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IT'S HOOPS SEASON again, and you don't have to be Calvin Klein to notice a style change on the basketball court.

Some very tall men are running around in baggy shorts and Lycra girdles.

OK, so maybe they just look like Lycra girdles. But have you checked out the Syracuse University Orangemen's uniforms lately?

Derrick Coleman, Billy Owens, LeRon Ellis all are wearing the Jams look -- without the florals and surf scenes, of course. And some players go all out and layer the baggies over a pair of stretchy, shiny shorts.

Closer to home, some St. Bonaventure University players are opting to layer their Bonnies shorts over tight-fitting shorts, and University at Buffalo players also seem to like their shorts on the baggy side.

So what's going on? Kyle Fetterly, head equipment manager at Syracuse University, enlightened us. Last summer he, along with head coach Jim Boeheim and the team, redesigned the Orangemen's uniform.

"The players all said they wanted the loose, baggy shorts," Fetterly said. "The baggier styles don't bind the legs. When you crouch down in a defensive stance, the shorts don't ride up so that you constantly are tugging at them. It's a comfort thing more than anything else. Players have more freedom of movement."

Makes sense. But what about those skintight numbers underneath?

"Basically, I think it just feels good; the stretch shorts compress the muscles," he continued. "They're a cotton blend with stretch nylon, so they have more resiliency than a Lycra biking short. Some players wear them; others don't. It's personal preference."

The Fighting Illini of the University of Illinois wear a similar style, Fetterly said, noting that the Orangemen's uniforms are manufactured by Rochester's Champion Products Corp.

Others point to NBA players, specifically the Chicago Bulls' Michael Jordan, for loosening up styles on the basketball court.

One basketball fanatic even recalled hearing that when Jordan turned pro, he continued to wear his North Carolina shorts underneath his Chicago Bulls uniform for good luck and thus required baggier shorts to cover them.

One thing's for sure: "What the superstars are wearing is what the college kid wants to wear," said David Borsuk, equipment manager at UB.

"Look at what happened when Patrick Ewing played for Georgetown," he continued. "No one ever wore undershirts before. Ewing puts a T-shirt under his uniform, and all the college players wanted to order them."

As for the new baggy styles, "This year, we have players who normally wear a size 36 shorts ordering a size 42 -- just to get that oversized look," Borsuk said.

And while comfort may be a key factor here, so, too, is on-court image.

"We try to look sharp out there; (image) doesn't win games, but if you feel good, you play good," Fetterly said.

"It's psychological more than anything else. When we pack up equipment for the team before a game, we always put in a brand-new pair of socks and a new jockstrap for each player."

Maybe you're telling us more than we really need to know . . .

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