Christmas in August? Yes, It is an exciting time to be a member of the Big Blue Nation right now. We have an exciting football season upon us as camp started Sunday with as much energy as the Commonwealth has seen in years. The SEC Network rolls out this month with an exponential increase in UK coverage sure to follow as the year progresses. Finally, the Wildcats kick off their Big Blue Bahamas tour this coming Sunday and we get a preview of what is nearly a unanimous expectation of a potential title season.
I wanted to take a moment and find out what it is you wanted to learn from the Bahamas tour while sharing with you my thoughts and hopes. I will throw one thing out there that I am disappointed about regarding this tour: we will not have the pleasure of entertainment via the great Dom Papa as we did during the Canadian tour. If you do not remember, Dom was the sideline correspondent for the broadcasts.
He struggled at first to pronounce UK's player names; he also wore a Windsor polo (UK's opponent), and even referred to Dave Baker as Dale. However, over the next two games Dom donned some UK gear got the names right and made sure he said Dave all while stealing the heart of the BBN. I guess we will just have to make due without "The Last Dom." What we do have to look forward to though, is having Jay Bilas commentary on all the games, actual HD quality broadcast, and some interesting new uniforms.
Now, on to what I hope to learn about this team during their six game slate in Nassau, but first, a little about the competition. The Cats will play three teams, two separate times. The Dominican Republic national team will likely be the toughest of the three as they rank 26th in the world in FIBA. They will also play the Puerto Rican national reserves twice, as well as a French first-division club team Champagne Chalons-Reims Basket twice. These teams are no cupcakes; in fact, it is very possible we could lose to all three of them. Coach Calipari went as far as saying:
"We'll have 10 days of practice and playing national teams that can beat us,'' Calipari said. " Normally you want to do this to get the 10 days of practice, but we're doing it the other way. We're going to get something out of it and go against national teams that we should not beat. We should go 0-6.''
Of Course, Cal is masterfully incorporating coach-speak here and surely does not expect us to go 0-6, nor will they. However, Do not be shocked if we split the series or even possibly go 2-4. These are professional teams with current and former NBA players. Truth be told I would consider 4-2 or anything better a strong success.
Finally, here is my wish list for next week:
- The Harrison's team: All indications from the practice and summer reports are that Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison have taken the reigns and are truly leading this team. This will be a big step forward for them and this team's future if they are successful. One of the things forgotten about the Twins is they were just getting to campus this time last year. One year plus a full summer and I think the growth is going to be obvious and fill the Big Blue Nation with euphoria.
- The Leap: I would really like to see the leap forward we are all expecting Alex Poythress to take. We need to see him expand on last year's success and have a more consistent "beast mode."
- The Dakari Double: I am going to go ahead and coin that phrase because Dakari Johnson is going to be a double-double machine. He has dropped some weight, gotten his conditioning up and is apparently now a vocal leader on the team. He is going to be special and I think this is going to be a preview.
- One Trick Pony? Is Marcus Lee a flash in the pan that happened to get a lot of well-placed alley-oops and rebound put-backs against Michigan or is he truly a top talent? I think it is a fair question, especially considering there were times during the year when Lee looked lost, hesitant, and overmatched.
- The Newest Hyphen: I am excited to see Karl-Anthony Towns in action and see his basketball IQ on display. I am not worried about his talent, it is obviously there, I just want to see if he has been able to mesh as quick as we all hope... so he can fill the Randle void. Truthfully, with his range and basketball IQ, I feel he can fill that void and then some.
- Deadeye Devin: By all indications, Devin Booker is going to be able to flat stroke it from anywhere on the floor. I may be in the minority here, but I feel that the loss of Young will hurt us more than losing Randle. We need that guy who feels like every shot he takes is going in and I hope that the progression of Aaron and the addition of Booker can more than make up for that.
- The Mighty Mite: I think we are all in for a treat with Tyler Ulis. The 5'8" dynamo is going to be a fan favorite from day one and this will be the opening act of an awesome career at UK.
I would like to say that I could care less about the scoreboard but let's face it; we are all UK fans and winning matters. Having said that, this is going to be a fun week coming up and will likely give everyone in America nightmares about the train that is going to be leaving the Lexington station starting in November.