The road to Banner # 9 has officially begun. The Big Blue Nation got their first real look at the 2012-2013 version of Coach Cal’s Wildcats. This event had much hype building up to it, and I think that Kentucky lived up to those high expectations. It was a mixture of celebrating the heritage of UK and building even more excitement for the upcoming season.
I arrived at Rupp Arena early enough to watch the UK Volleyball game. It seemed interesting to me that Kentucky would try and break the NCAA record for attendance at the event. Sadly, the crowd didn’t show up as expected. The record is over 17,000, in which Kentucky came in at just over 5,000. I’m not sure what is the blame on the low turn out except that people just aren’t excited about volleyball. I give the girls kudos. They are all very athlete and obviously talented. UK ended up defeating Miss St. 3 sets to 0.
As it got closer to the main event, Rupp Arena quickly filled up to maximum capacity. The arena was fully energized and hyped up to see the Wildcats. I would have to rank this crowd right up there with any other Big Blue Madness in the past, in regards to excitement. On a side note, I thought it was funny to hear some of the reactions to the prizes being announced for various sections. At one point, McDonald’s gave away a free McFlurry to an entire section. I don’t think the group of fans sitting behind me were very impressed with that particular prize.
One of the biggest pops from the crowd came when UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell came out in full MC Hammer gear, dancing to a couple of MC’s famous hits. I’ll give Matthew a 6 of 10 for his dancing and a 10 of 10 for his showmanship. He knows how to work a crowd as good as anyone. Mitchell is always fun and entertaining . Beyond that, he also is a heck of a basketball coach.
The absolute coolest thing of the night was the Rupp Arena floor being turned into a huge video screen. They rolled out a white tarp and projected the video onto the floor. Whoever thought of that is brilliant. The video and pictures you find on the internet do not do it justice as it simply looked amazing in person.
Coach Cal really knows how to get it done. Not only does he put an excellent product on the basketball floor, but he also knows how to win over the fans. It was a very touching moment as he introduced members of past championship teams , along with Joe B. Hall. In a very special moment, Cal and others helped re raise all the championship banners. Cal really understands and embraces the history and legend that is Kentucky basketball.
Finally, it was time for the main event in most peoples eyes. The boys broke off into two team , the blue and white, to play a scrimmage. Now I understand, this is a scrimmage where absolutely no defense is being played. Even without the stellar defense, it was interesting checking out the players on the floor for the first time. Willie Cauley-Stein shined the most at the scrimmage. I was amazed at how quick and athletic he was. He runs the floor very well and is skilled offensively. He got a couple “eww’s and ahh’s” from the crowd after dunking over Nerlens Noel.
What do I think of the team with only this early look? I don’t believe UK will be as good as last years squad. To be honest, I don’t think anybody else in the country is either. I do think this team is more than capable of making a Final Four run and compete for Banner # 9. It is not fair to compare them to the Davis led Championship team. These guys are their own mold, probably a little flashier than 2012 team. Any way you look at it, I think UK fans are going to be in for another treat this season.