One thing that a 23,000+ attendee opening practice will do for you is garner some national media attention. In 2001, that was a bad thing, since presumed starting center Jason Parker blew his knee out (again) shadowboxing with his buddies.
But this year, fresh off a crizzapy 22-13 season that was rife with dissention, visible flaws and uncharacteristic beatdowns, righting the 'perception' ship is a big part of the preseason. For a traditionally media-challenged Tubby Smith, that bodes poorly.
But the Tubster has made the rounds this year already, and any resulting positive press could help him and his team put last year behind them.
Freshman Derrick Jasper got some nice pub from his strong Madness showing
Erstwhile Kentucky foil Mike Decourcey -- whose brutal honesty towards the Cats is topped only by his lack of similar brutality towards the ACC -- seemed intrigued by the more engaged Tubby in his Madness post mortem. The AP lede talks about Tubby's statement that this season "is a little more exciting," injecting some obviously intentional optimism into an otherwise pedestrian wrapup article.
Meanwhile, the usual suspects at the Courier-Journal (here), Herald-Leader (here) and Cincinnati Post (here) swallow the "fresh start" angle hook, line and sinker. And good for them. It's amazing what skeptical coverage the hometown Cats get from the local beat reporters, who seem to be always searching for the "in" that lets them trump each other.
So as we fans bask in the start of the season, let's not forget to take a close look at how the Cats are portrayed this early season. The major national players (save Decourcey, strangely enough) are all overlooking the Cats at their peril. While no doubt we fans are overestimating them, a little positive national pub is a long time coming.