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CSUN, Others Breaking Fast : College basketball: Matadors and their fans gear for "Midnight Madness," a spirited prelude to the season.


NORTHRIDGE — Midnight tonight. Inside the Cal State Northridge gymnasium.

One hour. Come one, come all. Be ready to cheer and clap.

These instructions brought to you by Northridge basketball Coach Pete Cassidy, who says, quite frankly, he can think of better things to do at midnight than run a practice.

He'll do it anyway--with a smile.

"It's something the players want to do," he said.

At Northridge, and dozens of other universities around the nation, the college basketball season will be ushered in tonight with a time-honored tradition appropriately named "Midnight Madness."

NCAA teams this year are not allowed to practice until Oct. 15. The idea, therefore, is not to waste any time getting started.

At Northridge, the band and cheerleaders will join the players in an attempt to drum up school spirit. Last year, about 400 fans showed.

What will they see?

Cassidy, for one, has only a sketchy idea.

"There's not going to be much coaching going on," he said. "The guys are designing their own warm-ups since (coaches), by rules, haven't been able to meet or work with them. We can't even watch them."

Expect some sort of a slam-dunk show, followed by two 15-minute scrimmages.

"That's for show," Cassidy said of his team's first workout.

"Three o'clock Saturday--that's for go."

At The Master's College, an NAIA Division II school, practice already is under way. Cal Lutheran, which competes as a member of the NCAA Division III Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Assn., is prohibited from organized practice until Oct. 24. The Kingsmen will hold their "Midnight Madness" on Oct. 23.

Last season, NCAA Division I teams such as Northridge could not practice until Nov. 1--a restriction Cassidy labeled "ludicrous."

"The two (extra) weeks makes a considerable difference," said Cassidy, who is in his 24th season as Northridge's head coach. "It's time. You can't learn physical skills by cramming. It takes repetition."

NCAA rules stipulate weekly limitations of eight hours in the off-season and 20 hours in-season for practice. The off-season hours are only for conditioning such as weightlifting and running--without use of a ball.

Cassidy sees the need for time restrictions but believes it is in the best interests of athletes and coaches to train year-round.

"Too often coaches aren't thought of as teachers," Cassidy said. "Kids come to school to learn--so we, as educators, can teach them something."

In the past year, any extra training Cassidy had to offer would have come in handy.

Forward Peter Micelli is the only full-time starter back for Northridge, which was 8-18 last season. Guards Ryan Martin and Robert Hill, swingman Shawn Stone, forward Tom Samson and center Shane O'Doherty are other players who were given substantial playing time last season.

Guard Trenton Cross, a freshman from Reseda High, is expected to challenge Hill at point guard. Forwards Eric Gray and Mike Dorsey, both junior college transfers, and swingman Ruben Oronoz, who redshirted last season, are other top newcomers.

Northridge will play exhibition games at home Nov. 19 and Nov. 22 before opening against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Nov. 26.

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