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Big Blue Madness: Taking on the naysayers and pumping up the Big Blue Nation

Big Blue Madness last night was an exciting time for Kentucky basketball fans.  It is great to see our new head coach almost speechless with emotion at the sight of 23,000+ basketball-crazy, screaming Wildcat fans adoring him from every direction.  For a guy that was a high-school coach about ten years ago, this is the very definition of climbing the mountain and reaching the summit.

My impression overall was that the media and public relations department are trying to recreate a Pitino-esque image out of Gillispie, at least for this event.  Of course, all Billy G. has to do is open his mouth and all those comparisons go out the window.  He isn't a slick-talking New Yorker, that's for sure.  But nobody in the Big Blue Nation cares much about how he talks -- we care about how he coaches.

There are a bunch of links about BBM mixed in with LSU game articles in the news links below, but I want to highlight a couple of them.  First is this article by the Loathsome Troll Jeff Goodman, which in typical Goodman fashion has lots of nasty zingers couched as praise, not the least of which is the title.  A couple of noteworthy passages:

All for a team that, in all reality, will be fortunate just to get into the Big Dance. Sure, Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford form a talented backcourt and Patrick Patterson will waste little time before making an impact, but this season will be successful if Gillispie can notch a single NCAA Tournament victory.

Now, I have no illusions about Kentucky's likely fortunes this season.  We have a young team, with a very young front line, especially in terms of actual playing time in the SEC.  But this team has one McD senior and 4-star senior who have both underachieved a bit, and many talented sophomores and freshmen along with a new coach famous for overachieving.  Does he really believe we will be lucky to make the tournament?  If so, he is among a minority of maybe 15% of all basketball writers mostly composed of people who hate Kentucky basketball for one reason or another.  Perhaps he is trying to tell us something most of us already knew. 

And then there is this beauty:

They [Kentucky fans] are spoiled and expectations are high. Kentucky, which has won seven national titles, hasn't won one since 1998 -- Smith's first season in Lexington.

Tubby's 263 wins over the past decade wasn't quite enough for the Wildcat faithful, so he was run out of town despite an impressive .760 winning percentage.

This, of course, is a number of facts and opinions culminated by an outright lie, but I can't say I am surprised.  Goodman once accused Tubby Smith of essentially committing felony mail/wire fraud in the "immaculate fax" case, and told me personally that he was convinced Smith had done something wrong, evidence notwithstanding.  Apparently, he  has conveniently forgotten all that so he can essentially accuse Kentucky fans of running off poor Tubby. 

Get your facts straight, Goodman.  If he was a felon, as you suggested to me, shouldn't we run him off?  Of course, we didn't, but I think you get the idea.  What a buffoon.

Next, we have Rick Bozich.  I have often panned Bozich's articles in this space, but this one won't be among them.  Bozich today remarks on something we have talked about quite a bit around here -- the interesting fact that even after last year's unfortunate season, when Smith packed up for Minnesota, none of the players followed him.  Perry Stevenson has the money quote for this one:

"When your coach leaves, the thought always crosses your mind of leaving," said Stevenson, the 6-foot-9 forward with the exclamation point body. "But this is Kentucky basketball. It doesn't get any bigger than this. Where are you going to go?"

Perry, that is just one more reason for the Big Blue Nation to love you.  You're right, it doesn't get any bigger than this, and players that recognize that fact very often do well here.

From criticizing the media reax, I am going to move on to my impressions of the players.  Generally speaking, I thought they looked good.  Meeks looked like he is going to be impossible to keep out of the starting lineup, whatever shape it takes.  Alex Legion made a statement about his skills, and to my great surprise, so did Mike Williams.  Williams showed a deft touch around the rim and even hit a 5 foot jumper.  He isn't athletic, but his footwork is way better than I expected, and his size is undeniable, although he looks shorter than his advertised seven feet to me.

But the guy that impressed me the most was walk-on Mark Coury.  This kid looks way, way better physically this year than last, and he has added a midrange jumper to his game.  He knocked that shot down twice last night, and showed some nice inside moves and a strong presence.  This guy is rapidly becoming one of my favorite players, and I think he has vindicated Tubby Smith's willingness to let him walk on.  I would never have believed he could actually contribute to this team, but I think he actually may wind up contributing more than anyone would suspect, and to our benefit.  Not only that, but Coury is a very good student.  Wonderful stuff.

I think everyone else did pretty much as advertised, but Crawford did make one extraordinarily athletic layup that got my full attention.  Where has that been the last 3 years, Joe?

All in all, a very promising start to an exciting year.  You just have to love this time of the year, when teams are all undefeated and their partisans are brimming over with excitement and the promise of a season filled with (hopefully) basketball glory.  What an exciting time to be a Wildcat fan, and with LSU in town for a tilt with the football team, it is sports bliss here in the Bluegrass.

Update [2007-10-13 14:19:0 by Truzenzuzex]:  Unfortunately, Scoop ate my post and I have had to repost this.  There was only one comment, but I'm afraid that is lost.  Sorry about that.