That’s a wrap on Big Blue Madness 2015. For a myriad of reasons we’ve already discussed, I feel like this year’s event was a little more low-key than usual, but to me, that made it better. Perhaps sensing the fan base was worn out on the hype from years past, UK stuck to the basics, bringing back the coolest Madness feature I remember: the projector screen court. More on that in a minute. Here are my takeaways from a fun night in Rupp.
Matthew Mitchell’s Nae Nae was predictable, but great
It speaks to how little hype there was for Madness this year that no one was talking about what Matthew Mitchell would do for his annual performance. Marlana VanHoose, our favorite, came out on the stage and introduced Mitchell, who said he wasn’t going to dance this year.
“It gets tiring every year, and I’m here to announce my retirement from dancing at Big Blue Madness,” Mitchell said at mid-court. Of course, it was a ruse. Mitch Barnhart came up and told him he wasn’t allowed to retire and to get back to work. As if on cue, two kid dancers came on the court to start the Nae Nae, and Mitchell and some other dancers joined in, along with the rest of the UK Hoops team. It was predictable, but fun:
I’m sorry, Matthew Mitchell dancing will never get old.
They turned the court into a screen again and it was awesome
I get that UK likes to try to do something new every year, but I’m glad they brought back the giant projector to turn the court into a video screen. They used it for both the women’s and men’s intros, and I think it’s the coolest visual I’ve seen in Rupp. The men’s intro video was amazing:
They unveiled the 2015 Final Four banner
…but thankfully, didn’t make a big deal out of it. The banner was outlined in laser-like lights that turned on right before the intro video. No lengthy speech about it, no mentions of The Loss, just a nice moment of appreciation.
Dominique Hawkins’ dance may have been my favorite
Most of the new guys were too timid to dance, but Dominique being Dominque, he busted some moves for the crowd, cast and all. I love him:
– UKRadioNetwork (@UKRadioNetwork) October 17, 2015
EJ’s dance was also great, but I can’t find a video of it.
Drake’s intro for Cal was ridiculous
Drake was NOT in the building tonight, but he recorded two very cool videos for the event. In the first, Drake was sitting in a leather armchair with a glass of wine while sensual music played in the background. At first, I thought this was a spoof of “The Ladies Man.” Drake called Cal a “silver fox” and “the most luxurious coach in college basketball.” It was bizarre and fantastic. The second Drake video played during the team warm-ups, during which Drake famously air-balled a shot last year. Drake vowed to redeem himself in the video with a series of trick shots.
We hope to have those videos up for you soon.
Cal kept his speech short, sweet, and not so subtle
When I heard that Cal’s speech was under 500 words, I laughed. It’s Cal. He can’t order something at Dunkin’ Donuts in 500 words. But, at 505 words, he kept it short and sweet. The 7-minute speech was full of the usual Cal-isms, but was clearly geared towards recruits, seven of which watched court side.
“Kentucky encourages players to chase their genius,” Cal said. “We want them to explore the outer limits of their talents and abilities, and leave us without regrets.”
Anthony Davis was coincidentally walking around the perimeter of the court around this time, allowing Calipari a priceless interlude.
“Hey Anthony, I’m over here giving a speech!”
He closed with this:
“Who wants to be next? This team wants to be next! …And hopefully some other people in this building.”
Subtle, Cal. Subtle.
Cal wasn’t the super swaggy “drop the mic” Cal we saw last season, but he had a cool confidence about him tonight. In fact, his only misstep came at the end of the scrimmage when he took the mic and encouraged fans to attend the NBA exhibition game tomorrow night between the Kings and Pelicans. He was trying to say that the Kings would get UK’s locker room because they have the most Kentucky players, but slipped up and said “KANSAS players” instead. Whoops.
There were a lot of La Familia feelings
Because of said exhibition game, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, and Willie Cauley-Stein were in the house tonight. (Curiously, no Rajon Rondo that I could see.) All three players had their moment in the spotlight, and before the scrimmage, Boogie and Willie escorted Ellen Calipari to mid-court, where they met Cal, Anthony Davis, and Louie Dampier. Cal and his former players presented Dampier with a plaque commemorating his Hall of Fame induction, a nice touch.
Jamal Murray and Skal look legit
As far as basketball goes, there wasn’t a ton to judge since the scrimmage was only 10 minutes of 3-on-3 followed by 10 minutes of 5-on-5. Most notable were the performances of Skal Labissiere and Jamal Murray, who looked to live up to their billing as the best NBA prospects on the roster.
Skal once again showcased the versatility we saw during UK’s Pro Day, throwing down a big dunk, floating in a few mid-range jumpers, and even sinking a few threes. Skal is still so skinny, but his touch is amazing. Meanwhile, Murray is flat out smooth. His perimeter game is outstanding. Murray sank some threes and mid-range jumpers, and with him and Tyler Ulis in the backcourt, UK is in safe hands this season.
Speaking of Ulis, I will never get tired of watching him. He had a few passes that were incredible tonight, including one to Alex Poythress that I can’t wait to see more of this season. Poythress still looks a little tentative on that knee, but he’s not 100% yet, so that’s to be expected. As for the other guys, it was pretty sloppy, but it was just a scrimmage, so let’s cut them some slack.
Tonight got me ready for basketball
Still #AllIn on football, but after spending two hours in Rupp with 24,000 of my closest friends, let’s ball.