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October 12, 2012
The opening of the college basketball season is officially here as teams across the country can tip off their first practice at 5 p.m. on Friday. Over time, this opening weekend has turned into the biggest official/unofficial visit weekend of the year as many schools host their versions of "Midnight Madness."
There are now a lot of different names for the events, and they don't happen at midnight anymore; but the idea is usually the same. The goal is to get as many prospects on campus as possible to see the fan support, watch scrimmages and perhaps see coaches and players put themselves through some awkwardly embarrassing skits.
Plenty in town for Big Blue Madness
One of the most heavily attended of all opening nights is Kentucky's Big Blue Madness. Rupp Arena is gigantic, and Wildcat fans will fill it up to hear from John Calipari and get their first look at their latest group of highly touted freshman.
All four of UK's early commitments will be in attendance as Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, James Young and Derek Willis make trips. Also expected in Lexington are five-star senior big man Marcus Lee along with five-star juniors Cliff Alexander, Trey Lyles and Jaquan Lyle. Rounding out the group is likely 2015 five-star Karl Towns.
Pack-ing them in
Out on Tobacco road, Mark Gottfried and N.C. State are proving that they can recruit with the big boys. Friday night, they'll have a big-boy type lineup of prospects in town as they kick things off.
He's already visited officially, but five-star point guard and verbal commit Anthony Barber will be back in town. He'll be looking to pick up his first assist or two for the 'Pack. Likely, he'll be focusing a lot of his time on top 40 senior big man Dominic Woodson who very well might be the next player to call things for the Wolfpack. Five-star junior Theo Pinson will be on hand, as will recent junior commitments and top 50 players Caleb Martin and Cody Martin. The visit list is rounded out by potential class of 2015 four-stars Brandon Ingram and Jamar Ergas and probably one of the top five or so players in 2016, Harry Giles.
Late Night in Lawrence
In Kansas Jayhawk land they call their opening night festivities "Late Night," and it goes back to the days when now-SMU coach Larry Brown used to kick things off at midnight. Over the years, it's grown into one of the bigger productions around, and Allen Fieldhouse will be bursting at the seams with fans.
The VIP visitors section should be pretty thick as well. In town for official visits are the nation's No. 5 senior in Aaron Gordon, top 25 guard Wayne Selden, top 30 commit Conner Frankamp and rapidly rising big man Joel Embiid. Four-star juniors Elbert Robinson, LouRawls Nairn and Clayton Custer, along with sophomore Jimmy Whitt, fill out the expected visitors list.
Big group expected in Milwaukee
Buzz Williams and his staff at Marquette have put together one of the bigger groups for the weekend. Three of their four commitments will be in town as four-stars Duane Wilson, Deonte Burton and Jameel McKay all pay visits. Even though he's not actually considering Marquette among his final five, the nation's No. 2 player Jabari Parker is expected to be in attendance. Also visiting officially is Memphis four-star shooting guard Jajuan Johnson, at whom the Golden Eagles are making a late run.
The overall visit list is very Illinois heavy with 2014 four-stars Paul White and L.J. Peak and three-star Malek Harris, plus 2015 prospects Prentiss Nixon, Tyler Jackson and Roosevelt Smart all hailing from the Land of Lincoln. Another highly touted visitor is soon-to-be five-star sophomore, and local Milwaukee product, Diamond Stone.
Gigantic group in West Lafayette
The group in Milwaukee is certainly expected to be a big one, but Matt Painter and Purdue have an even bigger group. For the most part they are all pretty local. Their 2013 commitments, Basil Smotherman, Bryson Scott and Kendall Stephens, will all be in the house but certainly won't be alone.
The Boilers are focusing on younger talent for their season-opening event, and it shows in the roster. Sophomores expected include potential early four-stars Hyron Edwards, Jordan Ash and Jalen Coleman, along with more 2015 prospects such as Derrik Smits, Gary Bonds, Bronson Kessinger, Glynn Watson, Devin Cannady, Nick Rogers and Jalen Brunson. Representing the class of 2016 are Eron Gordon, Vijay Blackmon and Barret Benson.
More weekend visitors
Buffalo: Sterling Taplin
Duquesne: Desmond Lee
Fairfield: Mohamed Bah
Fordham: Manny Suarez
Harvard: Matt Howard
Penn: Tony Bagtas
Rhode Island: Kendall Pollard
Rice: Drew Bender
Robert Morris:Gervelle Kidd
San Diego State: Isaac Hamilton, D'Erryl Williams, Dakarai Allen, Darin Johnson, Daniel Hamilton (2014), Isaiah Bailey (2014), Bear Henderson (2014), Marcus LoVett (2015), Tyler Dorsey (2015), Rex Pflueger (2015)