ESPNU’s Midnight Madness Previews College Basketball Season

March Madness might still be five months away, but ESPNU’s own Madness is right around the corner.

On  Friday Oct. 14, at 9 p.m. ET, ESPNU will tip off the college basketball season with the sixth-annual Midnight Madness, a four-hour special previewing both men’s and women’s programs from 11 sites across the country. In addition to each school’s first NCAA-permitted practice, the events planned include scrimmages, player introductions, skill and dunk contests, team skits, head-coach and player interviews, and season previews.

“[Midnight Madness] is an effort to cover the excitement [surrounding the] start of college basketball,” says Dan Steir, senior coordinating producer for ESPNU.  “We try to take advantage of our resources and showcase the passion, the upcoming stars, and schedule to give you the latest buzz on college basketball.”

Midnight Madness originally referred to the earliest possible time that a team could practice, as permitted by the NCAA: 12 midnight on the morning of the Saturday closest to Oct. 15. In 2005, the NCAA voted to allow Midnight Madness festivities to begin at 7 p.m. on Friday of that weekend.

On Location
Of the 11 satellite sites, seven will be full remote sites, featuring production trucks similar to those rolled out for basketball broadcasts. ESPNU will produce the seven full sites — UNC, Kentucky, Syracuse, Duke, UConn, Louisville, and Texas A&M — using a four- or five-camera complement, and will simulcast the events in their entirety on

Four smaller, uplink trucks will travel to Baylor, Kansas, Creighton, and Michigan State, covering scrimmages and interviews with two cameras, one a roaming handheld.

From each of the smaller sites, ESPNU plans to record from one camera source and feed the material back to ESPNU headquarters in Charlotte, NC.

“We’ll turn around highlights of the scrimmage; we’ll conduct interviews with the head coach and star player; we’ll do two-ways with our [on-site] analyst to get a report on that team and the conference,” says Steir. “We’ll integrate all of this into the broader ESPNU show.”

In the Studio
Midnight Madness will be produced from Charlotte, with a studio show hosted by Dari Nowkhah featuring analysts Hubert Davis, Doug Gottlieb, and Andy Katz. Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas will contribute to the in-studio coverage and analysis.

From the studio, ESPNU will provide “whip-around” coverage to the 11 satellite sites.

“During the course of the four hours, we’ll check in with each one of these particular sites,” says Steir. “Some of the material will be prerecorded, some will be live, and we’ll just whip around. The talent at our studio location in Charlotte will bridge the content. For instance, we [cover] Duke’s scrimmage, [then] come back to our studio talent, and we may [discuss] how will Duke do this year? how good is the ACC?”

The studio show will also spotlight eight additional schools by integrating live and pretaped phone interviews with the coaches of Ohio State, Vanderbilt, Memphis, Arizona, Wisconsin, Florida, New Mexico, and UCLA.

Throughout the broadcast, fans are invited to ask the studio panel questions via Twitter, using the hashtag #ESPNUMadness.

ESPNU and ESPN3 will begin coverage of the 2011-12 college basketball season on Monday Nov. 7. ESPNU will air more than 300 men’s and women’s basketball games combined, and ESPN3 will showcase more than 1,000 games, including 150 that will be exclusive to the network.

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