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Big Blue Madness’ Friday News & Views

We made it.

In less than 24 hours, a new crop of Wildcats will take the floor for the first time, giving fans their first glimpse of the squad that will defend the school’s eighth National Championship. With the new banner looking on proudly from the rafters, stars will be born on a stage dramatic enough for a reality TV talent show. What was once a simple deadline has morphed into a spectacle, with fog machines, spotlights, fireworks and enough hype to fuel a 747. True to the fan base it represents, Midnight Madness has always been a huge deal at Kentucky. Joe B. Hall started the tradition back in 1982, holding a free practice at midnight for 8,500 fans at Memorial Coliseum. Dubbed the “Midnight Special,” the event grew over the years, to the point that during Rick Pitino’s first practice as coach, fans were reportedly caught sneaking in the windows to get in. Pitino added to the tradition by giving each season’s Madness a “theme.” In 1994, he rode in on a Harley-Davidson to “Born to be Wild” (oh, if we had only known then what we do now…); in 1995, Walter McCarty and Tony Delk swung down from the rafters as “Catman” and Robin; in 1998, Tubby celebrated his second season as coach by sporting a Don King wig for “The Main Event”; and in what be one of my favorite Madness moments, Bill Keightley jumped out of a giant birthday cake in 2002 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Kentucky basketball. In 2005, Madness moved to Rupp while Memorial Coliseum was being renovated, and it has stayed there ever since.

Midnight Madness grew to match its new surroundings. Introducing Billy G was a spectacle, I think. (I’ve pretty much blocked it from my memory.) Whereas Madness had always been a fun and sometimes silly kickoff to the season, the celebration took on a slightly more serious tone when Cal took over. Nursing a wounded Big Blue Nation, Cal soothed us with a lengthy speech detailing his goals for not just the season, but his time at Kentucky. You could tell that Cal had been writing the speech in his head for years. He blended the past seamlessly into the future, hitting on all the highlights of the program’s storied history and shooting our hopes skyward with talk of celebrations and banquets, diplomas and banners, rings and parades. The speech was the inauguration of the role he was made for, something which becomes more apparent with each win, top recruit, and consequent NBA draft pick that comes along. Cal’s Madnesses aren’t only a celebration of the past, they’re a commercial for the future. It’s not a coincidence that the event has taken on a glossier, more professional look since Cal took over; from the glitzy graphics, the music, the fireworks, and the dancing, this is now a players-first program. Three years, fifteen draft picks, two Final Fours and a National Championship later, the proof is in the pudding.

Big Blue Madness isn’t just a party; it’s a holiday. Today, I encourage you to celebrate it as such, donning your favorite UK shirt, clapping along to the fight song in your head, doing the John Wall dance on your way into work, and throwing a three goggle at everyone you meet. The wait is finally over. Basketball season has begun.

Lots to do, so let’s get to the news and views, presented by mini-Bill Keightleys jumping out of cakes!

Another Thursday, another new Wildcat. James Young, the fifth best player in the 2013 class, finally revealed the worst kept secret ever Thursday afternoon when he gave his verbal commitment to play for Kentucky. Young, a 6’6”, 210 lbs. two guard from Michigan, told ESPNU’s Recruiting Nation that Kentucky has always been his dream school and that once he visited, he “just fell in love with the place.” He said that he was open to other schools at the beginning of his recruitment, but once Kentucky started showing interest, “I knew I wanted to be there.” Need another reason to love him? Young’s old AAU coach says that he’s been wearing a Kentucky t-shirt ever since last season, and that if he didn’t have it on, his grandmother did.

Young already has fans in his newest teammates, the Harrison Twins. Andrew told the Courier-Journal Thursday that “James is one of the best scorers in the country. Having him and Aaron alongside me is a point guard’s dream.” James has spoken to the Twins over the last few days and says one of the reasons he chose Kentucky was the opportunity to play with them. Young is the fourth member of what is shaping up to be an absolutely epic 2013 class. The next immediate target is Marcus Lee, who will be in the house Friday night. While Lee’s decision will be big, Julius Randle’s will be huge, as he would be the fourth top five player in the class to choose the Cats. (Sit and think about that for a minute. Take an appreciative sip of your beer while you’re at it.) Something tells me this isn’t the last ESPNU Recruiting Nation Special we’ll see for a while. And even though that show sucks and I couldn’t care less about Notre Dame football recruiting, I’m just fine with that.

Let’s take a second and admire just what is happening here. Before his current team has even started practice, Cal has put together one of the best recruiting classes in history, and he’s just getting started. Three of the top five players in the country with even more talent on deck? Forget about it! Remember the days when we were signing middle schoolers and losing out on recruits to second and third tier teams? Cal has signed thirteen top ten recruits over the past four years. THIRTEEN. The only other schools with multiple top ten recruits during that period? Florida and UCLA, with two a piece. That’s just absurd. TGFC (Thank God for Cal).

All four members of Kentucky’s 2013 class will attend Big Blue Madness, which puts the current VIP Guest list at:

James Young (committed)
Derek Willis (committed)
Andrew Harrison (committed)
Aaron Harrison (committed)
Marcus Lee

JaQuan Lyle
Cliff Alexander
Trey Lyles

Karl Towns

Thursday was also Media Day, which on any other day would be the top news story, but in the Cal Era, this is how we roll. Cal addressed the media with just as much, if not more, swagger than usual. The highlights:

– Before he was shushed by DeWayne Peevy, Cal addressed the uncertainty surrounding Nerlens Noels’ eligibility: “Nerlens will practice, and if we played tomorrow, he would play.” When he does play, he may play alongside Willie Cauley-Stein and Kyle Wiltjer in a zone, with Nerlens and Willie on the wings. Good lord. I already feel bad for the Long Island Universities and LaFayettes of the world.

– Cal said that initially, he was not interested in the ESPN All-Access special: “They approached us, and we said no for about a month. We didn’t want to do it. Do we really need more exposure? … I said I don’t think we need help. I think we’re okay.” He later changed his mind because he thought it would be “good for his guys,” but really, in the end, he said it would be fun to piss people off, too: “Everybody’s going to be mad. I know. Did I do it just because of that to aggravate people? Might have.” That’s so Cal.

– When asked about his team, Cal was willing to dole out comparisons for some players, but not others. He called Archie Goodwin a player in the mold of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and DeAndre Liggins. Ryan Harrow? “He can score the ball, skilled, like Brandon (Knight) was, and he’s becoming a good layup shooter.” But don’t you dare compare Nerlens Noel to Anthony Davis. Just yet. In fact, Cal said Noel is “way more bouncy and long” than Anthony. Not sure about the bouncy part, but longer than Anthony Davis?! Good lord.

– When asked who the leader of this team is, Cal struggled with a response, settling on Archie Goodwin before saying this was one of the quietest teams he’s had. Alex Poythress’ response? “We’re just quiet when Cal’s around.”

The players got their turn with the media, too, and as expected, they were a funny bunch. Archie Goodwin may have had the line of the day when asked about the ESPN All-Access show: “If (Cal) says it’s good for us, then it is. It’s Coach Cal, it’s a monarchy.”

– The new guys are still getting used to the fishbowl lifestyle at Kentucky. Nerlens Noel says he gets ten to fifteen autograph requests outside the Lodge PER DAY. Sam Malone, a grizzled old vet, said that the old guys have enjoyed watching the newbies adjust to their newfound fame: “Just the look on some of their faces when the step on campus…they’re definitely shocked by it.” Julius Mays showed the wisdom of a veteran transfer with this advice to his teammates: “I always tell them to enjoy it and embrace the moment, because everybody is not living how we’re living and everybody doesn’t get to be a part of something like this…you just made someone’s day. So just smile.” I already love this kid.

– Contrary to earlier reports that he was going to shave it off after Big Blue Madness, Ryan Harrow says he is going to keep his new flat top. What does Nerlens think of it? “I don’t think it’s flyer than mine.”

More Madness! Don’t forget, the Women’s Volleyball team and their tiny, supportive shorts will play Mississippi State before the main event at 5 p.m. One guy who will be paying particularly close attention? Marcus Lee, who told USA Today’s Jason Jordan that the volleyball game is already a highlight of his visit: “[I’m excited about] Seeing how crazy Big Blue Nation gets. And I’m also looking forward to seeing the volleyball game. I play volleyball too at my school so I’m interested in that.”

Oddly, John Calipari will also be presented with two ladders from the official NCAA Tournament ladder company during the festivities. I got nothing.

Hey! There’s a football game on Saturday. Unfortunately, the injury bug continues to take its toll. Safeties Mikie Benton, Ashely Lowery, and Martavius Neloms will not travel to Arkansas due to injuries. Freshmen Zack and Daron Blaylock and Cody Quinn will start in their place. Of the 30 defensive players traveling to Fayetteville, 23 of them are freshmen and sophomores. That is staggering. #WeAreYoung

Finally, if you’re in the Nashville area and want to watch Big Blue Madness with La Familia, join me and Aaron Flener at the Tin Roof Green Room (right next to the Tin Roof on Demonbreun), where they’re hosting a huge Big Blue Madness watch party. Admission is free, with all TV’s tuned into the Madness (with sound!) and plenty of specials. How can you say no?

We’ve got a big day coming up. See you soon.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

41 Comments for Big Blue Madness’ Friday News & Views

  1. nickdastick
    11:04 pm October 11, 2012 Permalink

    Trey Lyles in 2014 is also coming.

  2. jokersajoke
    11:20 pm October 11, 2012 Permalink

    All of you apologists STOP! SEC teams strategically play REDSHIRT freshmen and sophomores every year (along with upperclassmen) while they reload with 4 & 5 star recruits. Joker’s using youth and his lack of program CEO skills as an excuse for all of our 2 & 3 star mid-american recruits and his organizational deficiencies. He looks lost on the sidelines and is quite frankly embarrassing as the face of our program. Seriously, do we want our head coach to be named Joker?

  3. Buckwild
    11:25 pm October 11, 2012 Permalink

    lol, Noel said “fly” when refering to his high top fade. Dude is straight outta the 80’s. Does he wear his pants backwards too like Kid n Play, or was that the 90’s?

  4. GoingFor9
    11:26 pm October 11, 2012 Permalink

    If we played tomorrow, Noel would not play. You failed to mention that the SID basically told him to zip it after that comment.

  5. Juan4UK
    12:23 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    Key & Peele. Comedy Central @ midnight! Hilarious!!!

  6. Buckets
    12:25 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    “Take an appreciate sip of your beer while you’re at it.”

    I’ll cheers to that!

  7. Dave Ball
    12:44 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    and Florida’s two (Hill and Walker) are this year and UCLA’s (Shabazz and Kyle) are last year…Cal never offered Walker (or he would have been at UK) and Shabazz chose shoe endorsements over championships (and he’s sitting for at least 8 games)…Cal is great

  8. BBNinHAwaii
    12:51 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    I actually don’t think Andrew took time out of his day to talk to the Courier Journal. They took that quote from when he spoke to ESPN Recruiting Nation just moments after the James Young announcement.

    ~ Andrew told the Courier-Journal Thursday that “James is one of the best scorers in the county. Having him and Aaron alongside me is a point guard’s dream.”

  9. In Love...
    1:08 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    ..with you Mrs. TT.. Just wish you hadn’t already found your Mr. TT. Seriously, love reading your posts. Always informative, and enjoyable. Keep up the always good writing.

  10. UKus2012
    1:32 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    What.? No Nascar news?

  11. SeaCat
    1:35 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    Tyler, super post!!!
    Great read, Lady!!

  12. Walsh is Gay
    1:50 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    A solid post by a solid journalist to kick off the season! Mrs. TT you may think you’re excited for tomorrow night, but take if from someone solidly entrenched in football country – Atlanta, Jawja – as a Cats and Saints fan, living amongst the delusional Dawgs fans and their relentless Falcon homer ways, I may be the single-most excited person for basketball season, in the history of excited people.

    Before you dispute, consider: my football teams are a combined 2-9. Is it basketball season yet? It is?! WOOOOHOOOOO GO CAYTS!!!

  13. quick
    2:14 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    please tell me what station/channel is broadcasting Big Blue Madness live or delay, it aint on the guide!

  14. Sheeeeiiit
    2:25 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    Nice post! Hey TT I am a long time reader of KSR. Live in Goodlettsville, you know North of downtown. So will the Tin Roof be slammed with people? Like no seats and crazyloud? Just trying to decide if I stay at home with my wife and kids or use an excuse to go out. But I don’t want to not be able to see or hear the show.

  15. Duke Sucks
    2:32 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    Even since Cal came here this is the best time of year. We now we will be in the hunt every year. I know we are not going to win a NC every year, but we do know we got a chance every year. Remember when the national media said we where spoiled and unrealistic when Tubby was here. Cal has proved we know who we are and where we should be every year.
    This will make some mad, but it’s true, we haven’t been at this level since Pitino was here. Cal has put us back to where we where in the late 90’s. We recruited who we wanted. We are the team to beat for the title every year. I know Cal can’t walk on water. But I bet he could take a step or two before he sank. I hope Tubby is watching from MInn. because under his watch we became average.

    2:40 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    BBN is everywhere.. saw a UK sign on msnbc when they were talkin bout the VP debate.. makes me excited for Big Blue Madness! Can’t get here soon enough.

  17. Joe
    6:16 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    Time for basketball. Go BIG BLUE!

  18. Yab
    6:31 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    Hire Petrino

  19. Derbyqueen
    6:53 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    Spending week in Gatlinburg area…need to find sports bar for BB Madness…channel and time please!

  20. BBN
    7:13 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    This is jokers favorite time of year too! Not much media attention any more on him. Fans have moved on. And hell, mitch never really cared about football any way. Joker probably looks at Madness day as his birthday, Christmas, and Quanza all rolled into one.

  21. cracka
    7:45 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    “one of the best scorers in the county” … wow, that’s impressive, i think, is it a big county?

    it will be very interesting to see who goes and who stays after this year, if there isn’t a trophy at the end of the year, you could def stay for the one next year! i kind of have the feeling that no matter how good of a year harrow and wiltjer have, they may just be those guys that are great college players, but don’t project well in the nba to be drafted high. at the end of the year, harrow is still gonna be 170# and wiltjer is still not gonna look as athletic as a lot of other bigs. this year’s draft will prob be a little weak, though, which will help.

  22. In Cal We Trust
    7:55 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    Next UK t-shirt idea, “CATTITUDE”?

  23. Geoff
    8:02 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    Next t-shirt idea, “CAT SWAG”

  24. Big Blue
    8:02 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    Before ‘midnight madness’ —- I remember the time back in the fall of ’77…..a Sunday afternoon – we gathered at Memorial Coliseum to get a first glimpse of the basketball team. We knew we had a potential championship team but the guard spot was a complete unknown. Before anyone else came out on the floor that afternoon – an ‘unknown’ came out. It was the first time we were introduced to Kyle Macy. He came out by himself and hit something like his first 20 shots! We went bonkers – and the rest was history – the ’78 Champs!
    Go Cats!!

  25. Criss Cross
    8:05 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    We were the ones wearing our pants backwards….NOT Kid n Play.. get it right or we will shank you!

  26. Kriss Kross
    8:15 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    And we spelled our name like this…..

  27. What it's like....
    8:27 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    Does anyone else remember what it’s like Havin’a Roni??

  28. Skeller03
    8:41 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    Do all of the recruits sit together? They should surround Lee with the twins and James Young. He’ll commit by the end of the night if so.

  29. Buckwild
    8:49 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    That’s right. Kid n Play had the high top fade, Criss Cross had the pants. I was more of an 80’s kid than a 90’s kid, so I defer to you.

  30. BBN
    8:55 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    And Nerlens Noel is still ineligible… wonder how many from the class of 2013 will be ineligible? Definitely the twins (Under Armour ties) and Wiggins, probably Randle as well. Have fun with Calipari and the NCAA breathing down your neck every season!

  31. Jon Hood
    9:02 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    Hey, what time is the game tonight?

    9:04 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    Marcus Lee come on down. Guy can play the 4 or 5, so he could play along with Randle. Reminds me of Cal’s centers at Memphis: long and wiry

    31-sour grapes son, get back to home-ec class

  33. Gay Ryan Lemond
    9:18 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    Go to and vote UK your #1 preseason pick. Apparently, the Tard fans have heard of the poll and they’ve jumped over IU for 2nd place.

  34. Chad
    9:20 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    Anyone know how to watch bbm online tonight other than ESPN3

  35. Mikey
    9:31 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    Harrison twins + father were on the ATL –> LEX flight last night arriving into Lexington at 11:30. There was what looked to be another recruit on the plane as well; however, he looked very young (white, skinny, tall kid). Andrew Harrison smacked him across the chest when walking up the jetway, so they certainly knew each other through the basketball circuit. Father was sporting Under Armour gear! Ha!

  36. Mrs. Tyler Thompson
    9:37 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    15 – I have no idea…haven’t watched a game at Tin Roof before (went to Corner Pub last season), so I’m not sure about the space or how many people they’re expecting. But, there’s one way to find out!

  37. westerncat
    10:23 am October 12, 2012 Permalink

    SO is Fox Sports South showing BBM or not? Need help here!

  38. Maxbps8
    12:38 pm October 12, 2012 Permalink

    Does Joker use this event to promote the football team? If not, WHY NOT? Where are all the football recruits that would love this atmosphere and relish in building it for the KentuckY Football team? Just curious.

  39. Jon Maters
    12:49 pm October 12, 2012 Permalink

    #39, go down the list of juniors and seniors that have left UK football. More than that check the reason each left. No coach recruits on Kentucky – it is terrible. The media is not allowed to practices. Joker would already be gone if they were. The stands are empty and the students are gone. 15 rows of students last week. Next year season ticket renewal be at an all time low. Why pay $100-250 in K fund per season ticket, when you can walk up to the ticket window and buy as good of or better ticket for face value next season and join the 20,000 people in the stands. That being said, who will waste their money buying a ticket next year anyway.

    train wreck has to be stopped now.

  40. twnky
    4:10 pm October 12, 2012 Permalink

    Mrs. Thompson, if you could care less about nd football then why don’t you. It’s I couldn’t care less.