There is arguably no college basketball team in 2013-14 that is more compelling than Kentucky—led by an unprecedented freshman class, the Wildcats are ranked No. 1 in the land despite losing to Robert Morris in the NIT seven months ago—and Friday's midnight madness event matched that colossal anticipation.
As it's known at Rupp Arena, Big Blue Madness, which sold out in minutes, was an event of impressively massive proportions. Just take a look at the setup, courtesy of The Courier-Journal's Kyle Tucker:
Everything behind the baseline is stage. Just huge. Women introduced. Men coming up ... pic.twitter.com/OSngIJU5Eu— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_CJ) October 18, 2013
Simply put, the production value was that of something you would probably see in Hollywood.
Lady Wildcats head coach Matthew Mitchell, who has been known to steal the show in the past, got things started with a pretty amazing dance number. Tucker summed it up:
Wow. Matthew Mitchell never lets us down. Epic James Brown entrance ... costume change ... Britney Spears now. WOW.— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_CJ) October 18, 2013
James Pennington of KYForward.com supplied a picture of the James Brown portion:
This is Matthew Mitchell dancing like James Brown. pic.twitter.com/RXj5pNB3gP— James Pennington (@pennington_jl) October 18, 2013
After the women put on a three-point contest and 10-minute scrimmage, it was the men's turn.
John Calipari delivered a pretty fiery speech that put the Rupp crowd into a frenzy, and if you're a Wildcats fan, it's worth watching if you want to feel good about this season and the future. Here's the Cliffs Notes version, courtesy of ESPN's Jason King:
Cal: "We're borderless. We're everywhere. No corner is left untouched by the blue mist." Calls UK "The gold standard of college athletics"— Jason King (@JasonKingESPN) October 19, 2013
Cal: "We don't just play college basketball. We ARE college basketball."— Jason King (@JasonKingESPN) October 19, 2013
Calipari: "Last year we learned some very important lessons. We were humbled. I was humbled."— Jason King (@JasonKingESPN) October 19, 2013
Michael Lee provided a picture of the scene:
Then it was time for the introductions. In the past, we've seen guys such as John Wall and Josh Harrellson put on some entertaining moves, but this year's group wasn't all that impressive—at least not on the Mitchell Scale—in the dance category.
CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello gave his winners:
Jarred Polson and Sam Malone the only ones to shut it down with their intro dances.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) October 19, 2013
Finally, it was time for the game. Granted, it was nothing more than a pick-up game with very little defense and even less cohesion, so trying to find major takeaways would be frivolous.
Nevertheless, some players still managed to stand out.
Julius Randle, the highest rated of Kentucky's loaded incoming class, had one particular moment where he grabbed a rebound, went coast to coast, alluded a defender with an agile behind-the-back dribble and slammed it home with ferocity.
Remember, that's a 6'9" power forward with 250 pounds of muscle making that move. Big men across the country take (fearful) note.
This kid Julius Randle is a physical specimen. Country strong. Just dribbled length of court, went behind the back & threw down a nasty dunk— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) October 19, 2013
Marcus Lee, who has maybe garnered even more hype than Randle this offseason, showed off his silly athleticism, throwing down a dunk and blocking a few other shots. His pogo-like hops and natural scoring ability is going to get him on SportsCenter plenty of times this season.
In the end, the blue team, behind Randle's game-high 14 points, got the 65-49 win, and sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein ended the night, via Tucker:
That'll do it for the scrimmage. Willie Cauley-Stein grabs the mic and says, "We'll take it one game at a time. Thank you." Ha.— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_CJ) October 19, 2013
And if Friday night was any indication, each of those games is going to be fun to watch with this young, exciting, athletic, yet still unproven team.