Kentucky Wildcats Big Blue Madness Friday

Welcome back my friends
To the show that never ends
-- Emerson, Lake & Palmer

It's been a long summer and so far, a long football season.  But the wait is finally over.  The leaves are falling, the weather is cool and crisp under a cloudless autumn sky, and it's basketball season in Kentucky.  Ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, this is what we have all been waiting for.

When we get to this point every year, it's always with sky-high expectations and sky-high excitement.  Except for John Calipari's first year as the coach of the Blue and White, this may well be the most anticipated basketball season since the 1996 NCAA Tournament championship team.

Tonight, we will see together on the floor for the first time no less than six players who were ranked in the top 25 in the country coming out of high school, every one of them a McDonalds All-American, and three were ranked in the top ten.  Never before in recent history has such an assemblage of talent taken the floor for Big Blue Madness, including 2009-10 when John Wall & Co. brought the fun back to Kentucky basketball.

It's funny how things have changed around here since Calipari came.  I recall an equal mix of trepidation and excitement with Billy Gillispie, Tubby Smith, and even Rick Pitino (up until 1996) at the helm.  With the advent of John Calipari as head coach, I feel only the excitement.  The fear has gone.  We know, not think, that we have a team capable of contending for the national title, and that feeling is simply amazing.

The confidence that I, as well as most of the Big Blue Nation carry in Calipari's leadership is a confidence born, as Coach Cal himself says, of demonstrated performance.  Every Kentucky team under Calipari's leadership has performed.  There have been a few hiccups along the way, but night in and night out, Calipari's teams perform on the basketball court and are the favorites to win nearly every game.  So it will be again this year.

Despite columns like this one from Gary Parrish trying to convince all and sundry that UK fans are so impatient they don't care about anything but a championship, we all know that the national sports media doesn't understand us, or even really want to.  What UK fans want is to compete for national championships every year.  We know we will win one, and probably more than one, as surely as the sun rises.  Winning national championships is somewhat like forming a diamond -- ll it takes is time, carbon talent, and pressure.  Adolph Rupp, Joe Hall, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith all proved that. There is no shortage of of the three at Kentucky.

With coaches after Rupp and prior to Calipari, we always had to worry about something -- depth, chemistry, shooting -- something.  With Calipari, I don't worry about anything, even with only 9 scholarship players on the roster.  Why worry -- we have already been there, done that, and got the Final Four tee shirt when everyone said it couldn't happen.

This year's team has nothing to worry about.  We have shooting.  We have size.  We have speed.  We have sick, otherworldy athleticism.  Chemistry never seems to be a problem for Calipari teams, even when everyone says it should be. This team's starting five could be the starting lineup for a few NBA franchises, and everybody who watches college basketball knows this.

No, we are not alone in that distinction.  The North Carolina Tar Heels and the Connecticut Huskies also have the kind of manpower that NBA teams would covet, particularly North Carolina.  Perhaps at no time since 2007 has there been this much talent on NCAA team rosters, and with the NBA mired in a lockout, viewership of NCAA basketball is likely to be at its highest level in many years.

This year's Kentucky team brings a very unconventional style to the game, with a plethora of perimeter shooting, no true centers, and very little overall bulk.  But what this team lacks in girth they make up for in every other measurable -- height, length, size, speed, athleticism, shooting and ballhandling.  This team has the potential to be the best ballhandling and shooting team ever to don the Blue and White, as well as one of the best shotblocking teams.

The clock will be slowwwwllllyyy moving today toward the magical 7:30 time, when we will be introduced to what could be NCAA Tournament Champion #8.  This is real, and it's really here.

Celebrate with me, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation.  It's basketball time in the Bluegrass, and the Wildcats are right where they belong -- at the top of the heap.

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