All eyes are on basketball this week as Mark Stoops’ football team has the week off and John Calipari’s squad unofficially kicks off its season with Thursday’s Media Day and then Big Blue Madness. This here website will be loaded with basketball content over the course of the next few days, and we’ll get ‘er rolling with a look ahead to what we do and don’t know about Friday night’s Madness festivities.
WHAT WE KNOW
Former players will reunite.
The Kentucky basketball program reached out to every single player who played in blue and white for one massive reunion of former Wildcats, old and young. For months the good people at UK Athletics have been trying to track down every Wildcat, in hopes of bringing everyone back for an on-court reunion at this year’s Madness.
We don’t know who or exactly how many will participate (I imagine a lot), but we do know John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere and Karl-Anthony Towns are confirmed, thanks to the two NBA preseason games in Kentucky on Saturday.
Future Wildcats will be visiting.
As of now, there are nine confirmed recruits who are planning to attend Big Blue Madness. That list includes P.J. Washington, Trae Young, Nick Richards, Quade Green and Kevin Knox of the current senior class, as well as four prospects from other classes. (We have a full breakdown of the visitors for you on Thursday.)
Of that bunch of five high school seniors, three — Washington, Young and Richards — are projected to commit to the Wildcats at some point in the coming months. Green and Knox will need a little more convincing if Kentucky is to be the pick, but having a prospect on campus for Big Blue Madness is always an enormous step in that direction.
There will be an interactive light show.
UK announced on Wednesday that fans can become part of the spectacle by participating in an interactive light show. To do so, fans must download the Kentucky Wildcats Gameday app onto their mobile device before the event and then wait for further instruction once they are there.
You may remember the interactive light show from Big Blue Madness 2013 with “Wham City Lights”:
There will be a Blue Carpet entrance.
Former players and celebrities will enter Rupp Arena via a blue carpet entrance this year, similar to a Hollywood movie premiere. Fans can follow along at home on the UKAthletics.com live stream from 6-7 pm.
Papa John’s name will be all over the place.
This year’s Madness is officially called “Big Blue Madness presented by Papa John’s,” so be ready to have better ingredients and better pizza shoved down your face. It’s an interesting sponsor for the event, considering Rupp Arena just switched to Hunt Brothers from Papa John’s for basketball games this season.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
Will Matthew Mitchell perform?
This may be the year Coach Mitchell should sit a play out. With the tumultuous offseason for his women’s basketball program, which saw the inexplicable departures of several players, recruits and members of his staff, this is likely a good time to dial back on the song and dance performances, in favor of a more serious approach.
But then again, Coach Mitchell thrives on the Madness spotlight as he has been a fan favorite at the event each year, going all the way back to 2010 when he hit his dougie.
So don’t be shocked if he keeps on trucking, maybe with a Lemonade routine.
Will John Calipari address the nation?
It was at the Big Blue Madness prior to the 2009-10 season, his first at Kentucky, when Coach Cal delivered a speech that echoed out from Pikeville to Paducah, with a promise of bringing the program back to prominence as the “gold standard” of college basketball. He would return to the podium in 2011 to give his “State of the Union” address, in which he introduced “The Kentucky Effect” and said, “We don’t move the need, we are the needle.”
Other Madnesses have seen Presidential-like speeches from Calipari before his team is introduced, so will this year have the same? Or will he be more like he was in 2014, when he simply said, “Enough talking, let’s ball” and dropped the mic on stage?
Will Drake play a role?
Drake has now been a part of the last two Big Blue Madnesses. In 2014, he warmed up with the team and took that infamous airball that is still alive and well in Internet lore today.
Then in 2015, Drake submitted a really creepy video from a candlelit room in his home, complete with wine and saxophone music, to introduce Coach Cal. It was so bizarre.
— Dianna Chambliss (@DiannaDB) October 17, 2015
Will we see Drake again? He canceled all of his tour dates this week due to an ankle injury, so he’s free, and Friday was an off-day for him anyway.
How excited will fans be for the season, after seeing the team scrimmage for the first time?
Our prediction: Uncontrollable excitement, per usual.