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Maryland Madness live updates

Live updates from Maryland basketball's kick-off event.

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Terps wrap return to Cole Field House

After more than a decade apart, Cole Field House and Terrapins basketball were formally together again Friday night, as the Terps brought Maryland Madness back to their old building for the event's 42nd edition. The night was a net positive for the program, in my opinion, though a few things likely could have come off better.

By its very nature, Madness is a special event for the program and a lot of fans, so coupling it with this nostalgia-filled airplane-hangar of an arena meant a lot to a lot of people -- none more than the men and women who have led the program. All six of the men's and women's head coaches were in attendance, and though it's the company line to praise the night, were touched by the setting.

"It was a great night for Maryland basketball,' Mark Turgeon said afterward.

"Tonight was really special," echoed Brenda Freese.

"There's just so many memories," Chris Weller said beforehand.

The stuffy, historic location was a positive change of pace for Maryland. Regardless of opinions of the overall atmosphere -- more on that to come -- it was likely better at Cole than it would have been at Comcast Center, where an old, historic event is made to keep up with a more new-school environment. Whether fans had seen games in Cole or not, Madness happening there made the event something of a novelty, and it inspired visceral reactions for a lot of longtime fans.

The atmosphere itself has gotten mixed reviews. Fans began clearing out of the building more than a half-hour before the event actually ended, keeping with a recent trend of patrons prematurely heading for the exits at Terrapins sporting events. This wasn't a "Steve Blake steals vs. Duke" crowd, but that couldn't have been anyone's expectation.

People started filing into the building at 5:30, keeping with the program's recent decision to hold the event in the evening instead of at midnight. That dismayed Lefty Driesell, the legendary men's coach, who deadpanned that midnight starts let students 'get right" during a long night and inspired a better environment: "That's the reason we filled it up," he said. But holding the event earlier made it much more attractive to families with young children, many of whom were hanging off railings with their faces painted at this year's Madness.

The longest part of the night, though, was unquestionably the roughly half-hour period between the introductions of the women's and men's teams. During that time, alumna Bonnie Bernstein went down a list of every notable Terps team, men's and women's, that played in Cole from the 1970s to the turn of the millennium, introducing representatives from each.

It was a nice nod to a proud history, but it inspired more golf-clapping than serious roaring and certainly mellowed a restless student section at time of peak excitement, in the midst of introductions. The athletic department has stressed observation of both a "proud past" and a "fearless future," but that balance is a hard one to strike.

To my ears, the building quieted down after that presentation.

There were definite high points, though. The congregations of each of the men's and women's coaches in program history at center court were historic and true, and the crowd went wild for each. The players all got sufficiently loud receptions when they came on during introductions, and for most of the night, the crowd was engaged.

Naturally, Madness includes some filler, but even that was entertaining, especially for a young crowd. Short spurts of the university's Gymkana program and an inter-squad dance routine didn't run very long and were received well. There's only so much excitement a program can stoke when there's no competitive basketball to be played, but these Terps did their best to put on an entertaining show. Turgeon acknowledged afterward that it went longer than he would have liked, but the event was handled well in what has become a foreign logistical setting for program officials.

Save for a few moments, the arena wasn't absolutely bonkers, but guess what? It was a glorified practice, and there were no earth-shattering recruits teetering on the edge of commitment in attendance. The Terps put on a decent show in front of a dedicated crowd (until it thinned, anyway), and they did some justice to a storied history.

"This building has a lot of history," former star Walt Williams said. "It definitely shouldn't be forgotten."

This Madness helped to make sure it won't be, and that counts for something.


Play-by-blay: Madness kicks into full gear

Autographs and alumni games are neat little elements of Maryland Madness, but the main event didn't begin this year until the lights went dark, Johnny Holliday started speaking, and the videos started playing.

The athletic department had a video cued up to start at 7:40, narrated by Holliday, the Terps' longtime play-by-play voice, looking back on Cole Field House and Maryland basketball history. Here's a chronology of what followed:

The Terps women's team took the court just before 7:50, first backgrounded by Lady Gaga's "Applause." Redshirt sophomore guard Brene Moseley, who missed last season with an ACL injury, made a formal return to the court before the Terps faithful. The crowd also got an introduction to freshman forward A'Lexus Harrison. (So the Terps actually, in fact, debuted someone named A. Harrison at this year's Madness. Just as we always knew it would be.)

The loudest cheer came for the second-to-last player introduced, senior forward Alyssa Thomas. Essence Townsend, the 6-foot-7 center and a redshirt senior, got the final introduction before Brenda Frese's coaching staff came out.

Then Bonnie Bernstein, a Maryland journalism school graduate, introduced a long line of men's and women's alums (including Tom McMillen, who got a raucous cheer). Bernstein went down the line and called out attendees from years upon years worth of Terps teams that played in Cole, and the entire thing seemed to drag on for a long, long time. There was a lot of cheering, but the student section clearly could have coped with a shorter recognition.

This history is certainly worth talking about, but it was wedged directly between the women's and men's teams' introductions, so the crowd got loud for the women only to mellow out quite a bit before the end of the presentation and the entrance of the men's team (which came just after 8:20, a full half-hour after the women came on).

The place got significantly louder when the men's team entered. Their order of arrival, from first to last: A.J. Metz, Damonte Dodd, Roddy Peters, Connor Lipinski, Seth Allen, Shaquille Cleare, Jake Layman, Charles Mitchell, Spencer Barks, Varun Ram, Jonathan Graham, Jacob Susskind, Evan Smotrycz, Nick Faust, Dez Wells and John Auslander.

Wells' dunk, a spinning, bounced alley-oop to himself, was the best of the night, coming after he played to the crowd by kissing the red "M" at center court. Faust and Wells had the next-best efforts of the pseudo-dunk competition.

Lefty Driesell, Gary Williams and, finally, Mark Turgeon took the court, each getting a raucous ovation to wrap up Madness' "pregame" celebration, with the school's fight song rolling in the background.


Alumni media availability notes

A handful of former Terps basketball coaches and players popped into an old classroom-turned-press conference space upstairs at Cole Field House before Friday night's Madness events -- the 42nd annual.

The alumni speaking before the event: Men's coaches Gary Williams and Lefty Driesell, women's coach Chris Weller, women's forward Vicky Bullett and men's forward Walt Williams. Here are some highlights of what they said:

Upon taking his seat, Williams' first remark was "It's great to be back in Cole." He gave a fairly full-throated endorsement of the Mark Turgeon-backed idea of playing an annual game at the old arena, perhaps over winter break. He also said he would like to see the athletic department put a Maryland basketball program hall of fame somewhere in the building.

Asked if he had any special anecdotes from his days playing and coaching in Cole:  "I was the best punter on the basketball team," he said -- a referencing to friendly basketball-punting competitions players used to have, when they would try to punt from the arena floor to the scoreboards beyond either end zone.

Weller offered a neat anecdote of her own: In the early 1980s, she said Driesell filled in for her women's team during a scrimmage. She called for a big, tall left-hander, and Driesell stepped in with her players.

Driesell also supported more regular games in the field house, but he aired one particular grievance about the Madness event today: It's not at midnight. Driesell, of course, is the coach credited with starting the midnight madness tradition that has since swept across college basketball while he was in College Park. Students are beginning to "get right" at that hour of the night, he deadpanned, and it built a lot of excitement to hold the event at a later hour.

"This was my life for 17 years," he said.

There wasn't much news of significance at the brief availability. Mostly, former Terapins expressed a lot of joy about being back in a building where they had stacked up so many memories. Williams was pleased to be back, though, like Driesell, he said he missed the "excitement builder" of a midnight event."

"This building has a lot of history," he said. "It definitely shouldn't be forgotten."

Bullett said she looked forward to seeing this year's women's team, particularly senior Alyssa Thomas. Williams said the same about the men's team, predicting strong wing and guard play.


MD Madness: How to watch, recruits visiting & more

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Take a look as a basketball court is added to Cole

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