As usual, Big Blue Madness 2010 was entertaining and enjoyable. I have no doubt that all those people who camped out waiting for tickets got their money's worth, and I certainly enjoyed it from the comfort of my own home.
As Coach Cal said, this is a completely different team from last year, and it will be tough to compare them, especially early on, but we all know that we are going to do just that. This team, absent Kanter, is small for a major Division I basketball team. Even with Kanter, the Wildcats are hardly large. But they are fast, agile, and very skilled.
As far as Kanter is concerned, a little birdie told me that UK is still very optimistic about his eventual clearing by the NCAA. Right now, the smart people are focusing on around November 1st for word on his status. Keep hope alive, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation.
My observations follow the jump.
- Great job by Calipari and UK to minimize his role in the festivities this year. He needed to be a focus last year, and needed to be just the coach this year. I continue to be amazed how much Calilpari and UK "get it" when it comes to setting the tone of this program.
- Terrence Jones was really impressive in very many ways. He is an absolute matchup nightmare as a small forward, and will easily transition to the four. He'll be less effective there as far as the power game is concerned, but his length is remarkable, and he will run most college fours into the ground.
- Brandon Knight seems to be shooting the ball better than he did in Canada, and with more confidence.
- I wonder if any team will want to run with this one? I'm sure quite a few will, but I wonder if any of them will not be disadvantaged by doing so.
- I get the feeling this team will not have a problem making perimeter shots.
- Darius Miller continues to impress me. I have thought since Canada that this will be his breakout year, and tonight did nothing to change my mind.
- Doron Lamb plays a really interesting game. It is just so unusual to see a player like that in today's game, a guy who prefers the floater to the three pointer.
- Stacey Poole still has a ways to go to be his best. I don't expect him to be much of a factor until the second half of the season, if at all, this year.
- DeAndre Liggins did not mess around as much as his teammates. He looked all business to me.
- I hope Josh Harrellson can make an impact this year, Kanter or no. I am not sanguine, unfortunately, but I am hopeful.
This year's Madness was not the cathartic experience last year's was, and maybe it was better for that. Last year was the long drink of water after years of wandering in the desert living off coconuts. This year was almost business as usual, but instead of having a fear that maybe we won't even get to the tournament eating at our brains like a worm, Kentucky fans are back to dreaming of a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament and expecting no worse than a four.
This team, Kanter or no, will compete for the SEC championship and SEC tournament championship. It has enough talent and skill to defeat any team I can think of. It may lose more games than last year's team did, but these guys have a ton of skill, and if they remain mostly healthy, they're going to be hard to handle.
All in all, a very satisfying beginning to basketball 2010.