The 2012-13 basketball season officially kicks off for the Kentucky Wildcats this weekend when the team participates in Big Blue Madness. This is one of the most hyped events of the college preseason and will give fans their first glimpse of what this year's team is all about.
Rupp Arena will host this celebration of everything blue and should easily produce a sellout crowd. There are plenty of events planned at this year's Madness and its impact could have long-term effects for the future of the Wildcat program.
First of all, the madness starts this Friday, October 12 at 7:30 p.m. EST. It will air on Fox Sports South and the UK IMG sports network. If you are tuning in on radio, then set your dial to your local UK IMG station. A full list of affiliates can be found here if you need more information.
As for the planned events, they will take up an entire evening and should entertain the expected crowd of over 24,000 passionate fans. There will be guest speakers, including Calipari himself, who made a "state of the program" speech last season that was completely over the top, yet incredibly fun for the fans.
Coach Cal will likely make a similar speech this year, which might focus more on the Wildcats' 2012 NCAA title. However, Cal may not even be the most popular basketball coach in the building on Friday.
Last season's spotlight was stolen by Matthew Mitchell, the head coach of the UK women's team. He surprised the crowd with a rendition of Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean" and followed it up with his version of the "Dougie" and the "John Wall" dance. With the overwhelmingly positive reaction from last year's act, surely he has something else up his sleeve to excite the fan base.
Other events will include guest speakers, WWE-themed player introductions and basketball drills and scrimmages featuring the men's and women's programs. The scrimmages elicit the most excitement from the fan base as they provide fans with their first real glimpses of this year's team.
Granted, the results have no indication whatsoever of how they will play during the season. At the same time, it is always exciting to witness new players on the roster, especially when they are highly-touted and exciting recruits.
Beyond the events, another important factor of the event is its guest list. The players who are visiting Big Blue Madness form an impressive group and will include some of the nation's best high school prospects from the 2013 and 2014 recruiting classes. In fact, six players will receive the red carpet treatment this Friday, including three current commitments.
At the top of the list are Aaron and Andrew Harrison. The twins caused a stir last week when they committed to play for John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats. Their official public unveiling will occur at Madness and it should result in a huge standing ovation and a deafening roar from the crowd. Don't be surprised to hear "Harrison" chants fill the arena during the show.
Another 2013 commit who is joining the festivities is Derek Willis. The local Kentucky boy is excited to attend the event for the first time and had this to say regarding his recruitment and Big Blue Madness,
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"The recruits experiencing BBM will feel close to a how a rockstar feels when performing a concert; there is truly nothing like it...I am very confident that the 2013 class will be one to remember and why UK is the place to be if you want to further yourself in the game of basketball. This year will be my first year going to BBM and I have no doubt that it will be a good one.”
Joining the three current commitments is 2013 star Marcus Lee. The lanky power forward is attending the event and is currently undecided on where he will begin his collegiate basketball career. However, reports have come out stating that he is down to two finalists—Kentucky and California. He resides on the West Coast so his experience at Madness will play a key factor in luring the shot-blocking phenom away from his home state to play in the Commonwealth.
Also attending are two big-time prospects from the 2014 class. Cliff Alexander and JaQuan Lyle are rated sixth and 19th overall in their class, respectively. Alexander is a 6'9" defensive forward from Chicago, IL and Lyle is a 6'4" explosive guard from Evansville, IN.
Two notable names not on the list of attendees are Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle. It was reported last week that Wiggins would attend, but he has now backed out in order to visit his parents in Canada. Andrew will use the three-day weekend to regroup with his family and discuss the possibility of him reclassifying and joining the 2013 recruiting class.
As for Randle, his mother stated that he is staying home in order to attend his school's homecoming dance. He already made an official visit to Lexington in September and Kentucky is among his final six college choices.
As you can see, there is a lot planned for this year's version of Big Blue Madness. It is the official kickoff of basketball season and should provide fans with plenty of excitement and plenty of memorable moments. Most importantly, the program's stars of the future will make their first impressions with the fan base and should get everyone pumped up for another exciting basketball season for the Kentucky Wildcats.