There have been a few times in recent memory that Pitt has held a Midnight Madness to symbolize the start of college basketball season. If I remember correctly, Jamie Dixon held a Midnight Madness back in 2003, but recently, there's been no such tipoff event.
Over the years, lots have debated this. There have even been those that thought basketball in Pittsburgh isn't important enough to hold the event (side note: back in 2003, we were still talking about Joe Paterno and retirement).
So where do I stand on this? In a nutshell, I think it's ludicrous.
College basketball is insanely fun because it's, well, for college kids. They provide the atmosphere and Midnight Madness is all about them.
Dog and pony show? Of course. But it's also an easy way to get in front of high school recruits on national television. Now, when Pitt was busy trying win 15 games a year and having a hard time packing the Field House? Okay, I get that. But now that the program is a national power year after year, why wouldn't you take the opportunity to get on TV as much as possible and be in front of top recruits?The big argument I generally hear is that the time can be better spent getting actual practices in. That the team, by somehow getting an extra practice or two in is somehow going to be more prepared than those who 'fool around' with dunk contests, three-point shootouts, and dribbling exhibitions.
Nonsense. One or two extra practices is not going to magically make your team mentally tougher for a game in February. Programs such as Duke, North Carolina, and UConn hold Midnight Madness. This is no knock at Pitt (well, okay - sure it is), and it's safe to say that it hasn't hurt them in March.
Pitt has tried to placate fans with the Maggie Dixon Health Fair, which is accompanied with a dunk contest and exhibitions, but it's simply not the same thing. The health fair is a great idea and one that should definitely continue, but I still think there should be a separate Midnight Madness event. Pitt's separate event may be fine for fans, but it won't be televised nationally and comes a week after Midnight Madness has come and gone.
Dixon has practically done a flawless job at Pitt since taking over, but this is one area where he's missed the boat. Midnight Madness is free publicity that the program needs to take advantage of.