Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Madness Thoughts

Well, my weekend of basketball was pared down a bit, as I didn’t end up making it to Marquette Madness on Saturday. I wasn’t totally broken up about it, though, since my Friday night in Madison served as a reminder of how non-essential midnight madness events are. The Badgers’ event involved more dancing than basketball, and when people ask me how the freshmen looked, I’m forced to tell them that Keaton Nankivil runs a mean 3-man weave. That’s about all there was to learn. Nonetheless, some thoughts on my trip to Night of the Grateful Red:

1) My personal weekend of basketball kicked off nicely, as I arrived home to change out of my work clothes before I left for Madison with my friend Ferd, and found the Blue Ribbon Basketball Yearbook at my door (Marquette’s ranked #10 in the country, Wisconsin’s at #18) . Not only were teams kicking things off, the gold standard of basketball guides was in my hands. Perhaps the only disappointing thing was that I had basketball-related activity to get to, so I couldn’t get to reading it right away. But it made the rest of my weekend much more enjoyable.

2) To start of the event at the Kohl Center, each of the coaches and players came out and danced (okay, a few players just waved) at halfcourt, to a song that it appeared each of them chose. For the most part, it was a goofy idea, but a few members of the team deserve special recognition for their well-executed entrances:

a) Matt Ryan, Bo Ryan’s son and the team video coordinator, kicked things off with a surprisingly solid Michael Jackson impersonation. Impersonating Michael Jackson’s dance moves is one of those things that’s going to get you made fun of if you’re not good, and well, I’m not making fun of Matt Ryan today.

b) Assistant coach Howard Moore may be a full fledged adult now, but his moves made me think that he was a good guy to have at parties when he was a player at Wisconsin in the early 1990s.

c) Trevon Hughes earns big points for his entrance in a cowboy hat to “Achy Breaky Heart,” which was preceded by teammate J.P. Gavinski’s own cowboy-hatted, country music entry. As my friend Josh pointed out, you know team chemistry is good when the black point guard from Queens goes out of his way to playfully mock the big goofy white guy from Wisconsin Dells. Particular props to Hughes for going way over the top and breaking out a Billy Ray Cyrus tune.

d) Greg Stiemsma didn’t do the finest Hulk Hogan impression that I’ve ever seen, but any guy who takes the opportunity to enter an arena to “Real American” is at least partially awesome. Stiemsma’s act of tearing a t-shirt off in a Hogan-esque manner was just the icing on the cake.

3) It’s official–Jon Leuer’s really skinny. On the plus side, he's skinny in much more of a Mike Wilkinson "No one's pushed me in the weight room much before" way than a Brian Butch "My body's not equipped to carry much more weight" kind of way.

4) If you were to Photoshop J.P. Gavinski into a Badger team photo from say, 1987, he probably wouldn’t look out of place.

5) The biggest thing that I took away from the event? The facilities crew needs to fix one of the baskets at the Kohl Center which continued to angle downward after dunks. I don’t think Greg Stiemsma’s going to be available to push the rim back into position during every play this season.

6) Wisconsin had promised a big promotional announcement that I predicted would underwhelm. I was correct. The announcement was that the athletic department will be auctioning off the throwback uniforms the Badgers will be wearing to honor the 1941 Wisconsin national championship team during this year’s game against Wofford. So to sum up the big promotional announcement, wealthy boosters will now have the opportunity to blow money on expensive decorative items for their rec rooms! I think that’s what we were all hoping for!

7) When a few select players came out modeling the throwback uniforms to be auctioned off, their way of tossing the ball around haphazardly and dribbling like it was 1941 almost seemed mocking towards the national championship team. I can forgive that, though, since let's be honest, I'm going to be giddy to see team of college players take the court candy cane socks that rise to their knees.

8) You know a dunk competition isn't going well when you have to re-do the finals because neither of the contestants managed to complete their dunk that round.

9) Two random students and Bucky Badger were the judges for the slam dunk competition. I know it's all in fun, but it seems to me that the Bucky Badger costume would obscure one's vision when attempting to judge a dunk competition. Couldn’t we call on a non-masked celebrity judge? Was Andy North not available?

10) I'm convinced that Michael Flowers is the coolest man in Madison. I can't totally explain how a guy who has been a solid, no-frills role player for three years suddenly looks like the charismatic leader of the team, but Flowers was giving off a different vibe on Friday night. He's not the first guy I’d have picked to become "The Man" this year, but based on the indescribable feeling that I got on Friday night, I get the hunch that that's exactly what he'll be. And for a team that’s going to need a leader, it’s nice that someone at least looks the part. (So at least I saw one worthwhile thing on Saturday).

So that’s Wisconsin’s opening night. Like I said, I didn’t make it to see Marquette, but after prior years and news reports, I have a pretty good idea of some of the things that would have happened. So here are some comments that I would have probably made if I had gotten down to the McGuire Center on Saturday:

1) Wow, Marquette is light years ahead of Wisconsin in terms of producing an event like this. Things transitioned perfectly at the McGuire Center and had a natural flow, whereas at the Kohl Center, I kept waiting for the announcer to just say, "Okay, we're done now. Thanks for coming."

2) How great was it to see Dwyane Wade? Not to long ago things were pretty down at Marquette. Now, they've got one of the best players on the planet coming back for Midnight Madness. Pretty cool, if you ask me. And yeah, the man’s still a great dresser.

3) I've said it before and I'll say it again, Trevor Mbakwe will either be one of the best to wear a Marquette uniform, or he'll be transfering out before next season. No middle ground.

4) The acoustics at the McGuire Center are terrible! What was wrong with the microphone on Saturday?

Back later, as I ease into the season...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Pure Madness

Let the insanity begin. Basketball season is again approaching, and try as I may to stay away, I think I’m going to have to keep jotting down my thoughts again (more on that in a few weeks). With practices beginning this weekend, I’m kicking things off by doubling up and going to Wisconsin’s “Night of the Grateful Red” tonight and Marquette’s “Marquette Madness” on Saturday. I’m not totally sure why I’m devoting my weekend to this, since these events usually end up being completely underwhelming and cheesy. But like that first handful of circus peanuts, there’s just sort of an irrational draw that second rate slam dunk competitions and ill-conceived student free-throw contests have. I know on Monday I'll be lamenting my lost free time and saying "It seemed like a good idea at the time," but I still have to go to these things for fear of missing something like my first glimpse at the freakish athletic ability of Dominic James (which occurred two years ago at Marquette Madness).

Notably absent from the schedule is UWM’s “Panther Madness” on Friday night, which I’m unfortunately missing out on for two reasons. First, I object to any division one basketball kickoff event with an approximate start time that depends on when the women’s volleyball team finishes its match. Second, since I’m starting the evening off in Madison, there’s a better than average chance that I’ll stop to enjoy a post game beverage with friends, rather than rushing back to Milwaukee to join the small group of die-hard fans who’ve made it though both a volleyball match and a brief concert by the Boogiemen (my enjoyment of the Boogiemen, notwithstanding). I may be a basketball nerd, but even I need a break sometimes.

Back on Monday to report the thoroughly underwhelming details of my weekend. Links to info on the events below:

Night of the Grateful Red

Panther Madness

Marquette Madness

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