HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - For Tamron Manning and the few other returning Marshall basketball players, they have gotten used to Shawn Smith, Chris Thomas and all those new faces.But Thundering Herd fans have not. Tonight is their first chance to get acquainted.Marshall's men's and women's teams will conduct a public scrimmage tonight at Cam Henderson Center, with the women beginning at 5:30 p.m. and the men following at 7.With eight new players, including 2012-13 nonqualifier Kareem Canty and Ohio transfer TyQuane Goard, it is nearly impossible to peg the Herd's place in the brave new world of Conference USA.The league may not be better at the top, but it may be deeper in quality teams. One thing for sure: There are eight new members in a mosh pit of 16 teams in a single division.Another thing is certain: This Herd team has a more substantial chance to become more integrated than other teams with that many new faces."It was freaky to us then," Manning said of seeing all those new players. "But I'm excited how we are, and the new guys we've got. I think we've got a lot of good people to mix in with how Coach wants to play, and stuff like that. So I think we're really going to be good, and I'm excited about it."Tonight's scrimmage is about the same date and time as the former Thundering Herd Madness, but Division I teams are further along under the new practice structure. Teams are given 30 practices spread over 42 days, and Marshall had its 14th practice Tuesday.
Accordingly, tonight's event isn't one of those first-practice affairs with a dunk contest, 3-point shootout and other frivolities. After a warm-up period, fans will see a serious scrimmage with college-level officiating. The team will play a full 20-minute half, with coaches then determining the second-half format."We'll split [the teams] pretty evenly. I'm thinking I'll probably let the coaches draft," said Herd coach Tom Herrion. "We will rotate guys, because that's what we've got to do with our group. We'll try to keep green and white [teams], the colors the same, but we'll inevitably have to cross guys over, from a numbers standpoint."We hope to dress all 14, from a health standpoint."Admission is $5, except for those picking up their season tickets. Students get in free with a valid ID card, and one will get a halfcourt shot for a new car.All season tickets not picked up today will be mailed out.BRIEFLY: Herrion expects junior-college guard Justin Edmonds to participate, and said 6-foot-9 Cheikh Sane's eligibility case has been favorably resolved. ... Herrion loves the new practice calendar: "We've done a good job of balancing our time, managing our days and days off. Everybody's doing it differently, everybody has a different formula. We don't go more than three days on before we take a day off. Our practices each day have been maybe longer than before, [but] it doesn't feel that way."Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.