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'Madness' not part of plan

October 17, 2008|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

Tonight, the Big Ten Network will, it says in a news release, "capture the madness and hysteria associated with the beginning of another thrilling basketball season with two and a half hours of live coverage during Big Ten Tonight: Basketball Season Tip-off Special."

The show will have live coverage of "Hoosier Hysteria" at Indiana, Michigan State's "Midnight Madness," "Tubby's Tipoff" at Minnesota, and Wisconsin's "Night of the Grateful Red."

In Los Angeles, there will be no hysteria, madness or anyone particularly grateful after UCLA Coach Ben Howland gets down to the business of coaching defensive principles and USC Coach Tim Floyd starts tutoring newcomers such as DeMar DeRozan and Leonard Washington about the rigors of scoring against, say, UCLA's defense.

The Bruins will practice from 8 to 11 tonight in a locked-down Pauley Pavilion. USC will begin at 7 p.m. without TV cameras or students filling the stands at Galen Center to welcome a new basketball season.

Howland has never embraced the idea of Midnight Madness, which makes the first day of NCAA-sanctioned team practices more like a televised recruiting show than a workout. What Howland wants when practice is officially allowed is, well, practice.

"There's not much time until the first game," Howland says. "I don't want to waste a practice."

USC's Floyd had held Midnight Madness the last three years.

"We have a shortened calendar," Floyd said. "Our season opens Nov. 15 and that really doesn't give us much time to get prepared. I want to go have a real practice and not a carnival atmosphere. I guess I figure we're on TV enough, there's enough other stuff going on in our city now, we don't need it. We did it, we loved it, I just prefer to have good practices."

Oh, and the Trojans have lost their season opener three years in a row.

ESPNU will provide, it says, "whip-around coverage" of Midnight Madness events at Gonzaga, Davidson, Kansas, Georgetown and Indiana.

Anyone in Southern California who wants to experience hoops hoopla does have options.

UC Irvine is offering "Midnight Magic" as part of a student event called "Shocktoberfest" where there will be a street fair and a Bren Center concert by local rocker Matt Costa before the basketball.

Anteaters Coach Pat Douglass said his team will have a practice at 5 p.m., and then come out after the concert to dunk and shoot three-pointers.

"We get a lot more exposure," Douglass said, "and anything to get the incoming freshmen into the Bren Center is great. . . . Though sometimes it makes the Saturday practice kind of cumbersome because the players stay up too. But we don't have the luxury of saying no to something like this."

Pepperdine will have "Blue & Orange Madness" beginning at 8:45 p.m. New Coach Tom Asbury said in his "old school moments" he would prefer to have a real practice -- especially after one of his players broke a foot during a dunk line at his first "Midnight Madness" as coach at Kansas State.

Still, Asbury said, the Pepperdine program needs the boost.

"We need to get the interest up here," Asbury said. "As long as that's the case, we'll have the madness."

For some local schools, it isn't a matter of wanting to have Midnight Madness or not. At Cal State Fullerton, athletic department spokesman Mel Franks explained, "The volleyball team is playing so we can't have the gym."

According to the NCAA, Midnight Madness has its roots in a 1971 midnight run then-Maryland coach Lefty Driesell took his team for on the football field. Without any promotion, 3,000 people showed up.

It wasn't until 1982, though, when Kentucky began promoting "Midnight Madness" as an official event and schools began offering entertainment acts, inviting students, giving away T-shirts, letting players do stunt dunks and half-court shots and having coaches such as Michigan State's Tom Izzo ride onto the court on his Harley or Florida's Billy Donovan rise out of a coffin.

Can't picture Howland embracing any of that.

--

diane.pucin@latimes.com

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