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Pitt again thinks outside the arena when it comes to Midnight Madness

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Last year, on the 225-year anniversary of the school's founding, Pittsburgh had one of the cooler Midnight Madness soirees when it opted to take its season-opening festivities outdoors. When programs distinguish themselves in how they kick off their season, they'll receive some buzz on Twitter, but also here on the blog, too.

I mean, the next team that ACTUALLY holds its Midnight Madness at midnight will get more free pub than just about any team that just rolls out the balls after dinner and has a rote dunk contest to go with a light intra-team scrimmage. Imagine that.

But credit Pitt for again doing something outside the lines arena. The Panthers' Midnight Madness proceedings won't be at midnight -- but they will be in the morning. The team will leave the campus, head to downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday, Sept. 28, and combine the opening of practices with the football team's home game against Virginia.

It's also Homecoming.

Yet again, a court will be laid down, and in a release Pitt officials said "various skits, promotional activities and a slam dunk contest" will be included. It's free and doors open at 9:30 a.m.

The big news with college basketball's start to the season this year: it's earlier on the calendar. Whereas mid-October has been the start date for practices for years, now the NCAA is allowing teams to begin the weekend of Sept. 27 in an effort to allow teams the same amount of practice time they had before -- but being able to spread out the work and get a full month of organized team prep before the start of the season.

Pitt went 24-9 last year and lost in the Round of 64 to eventual Final Four participant Wichita State. Here's the promo video, which has Pitt coach Jamie Dixon reprising his role as faux Jackie Moon from Semi-Pro. It's a helluva look, Jamie, but take a cue from Tom Izzo and mix up the costume selection each year.

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