Midnight Madness begins hoop season

Arizona tipped off the 2001-02 basketball season with a lighthearted midnight madness ceremony at McKale center. The festivities included a parody of the Weakest Link, and team three point shoot-out, a slam dunk contest featuring more slam than dunk and an appearance by an American icon.

Before the event could officially occur at midnight the organizers planned a host of events. The Volleyball team opened the evening with a three game sweep over Washington.

Next came the fun and games. In addition to the Weakest Link take-off, there were a variety of contests to get the fans involved/ The usual Wilbur's spot-shot was combined with a three point shoot-out, half court attempts and a blind fold game.

Then came the debacle that was the Celebrity scrimmage. Last year it was the UA coaches and trainers versus various members of the local media. This year the teams were mixed. One of the worst exhibitions of basketball had a few highlights. Josh Pastner was unable to duplicate his three-point exhibition of last year (not for a lack of trying), and instead it was former Wildcat Gene Edgerson who was the hot shooter from the outside. Edgerson vacated his usual spot in the post and showcased an outside shot that was not part of his arsenal when he was in a Wildcat uniform. The game mercifully ended on Women's assistant coach Curtis Lloyd's forceful slam-dunk.

Greg Brady may have been the star of the night. Television star Barry Williams, who portrayed the eldest Brady boy on the classic sitcom was a special guest and sang the national anthem. Fox Sports Net's Kevin Frazier was the host of the event and worked the crowd throughout the night.

At the stroke of midnight the players took the court to officially start the season. After player introductions, both coaches, Joan Bonvicini and Lute Olson addressed the crowd.

The three-point shoot-out didn't show a whole lot, except that there are some pretty good three point shooters in the general population of the University. Two freshmen bigmen also showed that they can shoot. Both Channing Frye and Isaiah Fox knocked down three-of-five three point attempts. Salim Stoudemire and Rick Anderson also shot well during the contest.

After a decent exhibition of long-distance shooting, the team gave us one of the worst slam dunk contests in history. It didn't help that three of the four competitors were unable to slam home either of there two allowed attempts. Both Will Bynum and Andrew Zahn stuffed home additional attempts, while Travis Hanour never put the ball in the rim. In fact in the subsequent scrimmage, both Bynum and Hanour missed dunks. Dennis Latimore successfully dunked and was joined by Bynum in the second round, due in large part to the difficulty of his athletic attempts.

In the second round each player got one dunk each. Bynum's high flying acrobatics overshadowed Latimore's power and Bynum took home the win.

The event wrapped up with a scrimmage. Both the men's and women's teams would get to play ten minutes, alternating every five minutes. The men played sloppy, pick-up style basketball. There were four turnovers on the first five possessions and a host of forced plays that Olson will not allow come regular season.

Bynum and Gardner went one-on-one most of the night, with each of the point guards trying to out do the other. Bynum showed an uncanny ability to get into the lane, while Gardner showed that Bynum has a lot to learn on defense.

Anderson was also impressive moving from the post to the wing with ease. Anderson rebounded well and had a steal at the top of the key that resulted in a breakaway slam. His versatility should give opposing coaches fits.

The women's team looked much more polished than the men. Bonvicini's club ran their up-tempo, transition offense to near perfection. The guards were able to find wide-open teammates all game long. Following the scrimmage, things look bright for the team's chances to get back into the NCAA tournament.


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