Kentucky raises the banner, headlines Midnight Madness


Love him or hate him, Kentucky head coach John Calipari, is sitting comfortably atop the college basketball world. Within the last two weeks, he’s landed the Harrison twins and James Young to what can be an even better recruiting class in the coming months. He has a solid core of freshmen that could make another run in March. And oh, yeah he got to raise another championship banner in Rupp Arena on Friday night.

“I came here to win national titles for you,” Calipari told the crowd. “This is about celebrating the start of the season, but we’re still going to celebrate the 2012 national championship. We’re here to celebrate the tradition of this program.”

The concerts, videos, dances, scrimmages, and all the other spectacles are nice, but regardless the banner raising at Kentucky is the biggest event on Midnight Madness.

Of course, Kentucky had the flashy moments, such as a court that looked like an iPad for much of the night.

Nerlens Noel, the nation’s top recruit, got an odd welcome to UK, getting dunked on by fellow freshman, Willie Cauley-Stein.

Several dunks were thrown down around the country:

Baylor sophomore, Deuce Bello showed his ups by jumping over 7-foot-1  freshman Isaiah Austin.

Mizzou’s senior guard, Keion Bell leaped over six people.

Wagner’s Josh Thompson, who jumped over both of his parents, a year after he jumped over his mother.

While Thompson’s dunk was a repeat of a previous Midnight Madness, Connecticut starts a new era with Kevin Ollie leading the Midnight Madness.

Ollie will have to overcome a lot in his first season without an NCAA Tournament for the Huskies in 2012-2013. However, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams battled a cancer scare and got a large ovation from the Tar Heel faithful.

Tom Izzo didn’t disappoint, as the Michigan State coach dressed as Iron Man on Friday night. Bill Self, who once drove a motorcycle into Phog Allen Fieldhouse, was a little more relaxed this time around. I guess that’s what a new contract does to someone. Pittsburgh Jamie Dixon dressed up like Jackie Moon and hoped on ESPN with Bill Raftery.

Unfortunately, not all the Midnight Madness events went as well as Big Blue Nation’s. Syracuse and North Carolina State, two teams that are expected to be a part of March, had to cut their evenings short due to medical and safety concerns. The grandfather of N.C. State’s Scott Wood was hospitalized, while a stabbing took place at the Carrier Dome.

UCLA enters the season unsure about their top two recruits.

More headlines will emerge from tonight’s events, yet none of the dunks or skits can touch what Kentucky unveiled down in Lexington.

PHOTO: Ohio State’s new LeBron James shoe display

during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium on January 12, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.
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Ohio State has capitalized on its close relationship with NBA superstar LeBron James over the years and now has a new shoe display that should come in handy during recruiting.

The Buckeyes put out a tweet late this week with the display, calling themselves “THE LeBron school.” While this is something small, recruits like that the Buckeyes are tied into the best player in the world and it’s cool to them that Ohio State gets some exclusive gear.

Rutgers hoping new duo can bring a spark

of the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during their Big Ten conference game at Rutgers Athletic Center on February 8, 2015 in Piscataway, New Jersey.
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Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.

With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.

“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”

Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.

While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.