The spectacle of college basketball begins around the country tonight with various versions of "Midnight" madness. Lefty Driesell began midnight practices on the first day of practice period (back in the 70's or 80's, this isn't a research paper) and it eventually blossomed into the draw for fans and recruits it is today.
At the University of Kentucky fans camp out for days to get the free tickets to Big Blue Madness. Various teams from throughout the athletic department interact with the campers bringing them pizzas, breakfast, etc. until the ticket dispersion begins. The event itself will be attended by 23,000 UK fans and a few elite recruits - including 3 of the top 5 ESPN 100 recruits for 2013 who have already verbally committed to the Wildcats (Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, and James Young).
The buzz around the UK program has never been greater. The Wildcats have their 4th straight #1 recruiting class - which is important because they just lost 6 guys to the NBA draft.
Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer is the lone returnee with UK experience. He showed great range last year. The word is that he's worked hard to get stronger and quicker. He'll be expected to score in bunches and be a leader this year. Kyle was a McDonald's All-American.
Redshirt sophomore Ryan Harrow is a transfer from NC State. He learned the system last year while sitting out. He's small, but quick and is a pretty good shooter. He will be the oldest and most experience point guard the Wildcats have had in 4 years.
Everyone else that will be likely to contribute is new to the program.
Senior Julius Mays transferred from Wright State. He'll add depth and maturity.
Freshman Willie Cauley-Stein is a 7'0" center who has good hands and speed. He stands out because he was not a top 40 recruit (he was in the 40-50 range). But by all indications he's worked hard and will surprise some people this year.
Freshman Alex Poythress is a 6'8" forward. A McDonald's All-American, Poythress is a likely starter with a versatile skill set.
Freshman Archie Goodwin is a 6'4" (or so) guard. Another McDonald's All-American he's a pretty good perimeter shooter who can get to the rim very well. He also is an intense defensive player - drawing comparisons from the coaching staff to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and DeAndre Liggins.
The most heralded recruit is 6'10" Nerlens Noel. He wasn't a McDonald's All-American because he reclassified to the class of 2012 too late for consideration. Some recruiting services ranked him the #1 player in the class, the ones that didn't have him #1 ranked him #2 (behind Shabazz Muhammad). It is said that he was a better shot blocker (in high school) than Anthony Davis.
UK fans are chomping at the bit as they dream of NCAA Title #9. As is customary in the new era of Wildcat basketball the team will be young, it will grow, and the hope is that they will sacrifice for each other and be at their best in March.
So, as I say every year, that's what's up with my team - what's going on with yours?
I just can't see King Richard's troops doing that to us again. But, I think that loss was the best thing for us, we've gelled since and seem to be on a mission. The great thing is that what the team is doing well does translate to the post season.