Durham, NC – The college basketball season got off to a big start Friday night, with teams allowed to practice for the first time, including reigning national champion Connecticut.
The Huskies are expected to once again contend this season, but they will be without star guard Kemba Walker, the 2011 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player who left school early for a shot in the NBA.
Even still, UConn has two players selected in the John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top-50 -- junior center Alex Oriakhi and sophomore guard Jeremy Lamb.
"You've just got to be willing to step up when it's your time," Oriakhi said.
Butler, the two-time national runner-ups, also opened practice on Friday, and head coach Brad Stevens does not expect a letdown from his overachieving program.
"We're just more versatile [than last year's team]," Stevens said. "This team has the capability to do more, but it doesn't mean they'll do more well. We just have to figure out if we can get there. I think we can."
The fans at the Carrier Dome got a special treat when Carmelo Anthony made an appearance at Syracuse's Midnight Madness. Anthony led the Orange to their only title in 2003.
Fellow NBA star Dwyane Wade also showed up at his alma mater for its Marquette Madness at Al McGuire Center.
The reigning national champion on the women's side, Texas A&M, officially tipped off the 2011-12 season with its annual "Maroon Madness."