Orange Madness came and went on Friday. Good times were had by both the Syracuse Orange men's and women's basketball teams. Fans had a good time taking selfies with Jim Boeheim and Quentin Hillsman after the festivities. It met all of the minimum requirements of a [Insert Color] Madness event.
But in general, it all felt a little meh. Forgettable.
I suppose it doesn't matter. It's like worrying too much about the spring football game. Ultimately who cares? It makes no difference who wins or loses once the season starts.
But, you know, we're Syracuse University. We're Syracuse Basketball. If we're gonna do one of these Madness events, ours should be among the best in the nation.
Syracuse and Kentucky routinely compete for the attendance crown during the season and SU fans like being able to keep pace with the Wildcats. During their Big Blue Madness, Drake showed up and intro'd John Calipari to a packed arena. During Orange Madness, a Christian rapper you've never heard of played to a crowd of a couple hundred in a mostly-empty Carrier Dome.
If you want to be among the best, you have to act like it. So how can Syracuse improve things?
Go Big Or Go Small But Don't Go Medium
Orange Madness peaked in 2011 when Meek Mill appeared to delight the crowd and the players. The following year's event was marred by a fight and stabbing and ever since then SU has treated the event with passivity. They cut back on any kind of entertainment that might attract "you know who's" and instead just put the focus on the basketball. That's turned what was "an event" into a glorified scrimmage. I suppose that's true to the original concept of Midnight Madness but it's also robbed the event of any excitement or interest.
Rather than take a middle-of-the-road approach, I say make a choice. Go big or go small.
If you go big, bring back the name talent. Doesn't even have to be musical. Make it a celebrity that people actually want to see (not Snooki). Syracuse has tons of alumni who can draw a crowd. Bob Costas. Vanessa Williams. Joe Biden. Carmelo Anthony. Get one to be the guest host for the evening.
If you want to bring in a musical act, do that too. If you're worried about having too many "you know who's" around (which is a whole other topic for another time) then don't invite a musical act that lines up with that. Or charge $10 at the door for non-students & non-season-ticket-holders. But leave the Christian rappers and juggling acts for someone else.
Or, if you want to go small, you could turn the whole thing into an intimate, exclusive affair. Manley Field House can't host it anymore but maybe we find another gym on campus that could host it. Pack it to the gills, make it a raucous affair and even if the event doesn't have glitz or sizzle, it automatically becomes an exclusive ticket. Especially if you incentivize those who are there in the building.
Less Basketball For Your Basketball Event
This sounds a bit counterintuitive all things considered but one of the least interesting parts of this basketball event if when they play a basketball game. Fans want to find evidence of what's to come but it's no more telling than an NBA All-Star game. It's fine, mind you. It doesn't hurt anyone. But it's not really all that interesting either.
The dunk content? Good. Three-point contest? Keep it. But as for the scrimmage itself, SU should think about ways to turn that into more of an enticing game.
The most logical option? Current team vs. Boeheim's Army. Or at least some variation. Invite back former players to take on the current crop. The outcome doesn't matter, it's just cool to see Michael Gbinije & Trevor Cooney on the same court with Hakim Warrick and Eric Devendorf. A chance to see some of our favorite former Orange back in the Dome one more time.
Other options? Scrimmage the team against Syracuse "celebrities" and local media personalities. Three-on-three game with players vs. the SU assistant coaches. 2-on-2/3-on-3 tournament between current players.
Those are just two basic ideas that could turn what's become a ho-hum event into something slightly more interesting. What else do you think SU could do to jazz things up a bit? Or do you think it's not really worth the effort either way?