Find some space between the baseball playoffs and those college football rivalries. College basketball is officially back at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, or a little earlier if you want.

With new NCAA rules allowing those staging Midnight Madness to start three hours earlier in prime time for the fans’ sake, college basketball practice really gets under way Friday night with plenty of fanfare.

Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness will be the biggest show of the night with a record 23,000 tickets distributed for the event moved this year to Rupp Arena. How big a deal is the start of practice at Kentucky? The first 20,000 tickets were grabbed in 35 minutes.

Wildcats fans will break the record of the 21,700 who were in the Smith Center in 2003 when Roy Williams had his first practice at North Carolina.

The record won’t last long, however.

Texas A&M is holding Maroon Madness in conjunction with its traditional Midnight Yell Practice, a tradition before home football games.

A court and baskets will be set up on one of the sidelines at Kyle Field, and a crowd between 25,000 and 30,000 is expected to see the Aggies in a real Midnight Madness.

“It should be a very unique experience, and it should be a lot of fun for everybody,” Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie said. “We talked about doing it last year but we didn’t have a home football game to match it up with.”

Well, Oklahoma State is in College Station for a football game Saturday and that means those attending Midnight Yell Practice will have some hoops to watch as well.

Kansas’ “Late Night in the Phog” will be a chance for the public to see renovations to Allen Fieldhouse, including a new floor and scoreboard.

George Washington will have the Harlem Globetrotters as part of “Colonials Invasion.”

Midnight Madness was last a national television event in 1997. ESPN is bringing it back Friday night with five hours of coverage. Following a one-hour season preview show, five live, one-hour events will be shown from Memphis, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State and Oregon.

Midnight Madness was started in 1970 at Maryland by Lefty Driesell. In a demonstration of work ethic, he had them gather at 12:01 a.m., the first minute possible, to run a mile in the dark.

The idea, obviously, caught on in a big way. And with a little-noticed rule change, it even made it to prime time.

AP-ES-10-13-05 1354EDT


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