For some, countdown to dance begins tonight Midnight Madness gives fans a sneak preview

October 16, 1998|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Champagne and toasts won't be involved, but this evening may still feel a lot like New Year's Eve for local college basketball teams, many with resolutions to make the 1998-99 season a lot better than the last one.

The effort to make good begins tonight, with Midnight Madness events for the public at Towson and Coppin State, as well as at Maryland, predicted to be a Top 5 team by most. Loyola, Morgan State, Mount St. Mary's, Navy, UMBC and UMES start their practices tomorrow, without the hype.

For New Year's, you vow to lose weight, stop beating the dog, consume a few unread books, be nicer, that kind of thing. For basketball's new year, nice is a few more wins.

Though Navy (19-10) logged an NCAA tournament appearance, Coppin State's men's team picked up 21 wins, Navy's women's team won 23 and Loyola's women had 20 wins last season, the rest of the area's men's and women's teams combined for a 139-194 record.

Towson, which retains five players from a team that won eight games, is keeping the midnight scrimmage because it had achieved a following under former coach Terry Truax.

"Had I not been told that we had one, I would have said 'Let's forgo it,' " said Towson coach Mike Jaskulski, who enters his second season there. "But people told me that it was an event that was looked forward to."

For Coppin, which retains six players off a team shut out of postseason play after losing in the final of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament, the event is like an advertisement.

Coppin lost its top-flight backcourt of Antoine Brockington and Danny Singletary, but returns Fred Warrick, who averaged 12.9 points per game last season.

"It's just an opportunity to expose people to the talent that we have," Coppin coach and athletic director Fang Mitchell said. "It's like a sneak preview."

The Coppin and Towson events start at 9: 30 p.m. and 10: 45, respectively, with contests and music leading to midnight and ,, about 20 minutes of action from the men's and women's teams. Admission is free for both.

Others, like UMBC's Tom Sullivan, prefer to get on with the toils of rebuilding without the midnight frills. "I'm not a big believer in it," said Sullivan, whose team finished 14-14 last season and will be joining Mount St. Mary's in the Northeast Conference. "It's interesting, but you're doing something that doesn't make much sense doing at 12 at night."

UMBC returns Rich Giddens, who averaged 15.5 points as a freshman. Loyola welcomes back Jason Rowe, a guard who averaged 18 points a game last season.Morgan State has

Rasheed Sparks, an All-MEAC selection. And Towson has a promising transfer, Torin Ragin (Wyoming). Navy will look for leadership from senior guard Skip Victor.

One who has a degree of empathy for teams struggling to break out is Pat Coyle, who led the Loyola women's team to within a game of the NCAA tournament. Last season, her team had to live down a 9-19 record.

"Until you win, you're going to have people saying that you don't know how to win," said Coyle, whose team retains five starters.

Pub Date: 10/16/98

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