CINCINNATI >> College basketball’s tournament time is taking on a new look this year, with lots of double-takes expected.
Six teams will wear special uniforms for their conference and anticipated NCAA tournament appearances next month, setting a fashion trend in college basketball: camouflage-patterned shorts, bright-colored jerseys and sleeves.
Yep. Sleeves on jerseys, including those worn by tradition-rich UCLA, giving March’s rich history a decidedly unconventional look. Six teams will wear special tournament uniforms unveiled on Thursday by Adidas — UCLA, Louisville, Baylor, Kansas, Notre Dame and Cincinnati.
“I’m sure the traditionalists out there are really, really struggling looking at those uniforms,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said on Thursday.
Especially those worn by UCLA, Louisville and Baylor, which agreed to have short sleeves on their jerseys. Adidas debuted a short-sleeve basketball shirt with the NBA’s Golden State Warriors in mid-February.
The new look will be especially head-turning for teams that usually wear tradition on their chests.
“Everyone here knows Kansas’ tradition and history should be what is promoted in our look, and we have done that for years,” coach Bill Self said. “But this is the one game or whatever that we will make that exception for Adidas.
“I probably don’t think as much of them as I do the normal ones we wear, but for a game or two I don’t think it’s that big of a deal in the Big 12 tournament.”
Alternate uniforms have become big business in college sports, from Oregon’s fluorescent tones with Nike to Maryland’s loud designs with Under Armour. Adidas introduced special light-weight basketball uniforms for Cincinnati, Louisville and Baylor at tournament time last season.
Baylor and Louisville got the most attention with their bright colors. Cincinnati’s were more subdued, with neon trim. Bearcats players quickly took a liking to them — Cincinnati reached the Big East tournament title game before losing to Louisville, then made the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament while wearing them.
“It’s like it refreshes you as a team,” point guard Cashmere Wright said before practice on Thursday. “You go out there and it’s a whole other uniform. You can take any identity you want to take. Last year, we got an identity and we just played it out.”
No. 6 Kansas, No. 10 Louisville and No. 21 Notre Dame are currently ranked in the AP Top 25. UCLA, Cincinnati and Baylor are expecting to join them in the NCAA tournament wearing their new gear.
The second-ranked Notre Dame women and No. 16 Louisville will also wear the gear.
Players like the light-weight uniforms and love the flashy look. They also like the way they stand out from the rest of the tournament crowd.
“It’s an interesting phenomenon, the whole uniform-shoe thing with young people, having something that nobody else has,” Cronin said.
Adidas checked with the schools to see if they were interested in the tournament designs. Not everyone liked the sleeves — Cronin turned down the idea for his Bearcats.
“I’m happy they don’t have sleeves,” Wright said.
The sleeves seem to be the biggest attention-getter, a reminder of the sport’s fledgling days. Xavier coach Chris Mack wore sleeved jerseys when he played at Evansville in the late 1980s, getting over his disdain for the look.
“Aesthetically, I thought they were really ugly,” Mack said on Thursday. “But it’s just ironic because so many guys wore T-shirts — I think it started with Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin wearing T-shirts under their uniforms, which is comfortable for some guys. But I thought the one-uniform-T-shirt look was a little outdated and strange.”
Outdated? Not anymore.
Freelance writer Kathleen Gier in Lawrence, Kan., contributed to this report.