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Midnight Madness beckons as new season looms

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Oct. 10
Another college hoop season tips off with Midnight Madness this weekend. There are special events all over the nation as teams signal the start of preseason practices -- it'll be a celebration, baby! There's Late Night with Roy Williams and company at Kansas, a special event in Lexington with Kentucky's first practice, and much more.

Roy Williams took the Jayhawks to four Final Fours.
The defending national champion Maryland Terrapins get their first look at the Comcast Center with their annual Midnight Madness. Gary Williams also gets his first glance at life without Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter. The Terps will still be a solid contender in the ACC with Steve Blake and Tahj Holden returning.

Then there's Saturday Morning at Cincinnati, where Bob Huggins is expected to attend Breakfast with Bob. As he continues to recover from his recent heart attack, it's great to know he'll be with all the Bearcat players and fans.

What a season it's going to be. Yes, there were a number of players who left early for the NBA, but there are so many newcomers arriving who excite me. I expect the diaper dandies to have a major impact.

The big question will be at North Carolina.

Will the Tar Heels' three diaper dandies -- Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants and Sean May -- be good enough to take UNC back to where it's accustomed to being? That is, in the Top 25 and the NCAA Tournament.

Can Duke's six diaper dandies duplicate what happened in 1999? Elton Brand, Corey Maggette and William Avery all left early, yet the Blue Devils reloaded that year with Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Carlos Boozer. At the end of the regular season, Duke was ranked No. 1.

Now that Williams, Dunleavy and Boozer have said bye-bye, will top recruits Shavlik Randolph, Sean Dockery and company raise the Blue Devils back into the top 10? Only time will tell!

Looking at the big picture across the nation, will Arizona's Hall of Fame coach, Lute Olson, cut the nets down again as he did in '97? My top clubs are Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh and Florida. Those five jump out at me.

The Jayhawks will have a dynamite starting five, but the big question in Lawrence is the bench. If the reserves can provide some help to the starters, watch out! Kansas coach Roy Williams has an excellent inside-outside combination that made my All-Rolls Royce team, big man Nick Collison and guard Kirk Hinrich.

My All-Rolls Royce team lines up with Jason Gardner of Arizona, the orchestra leader for Olson's Wildcats, and Hinrich in the backcourt. David West of Xavier, Michael Sweetney of Georgetown and Collison are up front. Keep an eye on the Xavier Musketeers, a tough team that should dominate the Atlantic 10.

I can't wait for the start of the season Nov. 14-15 at Madison Square Garden, at the Coaches vs. Cancer event. Eight teams will hook up, starting with Syracuse vs. Memphis. What a coaching showdown as Jim Boeheim and John Calipari match moves on the sideline.

That contest will mark the debut of Orangemen diaper dandy Carmelo Anthony. Many say he's the best freshman the school has ever seen, and Syracuse has produced the likes of Pearl Washington, Derrick Coleman, Billy Owens and company. Soon we'll see if Anthony is the real deal.

Let's tip it off, baby! Here's hoping for a a fantastic college hoops season -- from Midnight Madness all the way to March Madness.

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