Master showman and larger-than-life presence that he was, Lefty Driesell originated "Midnight Madness" to drum up interest and to kick off college basketball practice at the earliest possible moment.
Nearly 40 years later, schools all over the country stage some variation of the festivities to mark the official beginning of college hoops.
Whether schools quietly start practice or throw open the doors for fans, the season starts Friday, with games less than a month away.
We answer 10 questions as teams begin preparation for 2010-11:
1 Are Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson the ACC's best backcourt? They're certainly the best returning backcourt. Delaney (20.2 ppg) was unanimous first-team All-ACC and Hudson (15.2 ppg) was third-team. They are tireless, solid defenders, and Hudson is a first-rate finisher. We'll reserve final judgment until we see Duke's Nolan Smith and touted freshman Kyrie Irving, a potentially pretty fair duo.
2 Who replaces Virginia's Monica Wright? Two answers: No one; and everyone. The All-American scored, defended, rebounded and led. The Cavaliers are still plenty young — only two seniors — and have no established go-to player. Chelsea Shine, Ariana Moorer and Whitny Edwards are the top returning scorers among a group of eight players that averaged between four and eight points per game.
3 Can Old Dominion be better than last season? The Monarchs have received some preseason top-25 love because almost everyone returns from an NCAA tournament team. But it's unwise to project automatic improvement when the missing piece is All-CAA forward Gerald Lee. Lee might not have been a dominant player, but was serially productive and did a dozen things that don't show up on a stat sheet. That said, a return trip to the NCAAs is quite reasonable given the personnel and wagonmaster Blaine Taylor.
4 Is this Chelsie Schweers' sixth or seventh year at CNU? Seems that she's been there forever. The 5-7 guard is finally a senior and only 74 points shy of Karen Barefoot's career scoring record (2,073). That's a little more than a week's work, the way she scores. Anything short of another NCAA tournament will be a disappointment for a team that returns almost everyone from last year's 30-1 squad.
5 Who in Virginia's mega-freshman class makes immediate contributions? Several will get substantial playing time, but figure K.T. Harrell and James Johnson to be the least star-struck. Harrell, a 6-4 guard from Montgomery, Ala., plays at a comfortable pace, according to teammates. Johnson, a 6-9 forward from Wildomar, Calif., doesn't shy away from contact. Also, freshman guard Billy Baron plays like the coach's son that he is ( Rhode Island's Jim Baron) and matured physically after a year at prep school.
6 Will Hampton U. coach Ed Joyner Jr.'s second year be easier than the first? Depends on your definition of "easier." Joyner navigated the program through the tragedy of player Theo Smalling's death before the start of last season. Compared to that, practices and games and the occasional disciplinary measure are a breeze. For sure, guard Darion Pellum should make his life a little easier. First-year assistant coach Harvey Grant, the ex- NBA player, lends a bit of star power to the bench.
7 Who leads William and Mary, now that David Schneider and Danny Sumner are gone? Quinn McDowell. The 6-6 junior is a gamer. He was the Tribe's No. 2 scorer last season and is as sneaky-productive a player as there is in the CAA. Also, junior guard Kendrix Brown, short-circuited by injuries a year ago, appears capable of not only producing, but leading.
8 What will CNU men's basketball look like without C.J. Woollum? Balanced, resourceful, defensive, fewer sideline foot stomps. New head coach John Krikorian's U.S. Merchant Marine Academy team last season went 24-5, limited opponents to 58.1 ppg and had seven players average between six and 11 points per game. Two years ago, his team went 10-4 in the conference despite being outshot from the field, 3-point line and free throw line.
9 What are the ODU women's NCAA chances? Fair. After 17 consecutive NCAA trips, the Lady Monarchs have missed the past two. They return four starters from last year's team that won the regular season, but as long as JMU's Dawn Evans remains healthy and the University of Delle Donne is in the mix, it will be difficult.
10 How many Virginia teams make the NCAA tournament? We'll limit this to Division I men, so as not to extend our ignorance too broadly. Let's say three: Virginia Tech, Old Dominion and Richmond.
Virginia Tech duo, ODU buzz highlight start of basketball practice
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