Midnight Madness Is Here
…and with it, the official start of the season. I’ve been looking forward to today since the Orange lost to Marquette in the Tournament, but it still seems like the offseason has flown by.
While annually hosting a late practice and opening it to the general public is a more recent development at Syracuse (though I understand it was attempted in the past and didn’t catch on), it has quickly evolved into a tool that’s as much about recruiting, if not moreso, than selling tickets to the games and getting fans excited for the upcoming season. It wasn’t that long ago that Midnight Madness was something produced almost exclusively by the “Blueblood” programs, but as other schools have realized its potential as a marketing tool for recruits as well as fans, it has proliferated to the point where mid-majors are even getting in on the action and each school tries to outdo the rest.
In SU’s case, they have pulled out all the stops by organizing the Legends game. Some recruits may take into account a program’s tradition and history as much as the current staff and group of players with whom he’d be sharing the court. The return of some of the Orange’s most beloved and memorable icons from the past is a move that could pay huge dividends for the future, with vaunted recruits like Nerlens Noel, Goodluck Okonoboh and others scheduled to be in the house.
That’s not to say it isn’t great for us fans, too. If you’re like me, you’ve at least wondered to yourself and maybe argued at bars over how a team of Orange all-stars from different eras would fare against one another, and even though this is only an exhibition and some of them are getting on in years, we can at least see those players together. Tonight is also our first chance to check out the heralded class of freshmen in uniform and get a glimpse of the returning players, several of whom have reportedly taken considerable steps in their conditioning regimens.
I also have to give the program some props the last-minute overhaul it conducted. No one, except for possibly a collection of women pushing 40, would argue that Tone Loc and a “Jersey Shore” cast member would make for a more entertaining evening than the new lineup that has been constructed, so credit the various decision-makers here who came to that realization. While this blog is more about analyzing the team on the court than critiquing the various marketing gimmicks the school implements (though there’s been no shortage of chances to make this all about the latter), Midnight Madness is a tactic that could have a very significant impact in determining who is on the court in the seasons to come, and that makes it worth discussing here.
In a backhanded way, I should also thank the NBA’s owners for having enough greed and incompetent leadership to free up the players’ schedules. Without it, we’re still stuck with Funky Cold Medinas and GTL’ing. If the pro season went along as scheduled, perhaps Syracuse could still cobble together enough former players to put on a scrimmage – it would have a head start with the alums already on the staff – but it would definitely lack for the star power of a Hakim Warrick, Jonny Flynn or Wes Johnson. At this point, recruits are young enough that they probably don’t have any memories of someone who played even as recently as when Lawrence Moten suited up, and it isn’t possible for this event to pack that punch if the NBA is wrapping up the preseason instead of sitting around at conference tables.
As you can tell, I’m beyond jacked for the season to get underway. Who are you most psyched to see at Midnight Madness and what intra-‘Cuse matchup are you licking your chops for the most?