Friday, October 14, 2005

Total Madness

Tonight kicks off the start of NCAA basketball for another year. And to my delight, the “midnight madness” concept is back in full swing this year, though the 7pm start time that is now allowed renders that somewhat of a ridiculous name. Never a great planner, I have not decided where I’m going to be at 7pm, though there are at least 5 intriguing options for a gentleman based in Milwaukee, such as myself. Here are my options, and their pros and cons, in no particular order:

1) Wisconsin’s “Night of the Grateful Red”

Why would I go?
At first glance, this would seem to be the slam dunk choice for me to attend. It’s my favorite team, a chance to get a look at some stellar new freshmen, and an opportunity to see if Brian Butch is actually starting to look as if he fits in his new body. It’s also an opportunity to head to Madison, a city whose bars I have certainly been neglecting of late. And if I had to guess, I’d say there’s an 80% chance that I know some other fans who’ll be going to this one already. Add to that the off chance that I’d be able to pick up the 2005-6 Badger basketball poster, and this event is almost certain to be excellent.

Why wouldn’t I go?
Between following football and attending weddings, I’ve been out of Milwaukee for a significant portion of time during each of the last six weekends. One more road trip might push me over the edge. Plus, I’ve seen most of the guys who’ll be on the floor play, and despite the many unknowns on this year’s Badger squad, they’re probably the most easy to assess of any team in the state at this point.

2) Marquette’s “Marquette Madness”

Why would I go?
Like anyone should have to ask this question. There will be fresh faces galore on the court on Friday night. I saw Wesley Matthews put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen at the WIAA state basketball tournament last year, but as for Jerel McNeal, Dominic James, Dan Fitzgerald, Jamil Lott and Matt Mortensen, I couldn’t pick any of them out of a police line-up. What better way to get a sense for how the new-look Golden Eagles will play than to see them in person on the first night of practice during the first year of Big East play. They’re also giving away free t-shirts and posters to everyone in attendance. Add to that the fact that Steve “The Homer” True, Marquette’s radio voice, and a guy I happen to enjoy, is emceeing the event and you’ve got a nice little evening. I might blast Tom Crean from time to time, but he knows how to throw an event. Finally, this is a bit shameful for me to admit, but I’ve never been inside the Al McGuire Center. The closest that I’ve been is parking next to it and peering inside on my way to file court documents, so it would be nice to head on in.

Why wouldn’t I go?
Not being my first choice team, I might not be into the excitement as much as I would be at another venue. I also don’t believe that parking near the Al McGuire center is plentiful, and I’d probably end up going elsewhere downtown afterward if I wanted to go out with friends for a post-basketball beverage or two. This could be uber-crowded, as well, given the buzz over the first season in the Big East for Marquette, and I hate huge crowds.

3) UW-Green Bay’s “Midnight Mania Primetime”

Why would I go?
Green Bay is moving in the right direction, with new, highly rated recruits coming in every day. The Packers have had a rough year, and if people in Green Bay need a default event to get excited about, maybe this could be it. It will be interesting to see how skinny freshman Ryan Tillema looks next to actual collegiate players. Maybe I could finally buy one of those awesome UWGB jerseys that I couldn’t find last year.

Why wouldn’t I go?
Well, there’s the obvious answer—it’s in Green Bay. I know something like two guys in all of Green Bay, and while they’re great guys, they’ve probably got other things to do with their time than watch Phoenix basketball. Besides that, Green Bay’s a long drive, and is perhaps the least entertaining city of the lot to go to. And the buzz over the Phoenix, though probably about due to heat up again, has been pretty much non-existent outside of Green Bay since Dick Bennett left years ago. And the event has the stupidest name of any of the contenders.

4) UW-Milwaukee’s “Fan-Tastic Friday”

Why would I go?
I’m buying season tickets to UWM’s games this year (I hadn’t planned to get season tickets for anyone, but who can deny $115 for an entire season of live hoops?), and it’s probably a good time to start supporting my adopted team. Sitting in awe of Joah Tucker would be fun. The first opportunity to see Rob Jeter in a head coaching capacity would be kind of cool. I’d also like to see what random former Milwaukee-area high school stars are walking on to the Panther team this year, since there’s always someone you’ve forgotten about.

Why wouldn’t I go?
The “buzz” factor is going to be low. The event is being held at the MECCA, which doesn’t come close to filling up for games, and is certain to be next to empty for an event like this. If that wasn’t enough to kill the electricity, there’s going to be a volleyball match between UW-Milwaukee and UW-Green Bay taking place beforehand. Who’s the genius that came up with that idea? “Hey, we’ve got lots of excitement over the basketball team this year—how about we try to run the women’s volleyball team out before a practice and see if we can generate some interest in them.” Great idea, if any of the fans coming to see basketball cared about volleyball. Heck, I even kind of like volleyball, but that’s not what I’m going to see tonight. I want hoops. UWM’s got a great product, but they could really stand to talk to Marquette’s marketing department.

5) ESPN’s Presentation of March Madness

Why would I stay home and watch?
The nostalgia factor. I miss ESPN’s old coverage of Midnight Madness, which was a staple back in the mid-1990s. Is there anyone who didn’t love watching Dick Vitale high-five some sophomore after he’d just drop kicked a ball through the hoop from half court to win a year’s tuition? Why this stopped to begin with is beyond me. And now it’s back. I thought that I heard that plenty of places were being covered, but it looks like I’m just getting Kansas and Kentucky. Of course, who can argue with seeing what goes on at such basketball powerhouses?

Why would I skip the ESPN and go out to an event?
Sitting alone at home is kind of sad when there’s basketball ready to be watched. Plus, I have DVR, so I can always watch Kansas and Kentucky later. And that pretty much sums it up.

Am I leaning any particular way? To be honest, I had to stretch really hard to find the above listed reasons why I wouldn’t go to the Marquette event. I think it’s going to be the most high energy of the bunch (again, Tom Crean is a great marketer) and there’s the most new wrinkles to see, from a basketball perspective. While I wouldn’t mind ending up at the Wisconsin or UWM events (let’s be honest, I’m not sitting home tonight, and I’m not driving to Green Bay), Marquette’s going to be the place to be tonight—even if I have to look a little bit harder for parking (like I said, I was really stretching). We’ll see who I can find to join me, though, and go from there. Any way you slice it, it should be a great night.


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