ESPN just may be making their way back to Lexington in the coming weeks for what will likely be another top 10 matchup.
Currently the Tennessee Volunteers are ranked as the No. 1 team in the nation with a record of 19-1. The Cats will host the Vols in Rupp Arena on Saturday, February 16th.
Kansas vs Kentucky was a phenomenal atmosphere and set a season high for attendance with over 24,000 fans gathering inside Rupp Arena. That being said, adding the component of an important SEC game against the #1 team in America, I would expect the environment for Kentucky - Tennessee to exceed that of any other home game this season.
After Kentucky’s win against Kansas, Coach Calipari even hinted at the idea of ESPN’s College Gameday returning to Lexington for the match-up against his good friend, Rick Barnes.
“It was really good. I thought Game Day was really good,” Calipari said on Saturday. “They said it was one of the best Game Days they have had. There’s never going to be another one where there’s 22,000 like we had the first time we came here. I can’t remember what year it was, we had 22,000 at Game Day and these people thought we’re all nuts. Today they looked and they said, Coach, this is a big time crowd for us. I want to thank the fans. They came in and they got their free ice cream. So now in three weeks we have Game Day again -- you think so? All right. I’m going to have our president, he’s going to give away free scholarships (laughter) oh, I didn’t see you over there, Dr. Capilouto.”
I was present at this press conference and Calipari directed his inquiry about the return of College Gameday at Eric Lindsey, who is the director of athletic communication and media relations for the men’s basketball team. Lindsey made it clear that nothing was set in stone and that everyone would just have to wait and see.
It is still a little early for ESPN to announce the destination for College Gameday on February 16th. Sometime in the next week to 10 days, a formal release should be out out that gives the specifics. I can’t imagine a better game for ESPN to attend, but you never know. They may want to spread the wealth considering there would only be a three week gap between visits to Lexington.
Gameday aside, the match-up with Tennessee is going to play a major part in deciding the SEC regular season championship. The Vols have yet to lose a conference game to this point and will have to play South Carolina twice, Texas A&M, Missouri, and Florida before meeting the Cats on February 16th.
Kentucky will have to deal with Grant Williams, who is averaging over 20 points a game in what has been a dominating year for the junior forward. He recently scored 43 points in an overtime win against Vanderbilt. The Vols have weapons at every position and are No. 1 for a reason. Their one loss did come to Kansas, who Kentucky has obviously beaten.
Right now ESPN gives Kentucky a 55.9% chance of winning. But it is splitting hairs at this point and too close to call from a prediction standpoint.
ESPN College Gameday coming to Lexington clearly helped the Cats against Kansas, and you can only assume that would hold true again.
Do you think the crew at ESPN will be coming back for the Tennessee game? Comment and let us know why or why not.