Live. Breathe. Blue. Kentucky Basketball - Big Blue Madness

by Bill Crockett (Lexington, KY)
It's going to be a real fun year to be a Wildcat fan! Photo Credit: Tammie Brown It's going to be a real fun year to be a Wildcat fan! Photo Credit: Tammie Brown

Kentucky’s pursuit of an elusive ninth NCAA basketball championship officially kicked off Friday night at Rupp Arena during UK’s inaugural Big Blue Madness. Even though it’s always title or bust for Wildcat fans, expectations couldn’t be any higher for coach John Calipari who secured yet another No. 1 ranked recruiting class this year. With a bevy of five-star talent at his disposal, Cal officially put the cherry on top with the addition of 7’2 NBA prospect Zvonimir “Big Z” Ivisic.

Unfortunately, Big Z only participated in warmups and didn’t join the scrimmage session. Members of Big Blue Nation must wait until Kentucky’s Blue-White game next Saturday at Northern Kentucky to officially see him in action. Never mind that, his mere presence on the floor at Madness provided a glimpse of Zvonimir’s unique skillset and left fans salivating. There’s literally no one in the collegiate game who even remotely compares with what Big Z brings to the table.

Entertaining a bevy of talented five-star recruits for the event, Calipari received a personal introduction from none other than former Wildcat standout DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins. Granted, the intro didn’t top Cousins’ “Hello Mr. President, this is DeMarcus Cousins” quote from his now infamous telephone conversation with President Obama, but bringing Boogie back into the fold cemented Calipari’s “La Familia” motto and provided a memorable moment for the fan base.

Showmanship takes center stage at Madness, and as usual, Kentucky didn’t disappoint those in attendance. Perhaps no other basketball program in the country creates hype like UK. Even without a showstopping dance routine from former women’s coach Matthew Mitchell, UK’s pregame hype video electrified the crowd prior to player introductions. Video messages from former UK players now in the NBA served as a reminder why recruits should choose to attend Kentucky.

On his final shot, Antonio Reeves narrowly defeated Reed Sheppard in the three-point shooting contest. During player intros, fans showered Sheppard and Reeves with the loudest applause of the night. Reeves not only repeated as three-point champion, but also took home Big Blue Madness MVP honors. Unlikeliest of alloutcomes, Joey Hart stole the show by winning the dunk contest. Based on the talent on display, it’s going to be a really fun year to be a Wildcat fan. Go Cats!

phil malicote