After three long, but fun, days in New York City, I am back to reality and back to the great city of Louisville. It was a tremendous amount of fun to spend the week in the Big Apple and there is no doubt that the Big Blue Nation painted the city Blue. You can focus on the obvious, such as the fact that Kentucky outdrew both UConn and St Johns in Madison Square Garden, becoming the first team to do so in anyone’s memory. But there were other signs as well. On every New York media outlet, Kentucky basketball was the topic. The city’s dominant sports talk show host, Mike Francesa, turned his show into the John Calipari and John Wall broadcast on both Wednesday and Thursday. The Cats brand was on television shows, as Cats fans made appearances on Jimmy Fallon and The Today Show. And the bar Jack Dempseys was packed with more Blue in the hours before Wednesday’s game than any place in Lexington could ever dream to be. While Saturday’s game in Rupp showed what UK basketball can look like when the home crowd is fired up again, this week showed that no fanbase travels or makes its presence known like the Big Blue. An overall great week and one of the best UK fan experiences that I have ever had.
(1): In case you have been in a cave today, John Wall was the #1 sports story in America today. It was a perfect storm for a media showcase…classic program, new coach, best Freshman in America, playing New York City, on a slow sports night, with the nation watching. If the world didnt know John Wall before, they know him now. He once again rose to #2 on Twitter, he led Sportscenter, Around the Horn and PTI. He had the nation’s photoshop artists at work making pictures of him that are only getting better (we have more tomorrow). And he got praise from every major college basketball journalist, all of whom were in attendance Wednesday night. MSG had the feel of a Final Four. In attendance was everyone from Bobby Knight to John Thompson, Dick Vitale, Pat Riley, Michael Douglas and World Wide Wes. A bizarre group, all there to watch the Legend of Wall grow. Wherever Wall ends up ranking historically for UK players on talent, one thing is clear…there hasnt been a UK player to radiate star power like this one, ever. It is amazing to watch.
(2): Because of the Wall fawning, it was overlooked a bit that Patrick Patterson took a slight injury in the game. Pat landed on Dodson’s foot and came up favoring his ankle. There has been no update from UK today on his status, but I spoke with someone close to the program who said there is nothing to worry about for Saturday’s game in Bloomington. While Patterson was obviously hobbled a bit when he returned, his contribution to Wednesday’s game should not be overlooked. He had 16 points and controlled the game for a good part until his injury. When he is hitting his baseline jumper, he is unguardable. My hope is that they get him the ball a bit more, especially in crunch time.
(3): My friend Lachlan Mclean was on the radio tonight apparently talking about the Wall and UK hype and saying that while he likes the team, he thinks it is a bit overblown. I like Lach, but he is part right and part dead-wrong. It is true that the hype for the team is a bit much. While Calipari continues to say this team is really 4-5, we all know that is an absurd and ridiculous statement. But they could very easily have a loss or two and this team is not a dominant team as of today. But so what? This team is 9-0 and is set up to contend for a #1 seed. That is exactly where you want to be. Where Lach is wrong is on Wall. Look folks, in the last week you have had Roy Williams say he is the best PG since Jason Kidd, Mike Decourcey wonder if he could be the most athletic PG ever and Dick Vitale say that only he and Lebron James have lived up to their high school hype. I have said all along that often you shouldnt believe the hype…in this case it is worth it. Embrace it Lach, dont hate.
(4): One piece of news today outside of celebration was Jeff Goodman’s report that DeAndre Liggins will be staying at UK and will rejoin the team on Saturday. Calipari was asked about Liggins in New York and basically repeated that he would not be talking about Liggins’ status to the media. When he will play continues to be a mystery, as is the long-term plan for Deandre. But the internet speculation of the last few days, fermented when he didnt make the trip to NYC, that he could be looking at a mid-season transfer, seems to be incorrect.
It was a great week and we have much more to come on Friday to get ready for Indiana. I will give you my less serious “journal” on the game in the Garden, we will look at IU games of the past and figure out what, if any, chance Crean’s boys have on Saturday. Stay tuned….