren’t the only big names in attendance Friday:

The women’s team was announced first, and Kentucky Athletics provided fans who weren’t in attendance a glimpse at the accompanying video:

Women’s head coach Matthew Mitchell attempted to steal the spotlight right away when he came out after his team. Writer Jerry Tipton and Alex Forkner of Rivals described the scene as the coach serenaded the crowd with Bruno Mars songs. It was something you only see at Midnight Madness events:

UK Hoops shared a picture of the entertainment and pointed out that the country took notice:

While the ceremony and crowd involvement is certainly a worthy aspect of an event like this, the real value lands in the recruiting department. Kentucky basketball always puts on a show, and Friday’s Big Blue Madness was no exception.

Kentucky sophomore Aaron Harrison recalled his experience at Big Blue Madness as a recruit, via Steve Jones of The Courier-Journal, “It just gave me the whole idea of how serious Kentucky basketball is, and it was just a great feeling, exciting feeling. Once you witness something like that, there’s no way you can not want to play in an atmosphere like that.”

Matt Jones and Steve Jones shared some rather interesting developments:

Back on the actual floor, Steve Jones and Forkner shared the most interesting moment during the women’s scrimmage:

Then it was time for the main event, as the men’s team came out. As to be expected, there was quite the introduction with a video of the program’s greatest moments followed by a hype video for this season’s squad. 

Forkner described the scene, which was capped off by digital national championship banners hanging from the rafters:

Kentucky Athletics provided fans who were not in attendance a glimpse at the video used:

After the players were introduced, Drake took the stage and addressed the crowd before introducing Calipari. Matt Jones and Forkner described the proceedings: 

After the histrionics, the team hit the floor in a number of three-on-three games. It split the crowd’s attention a bit before the five-on-five scrimmage, but the recruits were likely already impressed. The team then transitioned to a five-of-five scrimmage, which let the players demonstrate their incredible ability.

Kentucky Athletics provided some early updates:

The game actually came down to the wire, but Alex Poythress put it away with a three-pointer in the final minute. It put the white team up 40-36, and it eventually won the contest 42-36. Jeff Drummond of AllWildcats.com provided one final update:

Honestly, the most important thing of the entire evening was the fact that the team remained healthy throughout the scrimmages.

Now that Big Blue Madness is in the rearview mirror, it’s time for Calipari’s Wildcats to focus on the upcoming season. If the No. 1 ranking in the initial coaches poll didn’t give it away, this is one of the nation’s best teams.

The freshmen will clearly play a major role, as they almost always do in Kentucky, as Karl Towns, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis should all see significant minutes. However, this team will have a veteran presence as well since Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Poythress and the Harrison brothers all returned.

Kentucky has so many pieces that it will have more talent on its bench at any given moment during a game than most teams will have on the floor. It truly is national championship or bust this season for Big Blue Nation.

 

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Drake Attends Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness, Brings Lint Roller and Air Balls 3

Drake claims he’s “always” been a Kentucky fan.

On Friday, he continued to show his support for the Wildcats at their Big Blue Madness event, an open practice for both the men’s and women’s teams.

Updates from [Friday, Oct.17]

Drake got the chance to be introduced with the team, and he did not disappoint. The rapper brought his infamous lint roller.

He, then, proceeded to warm up with the players.

 –End of Update–

The rapper greeted every single Kentucky player before entering Rupp Arena.

Whatever you may think of Drake’s Wildcats fandom, Kentucky fans couldn’t be happier.

[YouTube, Vine, Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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Where top hoops recruits will spend Midnight Madness

Where a handful of the country’s top players will watch Midnight Madness festivities.

      
 

 

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20 ‘Midnight Madness’ Celebrations We Can’t Wait to See for the 2014-15 Season

In college basketball, the madness isn’t just reserved for March.

Though we’re months away from the NCAA tournament and all its wild and crazy glory, we’re only a few weeks from the start of the 2014-15 season. And to celebrate that upcoming beginning, many Division I programs have special events set up to introduce the new versions of their teams to fans.

Collectively, these events are known as “Midnight Madness” since they were able to happen as soon as the clock turned midnight on Friday, Oct. 3, the official start of preseason practice sessions. However, only a few teams took advantage of that earliest moment to hold their celebrations, and most have festivities planned sometime in the next few weeks.

We’ve found 20 of the best Midnight Madness gatherings planned and put them all together for you to scan in anticipation of what should be another amazing college basketball season.

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Midnight Madness 2014: Schedule for Top NCAA Basketball Teams

Not every college basketball power needs to have a Midnight Madness celebration. The ones that do just tend to be more fun.

Designed by programs to mark the true beginning of the season, Midnight Madness has basically become a raucous nationwide free-for-all. Coaches are shot from cannons, freshmen flourish before the biggest crowd of their lives and mascots do…whatever the hell mascots do.

The most important thing, beyond the spectacle, beyond dunks, beyond whatever celebrities John Calipari brings to Lexington to lure future recruits, is that we’ve mercifully survived the offseason. No more trying to convert yourself into a Premier League fan for the eighth straight fall; no more rummaging through the weekday dregs of the college football slate; no more studying your heat maps and memorizing the xFIP formula to discuss baseball with your friends.

Midnight Madness is a prelude to the overcoaching, 34.5-second possessions and Ken Pomeroy-metric scouring we’ll be witness to over the next six months. It’s a nibble before we get inundated with glossy “Preseason Preview” editions of magazines and “bold” predictions. It is our last day of innocence. 

The opening date for most teams is Oct. 17, with a few stragglers thrown in over the next week-plus. Let’s take a look at the most notable Midnight Madness dates and highlight why they’ll be worth checking out.

Kentucky

The Hook: So. Much. Talent.

Surprise, surprise. Calipari has an awesome, youth-laden team again. The Wildcats do not boast quite the level of all-time greatness as their supposed Fab Five in the making last season, but it’s hard to quibble with four 5-star players. Center Karl Towns leads a foursome that includes Trey Lyles, Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker, each of whom will be looking to carve out a niche in the rotation.

Unlike previous seasons, there isn’t much of a clear path to playing time. Towns and Lyles have Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee to contend with for minutes. Booker and Ulis will have an opportunity to compete for backup jobs, but they’re clearly behind the Harrison twins in the pecking order. 

This is, as anyone who has paid attention to the Calipari revolution knows, atypical. The Harrisons didn’t have to wait. Anthony Davis didn’t have to wait. Neither did Julius Randle nor Nerlens Noel. I’ll be curious to see if any of the Wildcat youngsters use the Midnight Madness stage to send a message to the incumbents.

 

Arizona

The Hook: Let Us Marvel At the Length of Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

The Wildcats are going to miss Aaron Gordon. That tends to happen when you recruit a player good enough to be the No. 4 pick in a draft. His passing ability offensively, high-flying dunks in transition and tenacity on defense would all be a fantastic fit for this roster.

On the other hand, the Stanley Johnson-Rondae Hollis-Jefferson wing duo is gonna be a whole lot of fun. And, no, I don’t necessarily mean that in the SportsCenter “Top 10 Plays” way, though both are plenty athletic enough to have a few jaw-dropping slams. I mean watching these two execute Sean Miller’s defensive system is going to be a thing of beauty.

Arizona led the nation last season in defensive efficiency, per Pomeroy, and has a good chance of repeating in 2014-15. Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson are both long, athletic wings who are quick enough to defend shooting guards and long enough they can handle most power forwards. Miller is a defensive wizard, so it’ll be fun to see the ways he utilizes them together.

 

Connecticut

The Hook: Hey, I Mean, They Won the National Championship.

Kevin Ollie is headed toward a post-championship letdown in 2014. Shabazz Napier and DeAndre Daniels are both gone, one with the Miami Heat and the other strangely playing in Perth. Taking a leadership role is Ryan Boatright and coming with him are a whole lot of question marks, including highly touted freshman Daniel Hamilton.

For the Huskies to have any significant success this season they need Hamilton to live up to his grade. The 6’6″ shooting guard is an excellent athlete and aggressive shot-creator who falls into the Napier-Kemba Walker school of consciousless gunners. Only, again, he does it at a regular shooting guard size instead of Fun Size.

Connecticut elsewhere isn’t looking at much in terms of returning talent. Ollie needs to cross his fingers he can get this team to the Big Dance.

 

Kansas

The Hook: Hello, Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre.

Another year, another pair of superstar freshmen for John Calipari Bill Self. Alexander and Oubre were two of the nation’s seven best recruits by 247Sports composite rankings and both will have a say in how far the Jayhawks go in March.

Alexander, barring injury, is an NBA lottery lock. He’s a 6’9″ athletic freak who already possesses a pro-ready body and a bunch of plus skills. He’s a terror to stop rolling to the basket after setting screens, an excellent and aggressive rebounder and makes scouts marvel at how quick he gets at the rim. I’m not sure I love him as an NBA talent based on the limited film I’ve seen, but he might be this year’s Aaron Gordon.

Oubre can flat out score. Assuming Wayne Selden progresses as expected, he and Oubre will be high among the nation’s best scoring wing duos. Oubre is a plus shooter from all over the floor and was perhaps the best three-point shooter in the 2014 class. The rest of his game needs some work, but he needs to be mentioned more in conversations about potentially elite freshmen.

 

Florida

The Hook: Chris Walker, Your Time Is Now.

Last season was supposed to be a culmination of Billy Donovan’s slow build of a veteran-laden core. Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather and Patric Young were all primed for star seasons and even the likes of Will Yeguete could help out. The plan worked in the regular season, as the Gators were so good they didn’t even need a major contribution from star recruit Chris Walker.

And then it all fell away with one Final Four loss to Connecticut. Gone are Donovan’s trio of stars, replaced by a whole heaping pile of question marks. Michael Frazier II and Dorian Finney-Smith, regular contributors on the Final Four team, are back and should command roles of higher import. The Gators also landed three solid wing recruits, led by 5-star swingman Devin Robinson.

But the real swing player here is Walker, who returns for his sophomore season with plans on fulfilling his promise. A rangy 6’10″ forward with elite athleticism and above-average defensive instincts, Walker could be a lottery pick if he can keep himself out of Donovan’s doghouse and perform as expected. If he fails, though, Florida might have a tougher time transitioning to its new era than people think.

 

Gonzaga

The Hook: Are the Zags Finally Legit Title Contenders?

This is the best Gonzaga team since Adam Morrison’s mustache graced Spokane. The Zags will start five upperclassmen, all returning from an eighth-seeded bunch that probably deserved more respect from the selection committee. 

Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. offer a reliable backcourt tandem of 40 percent shooters from distance, and Mark Few’s squad will be bolstered by the arrivals of transfers Kyle Wiltjer and Byron Wesley. Wiltjer sat out the entire 2013-14 season after leaving Kentucky, while Wesley averaged 17.8 points per game last season at UCLA.

Add 7-footer Przemek Karnowski in the middle, and there are few teams nationwide that can match the Bulldogs’ length. If Few is able to weave the transfers in with the incumbents, this is a dangerous all-around bunch.

 

San Diego State

The Hook: You Do Your Wizardry, Steve Fisher.

The Aztecs earned their second Sweet 16 berth in the last four seasons in 2013-14, but they’ll be without leading scorer Xavier Thames and top rebounder Josh Davis. Winston Shepard, Dwayne Polee II and JJ O’Brien all return, but this team is going to be hurting for size and scoring.

The tallest player on the San Diego State roster is Skylar Spencer at 6’10″. Only one other player, seldom-used junior Angelo Chol, is taller than 6’8″. Fisher’s system is fantastic at finding smaller players and thrusting them into roles outside their comfort zone, but this will be an upward battle. Perhaps freshman Malik Pope becomes an instant star or Shepard thrives in his expanded role.

Otherwise, Fisher will need to pull one of the best coaching efforts of his career to make it six straight tournament appearances.

 

Iowa State

The Hook: Georges Niang Is Ready for the Limelight.

Niang‘s ill-timed injury irreparably altered the trajectory for one of my favorite teams to watch last season. DeAndre Kane would school kids as he told them what the 80s were like. Melvin Ejim would use all of his 6’6″ frame to bully guys four and five inches taller. And Niang would nonetheless stand out, knocking down threes, making smart passes and executing Fred Hoiberg‘s system beautifully.

It’s no mistake NBA teams came calling Hoiberg this offseason. He understands the way the game is headed and embraces it without the hardheaded rigidity of a typical college coach. The freewheeling system he plays is not necessarily a “pro” style but is as close as one can get at the collegiate level.

Niang has a real shot at being a first-team All-American if he stays healthy and embraces his leadership role.

 

Michigan State

The Hook: Tom Izzo Got Shot Out of a Cannon Last Year.

Tom. Izzo. Got. Shot. Out. Of. A. CANNONLast. Year.

What more do you people want? 

 

Duke

The Hook: Jahlil. Tyus. Justice. 

Oh, and then all those other guys coming back too. Duke knocked Kentucky off its yearly top recruiting class throne by landing the nation’s top player in Jahlil Okafor, the nation’s second-best point guard in Tyus Jones and its second-best small forward in Justise Winslow. Grayson Allen is somehow overshadowed in this class as a fourth banana and he’s the 25th-best prospect in the country.

This is a special, special group of young talent that should step in right away and give Duke a shot at a national title. Quinn Cook is back for what feels like his 53rd straight year at the point, Rasheed Sulaimon will confound (and thrill) us all and Marshall Plumlee remains, well, super Plumlee-esque.

The Blue Devils are going to miss Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood. Their scoring isn’t going to come in avalanches this season. But they’ll be better defensively, Okafor gives them a centerpiece around which to work and there is more than enough talent here to figure it out.

I’m honestly kind of rooting for Allen to throw down on someone just to remind everyone he exists—and is pretty damn good. But unless Coach K shoots himself out of a cannon, nothing that happens in Durham is topping Michigan State.

 

Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter

All rankings data is via 247Sports.

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