Hoops Mania sparks rumor frenzy


Basketball is something that many of us here at Villanova feel pretty strongly about. We get a bit excited when our Wildcats take the floor, whether it’s for a Big Five matchup at the start of a fresh season or a crucial Big East rivalry game mid-February. In fact, from November right on through March — or even into April if it’s an especially good season — the Villanova campus is constantly buzzing with talk about something that is missing during the rest of the year. That something is basketball.

A few years ago, someone had the ingenious idea to kick the season off even earlier, in October. Why not create an entire event for the sole purpose of celebrating the beginning of the basketball season itself? Why not get everyone together in the Pavilion, the house that will be packed with screaming members of ‘Nova Nation throughout the year, and whip up a frenzy over the commencement of the five-month long party that is about to begin? Thus, Hoops Mania was born.

Overall, the ceremony has been an enormous success. On a Friday night each October, ‘Nova Nation gathers for a sort of rock concert in which our school’s ballers are the stars. They walk the red carpet to theme music. They wow us with a dunk contest, jamming in real life the way we can only do in video games. A quick scrimmage provides a teaser for the full-speed action games will bring and gives us our first look at the new recruits. And all the girls point out that Head Coach Jay Wright is more like a fine bottle of wine than a human being, because he only gets better looking with age.

When all is said and done, Hoops Mania displays the team in a way that incites the crowd to the point of actually getting people excited for the school’s customary exhibition game. If you’re able to get fans pumped up for a game that is essentially meaningless, you must be doing something right.

But even the energy generated by teasing the crowd with a taste of the sport they’ve yearned for since the prior NCAA tournament ended cannot quite compare with the anticipation of Hoops Mania’s finale, that one last act that actually has nothing to do with basketball or the team.

The rumors that swirl around this part of the night are endless, and any bit of insider information is treasured and passed around and modified endlessly in the weeks prior to the show. The question everyone asks, yet nobody really knows the answer to, is this: Who has the school booked as the surprise guest musical performance?

Speculations usually seem to include several of the most prominent hip-hop artists, and in the two years I’ve been at Villanova I have yet to hear anyone actually predict the performer correctly. Last year I was literally guaranteed that rapper Fabolous would be making an appearance, and I don’t think I was the only one looking around and scratching my head in confused disappointment when Trey Songz took the floor and began wooing the female portion of the crowd with his seductive R&B.

The year before that, my naïve freshman ears heard and believed everything from Jay-Z to Lupe Fiasco. Needless to say, that information was misguided, and those ears instead got to listen to T-Pain. While his synthesized voice makes for great choruses in other rappers’ songs, his solo concert wasn’t quite jaw-dropping.

Perhaps I’m just bitter about these two performances because prior to my arrival, back in 2006, Hoops Mania featured 50 Cent. Granted, his career in music was drawing to a close and his career as a spokesperson for Vitamin Water was about to heat up by that point, but still, 50’s in that echelon of rappers including Snoop Dogg and Eminem who are basically timeless in my opinion. Whether or not your parents let you listen to them, by the time we were around 11 years old we all knew who those guys were. Seeing 50 Cent performing for a ‘Nova-only crowd on the floor of the Pavilion must have been pretty wild.

As evidenced by the last two Hoops Manias and NovaFests, the people booking our musical performances seem to be a little out of touch with the student body. And this is a problem. The NovaFest concert is its own thing, so nobody has to go if they don’t like the act. But Hoops Mania is what gets us pumped up for the nearing basketball season, and the surprise guest performance is meant to be its crescendo. When the act is significantly less exciting than the rumors, it’s kind of a buzz kill. It’s impossible to please everyone, but there has to be something that can keep the majority of people fired up until the end.

Of course, there is always the possibility of keeping Hoops Mania just about basketball. The players get the crowd going on their own; if suspense is built for an even bigger act to follow it, then that act truly needs to impress. Someone needs to figure out what can satisfy the majority of the student body, or the celebration of our basketball team should focus solely on the squad.

This year, I’ve heard rumors of everything from Drake to, once again, Fabolous. All that tells me is that neither of them is very likely. But to make Hoops Mania as awesome as it can be, I hope this year brings someone who can really wow the crowd. It doesn’t even need to be a hip-hop artist — it could be another genre of band or some other kind of performer altogether — but my vote’s for Snoop.