Grading College Basketball’s New Uniforms
The same uniform craze that was unavoidable during the 2012 college football season has made its way over to the hardwood as well. The majority of the ones we’ve seen thus far have us nodding our heads in agreement. Others have us shielding our eyes.
Going from worst to first, we assign letter grades to all of the notable new uniforms we’ve seen in college basketball this season.
F: Texas Tech Postseason Uniforms
It’s appropriate that the Red Raiders capped off an ugly regular seaason (10-19) with some similarly unsightly uniforms.
The red and black shoulders set against black and white torso portion of the jersey make the threads resemble a WNBA uniform - or a baby bib. As if that isn’t bad enough, Under Armour has taken a page out of Nike’s book and gone with a logo uniform look, only the logo is about three sizes too small.
Here’s hoping the Red Raiders’ fortunes improve in 2013-14, along with their uniform choices.
D-: Adidas Postseason Uniforms
After a season full of bad college basketball uniforms by Adidas, the Three Stripes took things to a another level with postseason uniforms for six teams: Cincinnati, Kansas, Notre Dame, Baylor, UCLA and Louisville.
Similar to what Adidas rolled out before last year’s NCAA tournament, the shorts for each school feature “Zubaz” stripes from the early 1990s that look like they belong on Zebras. The Bears, Bruins and Cardinals also feature controversial short sleeves like the Golden State Warriors recently donned in the NBA.
The “best” of this bunch is actually Notre Dame. We actually like the lime green uniforms that harken back to the Digger Phelps experiment from 1991. The worst uniforms? That would have to be UCLA, which looks like it is wearing a football jersey and has ditched one of the best college basketball threads in the process. As a group, these uniforms are epic failures.
D: Nike “Logo Uniforms”
Remember those regrettable jerseys that North Carolina wore during the 1999-2000 season? The ones that were so bad that they were shelved after just one season? Thirteen years later, Nike is unleashing a whole batch of similar jerseys on the college basketball landscape.
Gonzaga was the first team to wear these, with the Bulldogs suffering a heartbreaking, buzzer-beating loss to Butler when they first debuted it. Perhaps it was the style gods’ way of telling them, “We don’t like these jerseys at all.”
That’s how we feel, anyway. They have the look of practice jerseys, yet Gonzaga, UNC, Villanova, USC, Ohio State, Kentucky, Georgetown, Duke, Texas, Michigan State and Akron will all sport this look this season. How this was approved by the likes of Tinker Hatfield and other higher-ups at The Swoosh is anybody’s guess.
D: Texas Tech Regular Season Uniforms
The uniform design brain farts that we see Under Armour typically unleash on College Park, MD, seem to have also been routed to Lubbock, TX, for hoops season.
On the front of the jersey is “Tech” spelled out in big white letters. Almost as if they wanted to salvage the mistake of “Oh wait, people won’t know which Tech we’re referring to,” a tiny “Texas” runs across the top of the “T” in “Tech.” Just bizarre.
That descriptor can definitely be used to describe the zebra-like stripes running under the arm pits, along the seams of the shorts and in the back hip area. If you buy one of these jerseys at the Texas Tech book store, do you just need to scan one of those barcode-like patterns in order to check out?
C-: Notre Dame - Black Unis
Yup, even a school bound by heritage as much as Notre Dame can succumb to the “Black Out” fever that has swept across the college sports landscape.
We’re usually big proponents of this look, but the Irish’s attempt leaves us shrugging our shoulders unimpressed. It doesn’t help that the fluorescent blue and green numbers and letters are almost impossible to see. (Perhaps if there was an actual blackout, they might glow in the dark?)
Of course, if Notre Dame hoops believes in the Luck of the Irish, we might see these a few times this season. The team put the clamps on then eighth-ranked Kentucky in a statement-making, 64-50 win on Nov. 29.
C: Adidas “Bleed Out” Uniforms
Thus far in 2012-2013, Adidas has provided no fewer than eight of its schools - Wisconsin, Nebraska, Baylor, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Kansas, Louisville and Michigan - with one-tone uniforms similar to those worn by the NBA teams who played this past Christmas Day. We expect that more schools will follow, which is unfortunate given how boring we think this look is.
The combination of “minimal accent color and shimmer finish” is described as a “bold on-court look.” Maybe we missed something; what’s bold about grey-on-white (Wisconsin), red-on-red (Nebraska), green-on-green (Baylor), orange-on-orange (Tennessee), black-on-black (Cincy) or the like? As with Notre Dame, these uniforms are very hard to read and were dead on arrival.
The Commodores are showing off their new Nike uniforms in three different colors: Home white, away black and alternate gold. The bordered font on the front from years past has been replaced for something much more ... Microsoft Word-ish.
As for the new Aerographic on the back, the Star V logo below each player’s number looks pretty sharp, but we don’t quite get the rest of the design. Is it meant to resemble a basketball net? If yes, it’s an odd choice. Perhaps it’s meant to be an inspirational design choice and keep Vandy gunning for enough success that they can cut down nets and drape them over their necks. No matter the reason, it doesn’t look good.
No Maryland uniforms can ever be “normal” under the reign of Under Armour. But we give the Terps credit for upgrading their home and away uniforms from last season that were truly awful. The “Maryland” font has been toned down and the jerseys are much simpler - we even kind of like the subtle state flag pattern inside the numbers. However, we could still go without the bulky collars and black-and-yellow alternate patterns on the arms.
(H/T Uni Watch)
The Tigers’ uniforms were perhaps the least flashy among the ones that Under Armour unveiled on Oct. 17. But that’s not a bad thing.
The decision to make orange the dominant color with blue for the numbers and the “collar” of the jerseys was a good one. We’re always a fan of teams opting for something other than white home jerseys. Think of this as similar to what Illinois wears, only not as orange sherbert-ish.
And if Auburn’s players feel “faster and stronger” the way that Armour Light is supposed to make them feel, that works too. Our only complaint is that the color and broad sleeves make the unis look kind of cheap.
B-: UNC Wilmington - “The Dub” Unis
If you read this site, you know we love Long Beach State’s uniforms that are simply labeled “The Beach.” Nike has tried to pull off a similar feat at UNC Wilmington and the Jordan brand uniforms do look snazzy. But the blue-and-teal-on-gold uniforms just don’t work as well as Long Beach’s gold and black and “The Dub” is just a ridiculous nickname. The thought was there, the execution was just lacking.
Alabama athletics has always had an old-school look, from the script “A” logo and the numbers on the football helmets to the simple crimson-and-white color scheme. The new uniforms Nike brings to Tuscaloosa respect that old-school ethos while appealing to players’ self-consciousness about looking cool.
The Tide gets its own, watermark-like Aerographic on the back of the jerseys. Nothing too complicated, just a cresting wave running over the phrase “Roll Tide.” The shorts are the most eye-catching part of this ensemble, with the script “A” on either side at thigh level inside a stitching-like design.
We like the unis but it would’ve been cool to see Big Al as the Aerographic on the back instead of a wave - perhaps it because it reminds us of the infamous $1,700 back tattoo of Crimson Tide superfan Zack Smartt.
B: Utah State
Utah State’s football uniforms were overhauled for the 2012 college football season and the hardwood Aggies got the same treatment. Both turned out sharp. As you can see, Utah State and Nike teamed up for a very clean but sharp look. Yes, the unis are a little boring. But we wish Nike used a “less is more” mentality more frequently.
B: Houston - Gray Unis
A bevy of college football teams have embraced an all-black look. The college basketball equivalent of that is a gray-for-gray’s-sake alternate uniforms concept (H/T Sir Lucas Leftfoot), with Houston being the latest program to take that plunge. Original, they are not. But we have to admit the red and gray works really well together - even if the Cougars do look more like Ohio State than Houston.
Northwestern took on Under Armour as its new athletic wear provider last December after being an Adidas program for many years. The “Click Clack” company’s first big move on behalf of its new client was emphasizing the “Northwestern Stripe,” starting with the football uniforms.
The stripes are pretty good for the gridiron Wildcats, but they work even better for Northwestern’s hoopsters. The stripes run underneath the armpits and along the seams of the shorts — black for away uniforms (pictured) and white for the home ones.
And so continues Northwestern’s Under Armour-inspired push to “reclaim the stripe.” Eventually we’ll understand what that means.
B: Kentucky - Season-Opener Unis
We really appreciate the subtlety that went into the design of the uniforms that the defending national champions wore in their season opener against Maryland.
The horse racing-inspired checkerboard pattern is everywhere. And if you look closely, eight stars run across the back shoulders — one for each national title the Wildcats have secured. And that checkerboard pattern we mentioned before? It runs in alternating blue-white at the waist, with each square containing the year of a national title.
B: Carrier Classic Unis
Eight teams were slated to play their season openers on naval ships, air bases or decommissioned aircraft carriers: UConn, Michigan State, Syracuse, San Diego State, Florida, Georgetown, Marquette and Ohio State (Marquette-Ohio State was cancelled and Florida-Georgetown called off, both due to weather.)
Nike, which outfits all eight schools, designed uniforms to commemorate the occasions after doing the same for Michigan State and North Carolina in the inaugural 2011 Carrier Classic. The Spartans look the best among the eight teams this year, the green of their color scheme giving them a natural advantage.
Six of the seven other schools managed to pull it off pretty well, with the exception being Marquette. The Golden Eagles’ combination of light blue, dark blue and gold looks more tie-dye that camo.
B: Colorado State
In a highly successful season that few people outside Fort Collins saw coming, a lot of things have gone quite well for Colorado State - including its Feb. 13 nod to the premise under which the university was founded.
In its first game as a ranked team in 59 years, the Rams took the floor at Moby Arena for a key Mountain West Conference matchup against San Diego State touting itself as the “Aggies.” Why? Prior to 1957, CSU was known as Colorado A&M and thus its teams were the “Aggies.”
These throwbacks looked significantly more inspired than what was worn three years before in a forgotten Border War game against Wyoming. The orange looks brighter, the “Aggies” splashed across the front in block letters looks crisper and, of course, the team is much better. A 66-60 win and an inspired live version of the Harlem Shake also helped.
Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports
B: Michigan - 1968 Throwbacks
The Wolverines fell victim to the “Bleed Out” trend that Adidas pushed on its schools, but they partially made up for it with a simple but moving nod to the 1968 team against Penn State on Feb. 17.
There’s nothing fancy or mind-blowing about the simple blue “Michigan” and numbers on the front of the jersey. We’re fans of the maize-and-blue bordering that lines the crew neck, the armpit and the seams of the shorts. It’s crisp and clean without being too dull.
Now if Adidas can do something similar with all of the schools that were cursed with “Bleed Out” threads this season, it’ll be completely forgiven.
Before trying to lead Tulsa to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2003, first-year head coach and Kansas legend Danny Manning worked to make sure the Golden Hurricane looked good.
For the 2012-2013 season, Tulsa will be able to choose from white, black and gold uniforms — all of which feature a script “Tulsa” running across the upper chest. It’s an immediate upgrade from the block lettering the team used on its home and away jerseys last year.
Also gone from last year’s ensemble was the tiger print pattern that ran down the sides of the shorts. We could never figure out what connection (if any) there was between tigers and Tulsa or the team’s nickname.
This season, the Hoyas are partying like its 1996. Or thereabouts. That was when Allen Iverson was starring for Georgetown as well as the last time the Hoyas sported the Kente cloth pattern, one of the more unique uniform designs in college basketball.
The Kente is back, but that’s not the only addition to Georgetown’s jerseys. The new Aerographic on the back of the jersey includes the statue of school founder John Carroll, “1984” running under the neck (the year of Georgetown’s lone national title) and the visage of former coach John Thompson.
Thompson’s presence is a little weird/haunting, but it makes sense in light of how much he meant to the Hoyas program. Take away the striping on the shoulder blades and these would be an A.
B+: South Florida
Hoping to breath life into a sub-.500 team that struggled offensively all season (329th in Division I in scoring at 59.3 PPG), USF unveiled some sunny uniforms prior to the Bulls’ appearance in the Big East Conference tournament.
Call us crazy, but we actually like the crazy shorts. Unfortunately, it didn’t help the Bulls on the court - as they were dismissed from the Big East tourney immediately.
B+: Maryland - State Pride Uniforms
Remember those infamous, Under Armour-designed “State Pride” uniforms that the Terrapins’ football program debuted in 2011? (That’s a rhetorical question. Of course you do.) Turns out that it’s a much sharper look on the basketball court.
The coats of arms for the Calvert and Crossland families appear on either side of the jersey underneath the armpit and switch sides on the shorts. As an added bonus, they’re also used on the Terps’ mis-matching sneakers, and the uniforms come in two different road blacks as well.
The color design pops the most on the white home jerseys, but all in all, it’s a very sharp look.
A-: Oklahoma State
Nike is really pushing its new Hyper Elite uniforms across the country. The overarching concept at each school where they’re being worn is fairly universal: A form-fitting jersey with a watermark-like Aerographic on the back unique to the school and baggy shorts with colorful designs running down the seams.
Oklahoma State’s orange and black color scheme will always look handsome. The visage of Pistol Pete on the back, while extremely accurate, takes away the Aerographic’s subtleness. But it’s redeemed by those awesome shorts.
A-: Richmond - Throwback Unis
To celebrate 100 years of Spiders basketball this season, Richmond is wearing specially designed throwback uniforms for select home games at the Robins Center.
The stripes going down the side take some adjusting to, but they work for Richmond on account of their red, white and blue color scheme — always a good combination of colors when it comes to designing throwback uniforms. In cases such as, say, Temple’s football uniforms, the barbershop pole look can be detrimental.
Add a simple “Richmond” splashed across the chest in blue-lined red letters and you have a solid throwback jersey worthy of the centennial for Spiders basketball.
A-: Maryland - “Wool” Unis
We have not been shy about questioning Under Armour’s uniform choices. But if the jerseys it designed for Maryland’s season opener against Kentucky at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Nov. 9 are any indication, it might be headed in the right direction.
Both the gray, cloth-like color of the jersey and “Maryland” spelled out in red script bring back memories (for those who are still alive anyway) of when the Dodgers used to be Brooklyn’s sporting centerpiece. And the patterning around the neck, shoulders and shorts’ seams resembles Maryland’s state flag. The lack of color really works as a way of saluting Brooklyn’s longstanding hoops heritage.
A: Sandy Hook Unis
Providence coach Ed Cooley and PC’s Nike representative are to be commended for their moving tribute to the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. Providence took the floor for its Dec. 18 game against Colgate — four days after the shootings — with green and white uniforms matching the color scheme of Sandy Hook’s. (The Friars normally go black and white.) In addition, all the players’ nameplates across the back read “Sandy Hook.”
After Providence College paid tribute to the victims of the Newtown, CT, shooting at their Dec. 18 home game, Xavier decided to follow suit four days later.
Like the Friars, the Musketeers modified their uniforms so that it followed the green and white color scheme of Sandy Hook Elementary School. While PC put the name of the school on each player’s nameplate, Xavier splashed “Sandy Hook” across the front.
As an added bonus, Xavier auctioned off the game-worn jerseys to online bidders, with all proceeds going to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund.
H/T: Uni Watch
A: UTEP - Throwback Unis
We hope that, for as long as it exists, UTEP basketball continues to salute the 1966 national championship team. First and foremost, for being the first all-black starting five to be crowned NCAA champs. But also so we can keep seeing those beautiful retro jerseys.
The school’s old name, Texas Western, is printed on the chest in simple orange letters and complemented by alternating orange-and-dark blue trim running around the neck and the shoulders. It’s simple yet unique, a no-fail formula for a timeless look.
Well, hello again Miners. Not only have the Miners worn awesome throwbacks this season, they have great new uniforms with a “Bringing Back the ‘80s” theme. With the 1980s weren’t the height of fashion, we love these uniforms for many of the same reasons we love the Texas Western uniforms. The orange “Miners” uniform is especially beautiful.
A: James Madison - Gold Unis
James Madison has set a gold standard for gold uniforms this season.
Spelled out on the all-gold background is “Dukes” in white script, outlined by the purple in JMU’s color scheme. Each player’s number receives the same treatment. While nothing is wrong with the team’s white jersey (right) with a purple “JMU” scrawled across a white top, the gold uniform is much better looking, unique and old school.
A+: NC State - Jimmy V Tribute Unis
The Wolfpack have done plenty to honor the late Jim Valvano in the nearly two decades since he succumbed to bone cancer at age 47. The uniform that Adidas designed for the team for the early season tournament that bears Valvano’s name, the Jimmy V Classic, might be the best tribute yet.
First are the old-school jerseys worn by NC State in the ten seasons (1980-1990) Valvano coached them. Then, superimposed around the neck is the twine from the basketball net, paying tribute to the famous image of Jimmy V after the Wolfpack won the 1983 NCAA tournament.
And for the crowning touch, Valvano’s famous quote “Don’t Ever Give Up” — the motto of the V Foundation for Cancer Research — serves as the nameplate for all Wolfpack players. How often does any jersey in any sport get you misty-eyed like this one does?