College / Oct 18, 2010 / 10:45 am

Behind The Scenes At UNC’s Midnight Madness

Behind The Scenes At UNC's Midnight Madness

UNC's Midnight Madness (Photo. Jacqui Drexler)

Since it began 39 years ago, Midnight Madness has become one of the most creative events in sports because it brings the past, present and future together. Schools honor their old stars and introduce their current rosters, all while high-prized recruits sit courtside in awe. But beyond the basketball element, it’s a chance for fans, players and coaches who are generally very serious to have fun and celebrate the college basketball new year. Celebrities sometimes make unexpected cameos, future NBA Lottery picks often don ridiculous costumes, and Hall-of-Fame coaches in their 60s throw on baggy clothes and dance to hip-hop.

Friday night, Late Night With Roy – North Carolina’s Midnight Madness tradition hosted by ESPN’s Stuart Scott – epitomized what the once-a-year event should be about.

The Tar Heels introduced their highly-regarded freshman class of Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall, who came out in blue shirts and jeans. But Barnes eventually switched to a pumpkin suit, Bullock to a banana costume and Marshall to a penguin outfit as they danced to Miley Cyrus‘ “Party in the USA.”

The sophomores danced in Snuggies, and the juniors wore black tank-tops and fake gelled hair as they did a “Jersey Shore” parody.

The best part of all occurred, though, when Coach Roy Williams threw on a fedora, grabbed a cane, and started dancing, all as five-star recruits L.J. Rose, Shabazz Muhammad and Cody Zeller (Tyler‘s brother) looked on.

But after the lock-steps and grapevines were over, there was ball to be played and a new-look team to show that the horrid 20-17 record of a year ago is a distant nightmare.

Sophomore guard Dexter Strickland, who spent most of last year at the point but will likely see more time at the two this season, led all scorers in the scrimmage with 16 points. As usual, the former St. Patrick (NJ) HS star used his explosive speed to get out on the break and attack the rim for some easy buckets. But more importantly, he knocked down perimeter shots – including two 3s in a row at one point – an area he had serious difficulties with last season.

While Strickland paced the scoring attack, Barnes was probably the most impressive player all night. The 6-8 freshman already has an NBA body and can beat you in so many ways. He handles pick-and-rolls extremely well, turning corners like an NFL running back and attacking the rim hard. The Iowa native also connected on a couple mid-range shots and a three. He’s only 18, but he really does have the poise and confidence of an NBA veteran, as cliché as it sounds.

Though these are not the national championship caliber Tar Heels fans in Chapel Hill have grown accustomed to, these are also not the Heels of last year, and it should be interesting to see how this young core gels over the course of the season.

But now, across the country, the canes of Friday night have been replaced by basketballs, the costumes by jerseys. The New Year’s party was fun for the participants, but the hangover is gone. There are three-man weaves to be executed, foot fires to be performed and suicides to be run in preparation for the season, which is just a few weeks away. As the late Hall-of-Fame Coach John Wooden put it, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

Behind The Scenes At UNC's Midnight Madness

UNC's Midnight Madness (Photo. Jacqui Drexler)

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  • Zach

    “Friday night, Late Night With Roy – North Carolina’s Midnight Madness tradition hosted by ESPN’s Stuart Scott – epitomized what the once-a-year event should be about.”

    Yeah? I heard from Carolina fans in attendance that it was kind of boring and stale.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Aron Phillips

    @Zach

    Really? Trevor was there, and I talked to him and some other people and they said it was awesome! Perhaps it’s just the prospect of a better season.

  • Trevor Kapp

    It probably wasn’t as good as last year’s, but there’s so much anticipation to this basketball season in Chapel Hill that it was exciting to finally see the team take the floor. Last season was really tough on Roy Williams, so to see him dancing gave everyone a good laugh–plus you had the projected No. 1 pick in next year’s draft dancing in a pumpkin costume to Miley Cyrus and playing in front of the students for the first time. Couple boring video skits, but overall a really good night.

  • Zach

    I wasn’t there, I was just going off of what I read on some of the Carolina message boards.

  • CC

    LNWR would be much better if they would get rid of the girls. I’m not being a hater but the 2 that I went to the girls part of it just about puts everyone to sleep and its very lame.

  • http://dime jj

    what is it with espn and carolina and duke? they are soooooo biased it makes me want to choke!!!