The trend in college basketball over the past few years has been for schools to unveil newfangled alternate uniforms during the second half of the season, in time for the conference tournaments or March Madness.
This year, though, many teams will be wearing custom designs for their season-opening games this Friday, Nov. 9. Case in point: Maryland and Kentucky will be facing off on Friday night at the inaugural edition of the Barclays Center Classic in Brooklyn, and the Terps are marking the occasion by wearing faux-flannel fabric and a baseball-style script -- a nod to the Brooklyn Dodgers. A little odd (the whole notion of a flannel basketball uniform is sort of counterintuitive, no?), but still pretty clever.
Somewhat more predictably and disappointingly, eight schools participating in military-themed season openers on Friday will be wearing camouflage. Yes, the camo trend is hopelessly played out by now, and in questionable taste besides (some military personnel have made it clear that they don’t like to see athletes wearing camo), but whaddaya gonna do. The camo-clad schools include Michigan State and UConn, which will be playing at Ramstein Air Base in Germany; Ohio State and Marquette, which will be playing aboard the USS Yorktown in Charleston, S.C.; Florida and Georgetown, which will be playing aboard the USS Bataan in Jacksonville; and Syracuse and San Diego State, which will be playing at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego.
So that covers the season-opening uniforms. Before we move on to Uni Watch's annual team-by-team breakdown of primary uniform changes, there are two other items worth addressing:
1. You may notice that several adidas-outfitted schools are now wearing shorts that look like they have smeared or bleeding dye on the sides. That's actually a new adidas template -- the "bleeding dye" is actually lots of little mini-logos. It's a neat enough design concept -- until you repeat it over and over for every team in your company's portfolio, at which point it becomes a just another tired visual gimmick.
2. A well-placed source tells Uni Watch that scores of Nike-outfitted mid-major schools -- possibly as many as 100 of them -- were supposed to get new uniforms this year but are stuck with their old designs, at least for the beginning of the season, because Nike's production schedule has been running behind. A Nike spokesman, first contacted about this issue three weeks ago, repeatedly stated his intention to look into the matter but ultimately failed to confirm, deny, or provide any other comment on the matter. If a bunch of schools end up getting early-season makeovers, we'll all know why.
With all that in mind, here's this year's alphabetical listing of college basketball uniform changes (with the usual proviso that some changes have no doubt flown under Uni Watch's radar and will therefore be covered in a follow-up column):
• Alabama has simplified its jersey and jazzed up its shorts. In addition, there's a new "sweatback" design on the back (we use that term at Uni Watch HQ because all of those sublimated designs just end up looking like a sweat stain). Also: The school has come up with a centennial logo for the basketball program, but so far there's no indication that it will be worn as a jersey patch.
• Lots of Under Armour-outfitted schools, including Auburn, are switching to a square-ish collar design this year. The striping on the left shoulder is meant to evoke the stripes on the Auburn football helmet. Additional photos here.
• Cincinnati has a new floor design.
• Speaking of new court designs, Colorado has one too.
• Seems like a lot of schools with old-timey typography are changing to more modern looks this season. Illinois State is a good example.
• According to this story, Iowa will wear "a marker on their uniform" on Jan. 19 to observe the 20th anniversary of former player Chris Street’s death. The article also says a throwback uni is possible but not definite. If the school chooses to go that route, the design would presumably look something like this.
• Lamar is going for a much bolder look with its side paneling.
• Long Beach State has come up with a pretty cool beach-themed court design.
• Louisville has made minor adjustments throughout its uniform, most notably to the collar and the number font.
• Everything at Marshall has gotten blockier, from the lettering and numbering to the side panel design.
• In addition to the Brooklyn-style uni that Maryland will be wearing to open the season (scroll up to the earlier part of this column for details), the Terps have also revamped their primary uniforms (you can see some action shots of the new home uni here). Expect to see a boundary-pushing "pride" uni at some point as well -- probably something like this, although that's just a preliminary rendering. Meanwhile, here's the new court design.
• Michigan State has a new court design.
• Remember a few years back when all the adidas-outfitted schools were wearing a collar style that looked like a necklace? Milwaukee has now moved to that template. Here's a shot of the side paneling and the road jersey.
• Notre Dame has scrapped the necklace-style collar, which qualifies as addition by subtraction.
• Slight adjustment for Portland, which has added some side striping and black trim. Odd that they'd close up the white space on the "P" and the "O," no? Also: Judging by the team portrait, it looks like the Pilots will be wearing a rather distracting-looking logo patch on their waistbands.
• Temple is another school that's switched to Under Armour's new square collar. Note the smaller chest lettering, too.
• Good to see that Tennessee has scrapped the black trim.
• Texas Tech has a new chest mark that puts the "Texas" inside the "T." Looks snappy up close, but it'll be just a blur from a distance.
• Minor changes for Utah, which has tweaked its side piping.
• The theme at UTEP this season is "Bringing Back the ’80s," so the Miners will be wearing 1980s throwbacks for the season opener against Oral Roberts on Nov. 9, and then they'll be going with this uni set for the rest of the season.
• A Uni Watch spy spotted a Villanova prototype design on display in the Nike offices. Will it be worn on the court? Nobody's saying. Stay tuned.
Did Uni Watch miss anything?
Possibly. Probably. Almost certainly. Send your college hoops uni updates here and they'll be listed in a follow-up column.
Paul Lukas plans to attend that Maryland-Kentucky game in Brooklyn. If you liked this column, you'll probably like his daily Uni Watch web site, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.