Hey! Down here. You're just in time, I didn't think you were going to make it.
The lights flash out, the spotlights circle 23,000 of your best friends. The strobes fire up, and The Who's "Teenage Wasteland" begins to blare.
On the big screen we see Delk 3's, we see Kenny sky-walking, Tayshaun bombing the Tar Heels, the Comeback Cats exercise the Blue Devils, the "Goose", Rex, Kyle touch his socks, and countless other moments that make us proud to tell everyone our favorite colors baby: Blue and white!
The hair on your neck stands up, you jump up and down, Rupp starts to rock, your heart races, and just when you can't stand it any longer; it finally happens.
"And now, your University of Kentucky Wildcats!!!"
Whoa, whoa, whoa, Miss Lippy...let's go back and find out how we got here.
This past offseason was one of the most eventful in the storied history of Kentucky basketball.
The most recent edition of UK basketball finished 22-14, and earned a berth in the NIT. They were bounced from the not-so-big dance by Notre Dame, and Digger Phelps probably almost died from joy.
This also meant that the coach of said Cats would be under some heat. Billy Gillispie was arguably the most polarizing person in Lexington. Love him, hate him, either way, everyone had an opinion, even ESPN's Jeanine Edwards.
Billy G repeatedly started postgame pressers by saying he wouldn't throw any of his players under the bus; which he followed by throwing his players under the bus.
All the rumors of his off-court antics and the stories of how he treated his players led to his demise.
Mr. Gillispie (I almost wrote Coach Gillispie there, but remembered a press conference were the media simply called him Billy) was eventually fired by Kentucky and the circus added another ring.
Who would ride over the nearest hill and save the poor Wildcats?
Well, that depended on who you asked. Jay Wright of Villanova, Mark Few of Gonzaga, John Calipari of Memphis, Tom Izzo of Michigan St., Bruce Pearl of Tennessee, Billy Donovan of Florida, even Rick Pitino?
The same Pitino who left the Cats to coach the Cards was rumored to be walking through that door.
After the dust finally settled, UK convinced Calipari to leave Memphis and take the reigns of a beaten-down program. He kissed babies, walked on water, and said all the right things when introduced by Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart.
John Cal hit the recruiting trail hard and brought some major reinforcements to Lexington. Ranked as the No. 1 class by most media outlets, Calipari immediately raised the bar in the SEC. J.C. did lose out on one key player, Jodie Meeks, the fifth leading scorer in the country last year, when he declared for the NBA.
Well, that pretty much brings you up to speed. Where was I??? Oh, right.
(You have to pretend I'm using my announcer voice here.)
"And now, your University of Kentucky Wildcats!!!
At guard, a 6'7" sophomore from Maysville, Ky., No. 1, Darius Miller,
At guard, the 6'7" sophomore from Greenbelt, Md., No. 3, Darnell Dodson,
At guard, standing 6'6", a freshman from Madisonville, Ky., No. 4 Jon Hood,
Another guard, standing 6'7", a senior from Anchorage, Alaska, No. 5, Ramon Harris,
At guard, coming in at 6'4", a freshman from Raleigh, N.C., No. 11, John Wall,
At forward, a towering 6'11", a freshman from Mobile, Ala., No. 15, DeMarcus Cousins,
At forward, standing 6'9", the senior from Lafayette, La., No. 21, Perry Stevenson,
Again at guard, a 6'1" freshman from Birmingham, Ala., No. 24, Eric Bledsoe,
At forward, 6'10" freshman from Oklahoma City, Okla., No. 33, Daniel Orton,
The last guard, 6'6" sophomore from Chicago, Ill., No. 34, DeAndre Liggins,
At forward, 6'10" junior from St. Charles, Mo., No. 55, Josh Harrellson.
At forward, last but certainly not least, 6'9" junior from Huntington, W.Va., No. 54, Patrick Patterson.
—And your head coach, John Calipari!!!!!!!!"
Now all the players gather in a circle and rock side-to-side. They bring it in and break the huddle. It's game-time.
Your starting five are: Patterson, Miller, Wall, Cousins and I'm going to guess, and it is a guess, Dodson. I might take some heat for the Dodson pick, but I like his jump-shooting ability to help them early in the season. I'm sure the lineup will be fluid for the first month or so.
Front-court: Patterson anchors this group. He returns for his junior season hoping to actually get to play in an NCAA tournament game. Cousins, Orton, Stevenson and Harrellson add good depth. Patterson, Orton, and Cousins should be interchangeable parts. I still like Stevenson's length around the basket.
Easily the best front-court in the conference.
Back-Court: Meeks is out, but many talented others will step in. Wall, Bledsoe, Hood and Dodson were all big catches this offseason. This gave immediate help to a back-court that was desperate. Liggins, Miller and Harris all are capable players too. Easily the best back-court in the conference.
Liggins will shine more in the "dribble-drive offense" than he did under the Gillispie "get it to Patterson no matter what offense." Miller is coming off of a good showing in the Under-19 World Championships, where his US squad brought home the crown. Ramon Harris is an above average defender and is capable on offense too.
Prediction time: The Cats will go 13-3 in conference. I don't want to make some dumb claim that they will go undefeated, but they really could. We don't have the schedule yet, but games against Louisville and U.N.C. are marquis. Anytime you play the champs it's a big deal, and Louisville is well, Louisville.
Not to mention it's Pitino v. Calipari.
The Cats will be back in a big way. Kentucky enters March no lower than a No. 2 seed. I like their chances of playing into April and maybe even placing ladders on the court in Indy.
Close your eyes one more time.
The clock's at zero, the streamers have fallen, everyone is going nuts. Indianapolis has gone blue. The scissors come out and the tears start to flow. Just when you think it can't get any better, the band strikes up "My Old Kentucky Home." That's when you remember why you're a Kentucky boy, or girl.
Seven was heaven, and as a certain cereal tiger might say, "Eight sure feels Grrrreat."
Hey, there you are, I didn't think I would find you in this mess. You got here just in time.
"For my old Kentucky home, far away."
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