Ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, that Big Blue Madness was probably the most exciting one I have ever seen. There is an argument that Calipari's first in 2009 was more significant from a program standpoint, but I'm afraid that memory is too distant for me to agree.
I loved everything about the production. I loved everything about the game. I loved everything about the night. I particularly loved the snarky amazement comments of some of the media about the fact that Calipari's speech was directed straight at every quality recruit in the United States, committed or otherwise. Consider:
Calipari should just sit next to the recruits while he gives these speeches. Totally directed at them. Epic salesmanship.— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_CJ) October 19, 2013
Calipari: "We don’t just play college basketball. We are college basketball." Upped the ante on "we are the needle."— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_CJ) October 19, 2013
That echoed Cal line from 2009 Madness— Jerry Tipton (@JerryTipton) October 19, 2013
As we all know, recruiting is Job 1 at Big Blue Madness, and Calipari certainly did his part. The first thing we have to realize is that this show is mostly for the benefit of next year's team in the Calipari system. That may seem cynical, but it is how it is. To wit:
No. 1 player in 2016 Harry Giles ... RT @TheReal_HG3: Had a great time at BBM! It was fun and I enjoyed the trip! 👌 BBN I appreciate y'all— Ben Roberts (@NextCats) October 19, 2013
Leaving aside the speechifying and other recruit-stroking, let's take a look at what the basketball game showed us:
- Julius Randle is the truth. That is all.
- Aaron Harrison really does have a nice stroke, and he stroked it tonight. But he also showed the kind of aggressive basket attack that 2-guards in the SEC are going to be having nightmares about.
- Andrew Harrison sees the floor incredibly well. I loved that he and his brother came out of the floor together. Amazing touch.
- Marcus Lee can get up really high, really fast.
- Jarrod Polson has improved — a lot.
- Dakari Johnson is a center, but he ran the floor really well for a guy of his size.
- Alex Poythress looked good. Part of me is still a little skeptical, but his handle has significantly improved. I think he can play the three.
- Willie Cauley-Stein did not impress much. He didn't seem to be into it to me. His teammates tried to get him going at the end, but where was that race-horse floor-running we saw last season?
- James Young didn't shoot the ball well, but he did okay. I have to admit, he didn't really wow me, although I really wanted him to.
- Derek Willis was quite impressive. He wasn't Julius Randle or anything, but he can shoot it, and he can handle.
- I loved the excess of passing. What I want to know is, will they do it when it counts? We'll have to wait and see.
- Jon Hood looked pretty good. Nothing special, but solid.
- This team passes they BBM eye-test. Now, they need to show us they can defend, something we did not see tonight.
- I don't want to go without mentioning Dominique Hawkins, who also had some good moments. He is a competitor, and he may not be getting a lot of time this year, but it won't be because he didn't try to earn it.
I don't know about you, but I like what I see — a lot. This is the most excited I can ever remember being about a basketball season. I wish our first game was tomorrow, rather than a couple of weeks away.
I cannot say enough that, based on what I saw tonight, this team has everything, and I mean everything it takes to win a national title. It has size, speed, depth, strength, shooting, inside play, and even shot blocking. There is no weakness readily obvious on this basketball team other than their youth, and I think that is absolutely over-emphasized with this group.
We'll have to see, but to paraphrase Coach Cal, I like our team.