The tradition continues.

A loud capacity-and-then-some crowd wit nessed Georgetown’s fourth edition of Midnight Madness Friday night, opening the basketball team’s most anticipated season since Allen Iverson’s sophomore campaign in 1995. Despite some technical foul-ups and only an amazingly brief glimpse of basketball, Georgetown kicked off its 2001-02 season in style, hopefully marking the beginning of another deep tournament run.

The only action on the court (excluding the faculty-student basketball game that gets high marks for entertainment, low marks for court prowess) was a quality three-point duel between Kevin Braswell and Courtland Freeman (along with sharpshooters Lesley Walker and Mary Lisicky) and one worthwhile dunk from Wesley Wilson (sorry, Omari, but the dunks by Faulkner were quality but not contest-worthy). Despite this, the crowd energy was extremely high in welcoming back much of last season’s Sweet 16 team and a group of talented freshmen: Raw but extremely talented freshman Harvey Thomas got the loudest ovation of his class, hopefully a preview of things to come (no pressure or anything).

The night’s madness started much earlier, however, when the opening of the McDonough doors at 10:30 p.m. resulted in a stampede through the narrow entrances and trophy room.

Planners might want to rethink this for next year, since in the course of the two minutes it took to get in, I almost lost a shoe, was shoved, elbowed and practically trampled, was groped by God knows who (hopefully it was a girl), neutered on the handle of the gym door, and finally shoved into a friendly Department of Public Safety officer who pinned me back and cursed at me when I asked why I was being maimed. Oh well.

Once inside, things got better, beginning with the student-faculty basketball game, won by the profs on a clutch shot with time running out. One request for next year: Jack “The Hoya” DeGioia on the hardwood. (I can appreciate that el Presidente probably had more important things going on this weekend.)

The student contests were also quality. The shooting contests did not show off too much in terms of basketball competence (not that I’m one to talk, as people who have seen me play in Yates can attest), and the Pizza Hut race was a rip off. Although the “representatives” from my section finished dead last, my friends in the winning section never saw any sign of coupons for free pizza. Just another example of The Man taking advantage of naive, innocent college students – what can you do?

Up next came a number of dance/cheer groups, which I cannot remember by name but put forth truly impressive routines. More such performances by these groups during the course of the season would dramatically improve Georgetown’s halftime entertainment (and also bring some rhythm to the table) as well as give much-deserved publicity to the groups.

As the witching hour arrived, the women’s team was introduced to the crowd, hyped up by WPGC emcee DJ M&M. The team’s entrance was one of the night’s highlights, with each player coming out to midcourt and breaking it down for a minute. Even women’s Head Coach Pat Knapp shook it for a minute to a deafening roar. The energy the women brought was great, although unfortunately the players that spoke could barely be understood . thank you, McDonough sound system.

The much-anticipated performance by Bubba Sparxxx came between the introduction of the men’s and women’s teams, but it was a disaster from the get-go. After a delay of a few minutes, Sparxxx appeared in Georgetown gear and started in on the anthem “Ugly,” but a microphone that was fading in and out (mike check anyone?) and the horrible McDonough acoustics/sound system turned what could have been a great performance into a forgettable shower of noise. Only the hype man could be heard clearly amidst Sparxxx’s inaudible rapping and the crackling background beats.

An understandably furious Sparxxx was gone before he appeared, his bus hightailing it out of Georgetown by the time the crowd had left. Landing such a big act was a great coup for Georgetown, but the execution was so poor that Midnight Madness would have been better off without it.

Finally, the main event arrived with the introductions of this year’s Hoya basketball squad. From the first freshman to make his official debut (Darryl Owens) to the lone senior on this year’s squad (Kevin Braswell), the introductions were good, but not great. There was a spotlight, loud music . and that’s about it. No player speeches, no pyrotechnics, no coaches coming out of coffins (my personal favorite, the specialty of Florida coach Billy Donovan).

Overall, Midnight Madness Hoya-style gets an A for effort and a C for execution. Bubba Sparxxx (landing him was pure genius, sticking him out there with a sub-par sound system and non-functioning mike was weak), WPGC, the faculty-student game and pizza giveaways put the focus on the students, where it should be, but the logistics left much to be desired (as did the lack of the singing of the national anthem, or something along those lines, which would have added a touch of class to the proceedings). Next year it could do without the massive stampede, horribly loud yet acoustically terrible sound system, and blase intros.

Despite this, the organizers deserve credit for delivering the best Midnight Madness that Georgetown has put forth in my four years on campus. Now if only the Hoyas can back it up on the hardwood and bring another tourney run.

Here’s to hoping, from an eternal optimist.

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