Izzo entrance highlights hoop madness
Did Tom Izzo just get shot out of a freakin' cannon?
You bet your sweet Spartans he DIDN'T, but he sure fooled us, and that wasn't the only stunning sight to behond Friday night as Midnight Madness hit Michigan State, Duke, Kentucky and several other hoops hotbeds.
Izzo made the biggest entrance of the night, and if you don't believe it, watch the video below (skip to the 1:10 mark):
OK, so he confessed to the crowd that wasn't him flying out of that cannon.
“I know you are disappointed,” Izzo joked. “Most of you were hoping I splatted right on the middle of this floor.”
Not to be outdone, Kentucky women's coach Matthew Mitchell put on a show at Big Blue Madness. He was introduced as ''The Godfather of Soul,'' and danced around as James Brown, complete with a wig and sweatsuit.
He then tore the wig and costume away and did a routine to the tune of Britney Spears' ''Baby One More Time.''
It was another in a long line of memorable displays for Mitchell at Big Blue Madness. In years past, he danced to MC Hammer, Michael Jackson and ''Teach Me How to Dougie'' at the event.
Then Wildcats coach John Calipari took the stage and delighted the capacity crowd at Rupp Arena with a rousing talk more reminiscent of a campaign stop than a basketball practice.
''The competition will be fierce, the road will be difficult,'' he said. ''Every team we play will be more experienced than us. But if we become one unit, play with one heartbeat and a love for each another, we will be unbreakable.''
After Calipari's talk, the Wildcats held a 20-minute scrimmage that showed off another heralded group of recruits that will comprise a good portion of their regular rotation this year. The seven-man class features Julius Randle, a possible No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
Meanwhile, at Duke's ''Countdown to Craziness'', freshman phenom Jabari Parker did stuff like this.
If you wanna see the full repertoire, watch this:
Here's your first poster:
During Duke's first public intrasquad scrimmage of the preseason, the up-tempo team barely resembled last year's group.
The scrimmage was the centerpiece of Duke's ''Countdown to Craziness'' celebration Friday, an annual night of frivolity before coach Mike Krzyzewski's team gets back to the serious business of preparing for the season.
Krzyzewski told the crowd during the scrimmage that ''we're trying to change the style of play'' and that ''we're going to play a lot faster.''
Parker had 16 points in one 15-minute scrimmage, then eight points, eight rebounds and a highlight-reel dunk in another one.
The first 10 points of the first game were scored by players who didn't see a minute of court time at Duke last season.
That includes two redshirts: Rodney Hood, who transferred from Mississippi State, and Andre Dawkins, who sat out while continuing to deal with his sister's death when he was a freshman in 2009.
Dawkins received one of the louder ovations, along with Parker, during the one-at-a-time player introductions, and screamed ''I'm back, baby'' to the crowd.
Then, the first time he touched the ball, he buried a 3 over Rasheed Sulaimon on the right wing, prompting the Cameron Crazies to chant '''Dre all day.''
''It was cool to get that kind of reaction from the crowd, a crowd I haven't been around for a year,'' Dawkins said, adding that his 3 ''felt pretty good. Wish I had hit a couple more.''
While the Blue Devils have been practicing for three weeks, this was the first chance for fans to get a look at the highly regarded freshman class — Parker, Semi Ojeleye and Matt Jones — in game situations
Parker and Dawkins led the Blue team during the first scrimmage while Hood and Ojeleye were on White. Dawkins hit two free throws with 0.9 seconds left in Blue's 36-34 win.
Then they switched up the teams, with four probable starters — Parker, Hood, Quinn Cook and Amile Jefferson — plus Dawkins and Ojeleye on White. Parker had the move of the night, a reverse, one-handed slam that even had Krzyzewski hiding a smile in White's 33-30 win.
''I fantasized about this in Chicago, like it was true, when I was hurt, and then after the season, I just anticipated being a Duke Blue Devil,'' Parker said. ''It's a very big blessing.''
Then, of his monster dunk, he said: ''You just want to get the crowd involved and not boast too much, but just have fun.''
Krzyzewski has said this team will revolve around Parker and Hood, and that's a noteworthy change for a program that almost always is as good, or as bad, as its seniors.
Gone are three from last year — Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Seth Curry — who all found spots in the NBA. They were the cornerstones of a team that finished 30-6 and reached the Midwest regional final before losing to eventual national champion, and future fellow ACC member, Louisville.
These Blue Devils enter the season as one of the favorites to make it at least one step further: to their 12th Final Four under Krzyzewski.
But there's plenty of time to worry about that.
For now, the focus was on having some fun before the games start counting.
As they do every year, the players entered the arena to the song of their choosing. Most opted for current R&B selections, but big man Marshall Plumlee went with ''Ain't Too Proud to Beg'' and performed a full Temptations-style dance.
In other kickoff events for college hoops:
''Orange Madness is always fun, just letting you know the season's here,'' said Fair, who received one of the loudest ovations of the night when he was introduced at the Carrier Dome. ''It's go-time now.''
Despite being projected as a late first-round pick in the NBA draft, Fair decided instead to return to Syracuse for his senior season and the program's first year in the ACC.
''Just knowing that we're going into a new conference is a lot of excitement, something I wanted to be a part of,'' Fair said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.