Happy New Year! While looking over my brand new calendar this morning, I got to thinking about the future year in Kentucky sports, and came up with thirteen things for Cats fans to look forward to in 2013. Enjoy:
1. College Football Signing Day
Who ever would have thought we’d be excited about college football signing day? It’s a new year, and the Cats have a new football coach and a new attitude. The Mark Stoops era in Kentucky football has begun, bringing with it an unprecedented level of excitement in the fan base. Recruits that previously would have never given the Cats the time of day are now taking a second look, and two highly rated JuCo prospects are already on board. Asiantii Woulard, Ra’Shaad Samples, Ryan Timmons, and other four-star recruits may soon follow. Wednesday, February 6th just became a lot more important. Is it time for us to get a live web cam of the fax machine in the UK football offices like Alabama?
2. Gameday at Rupp
On February 23, Missouri will make the trip to Lexington for a primetime Saturday matchup, as will the ESPN GameDay crew. Mizzou is currently ranked twelfth in the country, but the story I’m most excited about is how the Rupp Arena crowd reacts to Digger Phelps, who scolded Kentucky fans who attended last season’s GameDay taping at Vanderbilt. As one of the fans who was forced to sit in the upper level and listen to Phelps’ drivel, I am all for not only embracing Missouri fans who want to attend the taping, but leading a “Listen to me” chant throughout the day.
3. The rest of the 2013 chips fall (Wiggins?? Randle??)
The current 2013 class is already amazing, but Cal would like to add two more players to make it absolutely epic. The contenders? Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson, Aaron Gordon and the prized pig, Andrew Wiggins. Johnson recently said that he will wait until after his high school season to announce, so we may know his decision as early as February. Johnson is considered a strong Kentucky lean, and if the Cats land him, it may alter the decisions of fellow big men Randle and Gordon. According to recruiting scuttlebutt, Julius Randle may becoming more interested in the Cats while Wiggins isn’t as much as a UK lean as many thought, but in a few months, we’ll finally know their fates for certain. And that is definitely something to look forward to.
4. SEC Tournament in Nashville
Ain’t no party like a Nashvegas party, and no one invades Music City quite like Kentucky fans. The last time the SEC tournament was in Nashville was 2010, and I’m not sure the city has fully recovered. Cats fans swarmed the city, turning every bar on Broadway into a Kentucky pep rally, and the play inside Bridgestone Arena was even better. Few things could eclipse the excitement of the buzzer beater to send the Championship game into overtime (and John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins into the scorer’s table), but the SEC Tournament can be a magical time for teams, especially those still hitting their stride before the Big Dance.
5. March Madness
This team may not be last year’s championship squad, but nothing is more fun than the month of March for a sports fan. And, there is plenty of time for this squad to mature into postseason form. Many have compared this group to the 2011 team, which made an unexpected and thrilling run to the Final Four. With the talent in college basketball down this season, you truly never know what may happen.
6. Spring Football Game
With season ticket sales rising, the program needs to seize the moment and make the spring football game a real event. After the spectacle that was Mark Stoops’ introductory press conference, we know they’re capable of it. While we’re at it, less Bon Jovi and more Chief Keef. And lots of fireworks. And most importantly, the Air Raid siren.
7. KSR meets the Tennis Channel
This year, our very own Drew Franklin and Matt Jones will channel their inner John McEnroes to cover the French Open and Wimbledon for the Tennis Channel in the most ridiculous manner possible. If the thought of Matt and Drew navigating the streets (and the women) of Paris doesn’t make you giggle, then you’re on the wrong site. Do you think the French and the Brits will be enjoy their tennis with a side of KSR?
8. Anthony Davis and MKG coming back for summer school
The best thing about putting so many players in the NBA? Most of them like to come back over the summer to train and work towards their degrees. This summer, the number one and number two picks in the 2012 NBA draft will return to Lexington to take classes. Odds thousands of students do the same? Even if more former Cats don’t come back, the Joe Craft Center will be a mini-NBA training camp, with future Cats the Harrison Twins, James Young, Marcus Lee, and potentially Wiggins/Randle/Johnson/Gordon working out daily, along with whomever stays from the current team. The Blue Courts have never been so popular.
9. Fantasy Camp/Alumni Game
Last summer, Kentucky held the inaugural Calipari Fantasy Camp and UK Alumni Game to rousing success. Even those that didn’t participate were able to join in on the fun via Matt’s recaps and the radio show, which included some awesome appearances by DeMarcus Cousins, John Robic, and Tucker Max. The highlight of it all was, of course, the Alumni Game, which brought many of Kentucky’s favorite sons back to the Bluegrass for an afternoon of DeMarcus dunks, Anthony Davis lobs, and Wayne Turner jumpers (after all these years, he’s still got it). John Wall and Drake served as guest coaches, with Drake taking the mic afterwards to thank Calipari for inspiring him to finish his high school education and welcoming him into la familia. How can we top that in 2013? Jay-Z?
10. The Western Kentucky/Kentucky game in Nashville (August 31st)
I was one of the few people who went to the Western/Kentucky game back in 2011. It sucked. Held for some reason on a Thursday night, it may have been one of the most depressing football games I’ve ever been to. An hour before the game, the parking lot was still mostly empty, with only a few faithful fans tailgating. Roughly a few hundred people lined up for the Cat Walk, a pathetic turnout that was reflected in the players’ faces as they walked into LP field to barely beat Western “They s’pposed to be SEC” Kentucky. 2013 will be very different. Not only do the Cats have a new coach in Mark Stoops, but they’ll be facing none other than Bobby Petrino, who is the most exciting thing to happen to Bowling Green since the Sam’s Club opened a few years ago. The game was mercifully scheduled on a Saturday night, which means Nashville will be rocking once again with Cats fans. Hell, I’m ready to walk down to the stadium right now to reserve a tailgating spot.
11. The Kentucky/Louisville game in Commonwealth (September 14th)
Needless to say, the last Kentucky/Louisville football game was pretty depressing. Kentucky looked so bad that Charlie Strong actually took mercy on the Cats and pulled Teddy Bridgewater out of the game in the third quarter. I don’t see that happening this year. Yes, the Cards will be better than ever, maybe even a legitimate BCS bowl contender, but it’s a new day for Kentucky football, and the game is on our home turf. A win over Western and Bobby Petrino would be big, but a win over the Cards would be huge. I can feel the Louisville hate burning already.
12. 2013 Big Blue Madness
Even without Randle/Wiggins/Johnson/Gordon, the 2013 recruiting class is pretty darn impressive. Add two of those in, especially Wiggins, and it could contend for the best class ever, which means that hype and expectations will be sky high once again come mid-October. The Big Blue Madness camp out and Madness itself always provide great stories and the fans’ first interactions with the new team. How will the Harrison Twins embrace the spotlight? Is James Young as much of a clown as everyone says? Who will return from this year’s team? Most importantly, what dance will Matthew Mitchell do?
13. Road trips to Brooklyn, Dallas and Chicago
In 2013, the Cats will go back to Brooklyn, play Baylor in Cowboys Stadium, and face Michigan State in Chicago. Fans who missed out on the NYC road trip last year have a chance to check out the Barclays Center (opponent TBA), see the sights of the city, and hopefully, raise a victory pint at Jack Demsey’s. In Dallas, those inside Cowboy Stadium can either watch the game on the court or on the gigantic jumbotron I’m getting tired of hearing people rave about. We’ll also say goodbye to the Champions Classic, with the final games taking place between the Cats and Michigan State and Kansas and Duke in the United Center in November. I hope you’ve got some frequent flier miles saved up.
What are you looking forward to in 2013?