BIG BLUE MADNESS



COUNTDOWN TO BIG BLUE MADNESS

The History of Big Blue Madness

Former UK coach Joe B. Hall started Midnight Madness at the University of Kentucky in 1982. According to Hall, he was looking for an idea to create more excitement for his 1982-83 squad. So they invited the fans in for team introductions and a scrimmage at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 15, 1982. Madness has now grown at a tremendous pace while also spreading to college and high school programs across the nation. Lefty Driesell is credited with conducting the first Midnight Madness when he was the head coach at Maryland in 1971.

When Midnight Madness started in 1982, it was called "Midnight Special." More than 8,500 fans attended that first event in 12,000-seat Memorial Coliseum. Admission was somewhat easier then -- those still arriving near the stroke of 12 a.m. had no problem getting a seat. But the seed of growth had been planted.

  • 1983 -- More than 10,000 supporters arrived to watch a highly rated Kentucky team led by Sam Bowie, Melvin Turpin and Kenny Walker. That team went on to a Final Four finish.

  • 1984 -- Introductions were in order as a new troop of fresh-faced Wildcats took the floor after the graduations of Bowie, Turpin, Dickey Beal, Tom Heitz and Jim Master.

  • 1985 -- The Coliseum was rocking as first-year coach Eddie Sutton ushered in a new era.

  • 1986 -- By the time the band started pounding out the fight song at 11:30 p.m., the fire marshal had already ordered the doors closed at 9:50 p.m., leaving hundreds of fans outside. Inside, more than 12,500 fans caught the first glimpse of super-frosh Rex Chapman and the Wildcats.

  • 1989 -- Rick Pitino was introduced for the first time to a capacity crowd of more than 8,700 (the Coliseum capacity dropped from 11,500 because of renovation). Fans were caught trying to sneak in the windows and any opening they could find.

  • 1990 -- Lines began forming at 8:30 a.m. as nearly 10,000 fans helped Kentucky celebrate a "Big Blue New Year."

  • 1991 -- Fans lined up 36 hours in advance as the Cats were "Back in the Spotlight," eligible for postseason play for the first time in the Pitino era. Doors were closed 45 minutes after they opened, the earliest ever. All four recruits who attended Madness that year -- Rodrick Rhodes, Jared Prickett, Tony Delk and Walter McCarty -- verbally committed to Kentucky the next week.

  • 1992 -- "Big Boo Madness - A Monster Bash" fell on Halloween night since the NCAA had moved the start of practice back to Nov. 1. Once again, doors closed only 45 minutes after they opened, as a capacity crowd watched Jamal Mashburn and company usher in the new season.

  • 1993 -- The first fans arrived on Wednesday -- three days early -- and at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 29, the Cats were "Rockin' after Midnight" as a popular senior foursome -- Travis Ford, Rodney Dent, Jeff Brassow and Gimel Martinez -- led the 1993-94 team into action.

  • 1994 -- The father and son combination of Robert and Ronald Vallandingham of Smithland, Ky., formerly of New Albany, Ind., arrived on Oct. 10 -- a full five days early. Coach Pitino was the headline attraction. Playing to the theme "Born To Be Wild," Pitino arrived in the gym dressed in leather driving a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

  • 1995 -- Wally Clark of Lexington was determined to be "first in line" and arrived 17 days early. The preseason No. 1 team in the nation was introduced with the premier of "Cat Fan Forever." Seniors Walter McCarty and Tony Delk swooped down on ropes from high above dressed as "Cat"man and Robin.

  • 1996 -- Clark parked himself by the front door on Sept. 10, a full 38 days prior to Big Blue Madness. In the pre-Madness celebration, the "Back to Tradition" theme honored the championship teams, including the defending national champions, as well as former stars.

  • 1997 -- Tickets were passed out five days early a Monday morning and were gone within the first 75 minutes for "Late Night with the Cats." It was the official introduction of Coach Tubby Smith to the Wildcat faithful, as he made his appearance high above the floor in the second deck.

  • 1998 -- The Wildcats, playing to the theme, "The Main Event," were dressed in their favorite professional wrestling outfits and introduced down through the UK crowd. Later, they celebrated their NCAA Championship from the previous season by unveiling a new championship banner on the Coliseum's "Wall of Champions."

  • 1999 -- The tickets were again distributed a week early and vanished in 27 minutes for "America's Team of the Century." Making a very special, and surprise, appearance was newly crowned Miss America, Heather Renee French, from Maysville, Ky. To thunderous applause, Coach Tubby Smith escorted her to center court.

  • 2000 -- Tickets were offered on the Internet for the first time and all 700 were distributed in 13 minutes. The remaining 8,000 were gone in 10 minutes to those waiting in line. "Survivor," a take-off from the popular television show that summer, was the theme for the annual event.

  • 2001 -- A week before the event, all 8,000 of the tickets were gone in less than an hour after Internet and window distributions. The Wildcats celebrated the 20th anniversary of the event by revisiting the "Midnight Special," theme, celebrating the last two decades of Madness.

  • 2002 -- Again, Midnight Madness tickets were gone in less than one hour. Shortly after midnight, each player was introduced and one by one they darted to center court sporting a slick head, presumably an act of unity. There were big smiles and high fives all around. Each player introduced an alumni member of past Wildcats teams. Cotton Nash, Sam Bowie, James Lee, Richie Farmer, Kyle Macy, Winston Bennett, Jeff Brassow, Jeff Sheppard, Saul Smith, Adrian Smith, Jim LeMaster, and others were along for the festivities. Each current player provided the introduction for his prestigious counter part and joined them center court. It was truly a memorable moment to help commemorate Kentucky basketball's 100th season.

    And here's some icing for the cake. A giant Kentucky Basketball 100th Anniversary Birthday cake was brought to center court prior to the player introductions. As if that wasn't enough, Mr. Wildcat, Bill Keightley, jumps out of the cake.

  • 2003 --Kentucky held Big Blue Madness for the 22nd consecutive year and like the others a ticket was hard to come by. The 8,700 tickets available were distributed in 47 minutes last weekend.

    This year's theme was "The Future of Kentucky Basketball" as the program began its 101st season.

    "I tell our players all the time that no one person is bigger than the program," Wildcats coach Tubby Smith said. "I have an analogy I tell them, to put your hand in a bucket of water and take it out. Do you see any water missing?"

    As the men's team was introduced to the crowd, a small fire developed on one of the suspended spotlights in the arena. Maintenance workers quickly extinguished the fire and turned off the light.

  • 2004 -- Big Blue fans catch their first glimpse of the new Wildcats - including six newcomers and the nation's No. 1 rated recruiting class - at 12:01 a.m., marking the first day practice can officially begin.

    Newcomers that have taken the spotlight are the trio of McDonalds All Americans Joe Crawford, Randolph Morris and Rajon Rondo.

    'This is Kentucky Basketball' was the theme for the 2004 Madness. The fun-filled evening was packed with contests, specially-made videos and spoof commercials featuring the UK men's and women's players, plus special guests like former UK players Kenny Walker, Sam Bowie and Richie Farmer, plus famous fan Ashley Judd. Rajon Rondo was everybody's choice in the slam dunk exhibition.

  • 2005 -- Since the inception of Big Blue Madness in 1982, it had been held in on-campus Memorial Coliseum, where the Wildcats played their home games during the tenure of legendary coach Adolph Rupp. That facility has about 8,700 seats, but its capacity now is limited to 5,600 because of ongoing construction of an adjacent practice facility.

    The event's move to Rupp Arena - where Kentucky now plays its home games - coincides with the 30th anniversary of that downtown facility.

    23,174 fans filled Rupp Arena to overflowing for Kentucky's Big Blue Madness, held annually on the date when the NCAA allows basketball teams to begin practicing.

    Kentucky, which spends the vast majority of its men's basketball marketing budget on the event, planned to include touches like a propane torch that shot fireballs 30 feet into the air during player introductions. Kentucky brought in Jon Mason, the public address announcer for the NBA's Detroit Pistons, to do the introductions. (Former Kentucky standout Tayshaun Prince plays for the Pistons.)

  • 2006 -- Once again, Kentucky fans have demonstrated an insatiable appetite for basketball. Over 21,000 tickets to the 2006 Big Blue Madness were snapped up in the first half hour of availability Saturday morning. By Saturday afternoon, all 23,000 tickets had been distributed. Madness, the official start of UK's basketball practice, will be held at Rupp Arena for the second-straight year.

    Hundreds of fans were present at UK's Memorial Coliseum ticket office Saturday at 8 a.m. when the distribution of free tickets began. Others obtained their tickets via the school's Website, ukathletics.com, and at TicketMaster locations throughout Kentucky.

    Less than 1,000 tickets remained available as of 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Fans wishing to acquire one of the last tickets can do so online and at TicketMaster.

    Big Blue Madness, scheduled for Friday, Oct. 13, is the official start of basketball practice for Kentucky's men's and women's teams.

    UK set a national record last year when 23,174 fans showed up for the first Madness at Rupp Arena. Big Blue Madness had been held at 8,700-seat Memorial Coliseum since the event's inception in 1982.

    Coach Tubby Smith says this year "is a little more exciting" for Kentucky, and a record crowd packed Rupp Arena on Friday night to see what he was talking about at Big Blue Madness.

    A total of 23,312 fans turned out for the opening practice, breaking the national record for spectators at a practice, according to basketball spokesman Scott Stricklin.

    Junior guard Joe Crawford did not participate and will miss the first few practices of the season after undergoing minor surgery, Smith said.

    In addition to a 20-minute scrimmage, the event featured a slam dunk contest, as well as a 3-point competition between senior Bobby Perry and former UK standout Kyle Macy, who emceed the proceedings.

    Perry won the contest 10-9.

  • 2007 -- On Saturday Morning, September 29, 2007, the Big Blue Nation lined up at Memorial Coliseum and in Cyber-space to obtain their personal tickets to the 2007 Big Blue Madness.

    Fans started gathering at the Coliseum about 5 days prior to the ticket handout process so they could secure the best of the best 23000+ seats at Rupp Arena.

    While this is an annual ritual for the Big Blue Nation, the 2007 event occurred within a context of the beginning of a new era of Kentucky Basketball.

    Billy Gillispie

    All 23,000+ tickets were taken within 2 hours for the event that starts the 2007-08 season at 9 pm on October 12, 2007.

    Note: The 2007 BBM event turned out to be the last Madness for our beloved Bill Keightley. Affectionately known as "Mr. Wildcat," Keightley had been associated with the Wildcats' basketball program since 1962. Keightley, who manned the "Bill Keightley Equipment Room" in Memorial Coliseum, was as much a fixture around UK basketball as the seven national championship trophies on display in the Joe Craft Center.

    Having just completed his 48th season on the UK sidelines, the Wildcats' record over the past four decades with Keightley as equipment manager is 1,113-351. During his tenure, he served under six UK head coaches - Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino, Orlando "Tubby" Smith and Billy Gillispie.

    Kentucky, which has fielded 105 teams, has played 2,588; meaning Keightley played a role in 57 percent of those games.

    In 1997, UK honored Keightley with a retired jersey in his honor. He joins veteran broadcaster Cawood Ledford as the only non-player or coach to have a jersey retired at UK. Keightley was also among 88 Wildcat greats inducted into the charter class of the UK Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005.

  • 2008 -- Big Blue Nation's favorite basketball team is getting a makeover.

    A year ago, Kentucky's Big Blue Madness was about showing off a new coach. This time, it was about showing off a new look.

    Billy Gillispie's Wildcats donned their new blue and white uniforms with a checkerboard pattern as the nation's all-time winningest program kicked off its preseason preparations Friday night in front of 23,000 of their closest friends.

    While fans arrived before 9 p.m., it wasn't until 11:18 that the second-year coach finally made his appearance.

    Last year, four large banners descended from the rafters, and when they finally dropped, there Gillispie stood, waving to the crowd.

    This time, the banners fell while pyrotechnics filled Rupp Arena, but Gillispie was nowhere to be seen. Instead, he entered moments later, jogging through the crowd in his gray jumpsuit, dishing out high-fives along the way.

    "I know they're excited to be here," Gillispie, already seemingly short of voice, said of his players. "They love being here at Kentucky."

    Gillispie's entrance was far humbler than that of women's coach Matthew Mitchell, who appeared riding on a fire truck.

    The men's team first took the court with a dunk contest that Ramon Harris clinched with an off the backboard follow that he jammed home.

    Then, there was a defensive-minded scrimmage, in which both sides took more than three minutes to score. It was a troubling reminder of the team's slow starts at times last season, which ended with a loss to Marquette in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

    Although the checkerboard pattern on the new uniforms is subtle, those who designed them for Nike said they were intended as a nod to jockey silks representing the state's signature industry, horse racing. Penny Chenery, who owned 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, received an honorary jersey from Gillispie at midcourt during the festivities.

    They also feature a shoulder patch that says "Mr. Wildcat." The reference is a tribute to longtime equipment manager Bill Keightley, who died earlier this year at 81. A lasting memorial to Keightley was painted on the Rupp Arena floor in front of his familiar spot on the bench.

    His daughter, Karen, wept at that honor and as fans stood and politely applauded while a tribute video to Keightley played on the large screens.

    Although the official opening practice of the college basketball season isn't until Oct. 17, Kentucky is one of a handful of schools using a technicality in the NCAA rules to hold their bash a week earlier. The NCAA allows two hours of team workouts per week, starting in mid-September.

    The early Madness events could be short-lived, though. National Association of Basketball Coaches spokesman Rick Leddy said the rule was intended to give coaches and players extra time working on their skills, not to hold a pep rally.

    Gillispie said before the festivities that he planned to have fun at this year's Madness after feeling a little too apprehensive ahead of last year's festivities.

    "I didn't know what to expect last year," he said. "I've been to a lot of Midnight Madness at different places, but Big Blue Madness is something special. I'm very excited about it."

  • 2009 -- On a stage befitting a rock star, John Calipari got his first taste of a packed house at Rupp Arena on Friday night and promised to return Kentucky basketball to "its rightful place at the top of the mountain."

    The new Wildcats coach made his entrance around 8:40 p.m. to chants of "Go Big Blue" during the program's preseason pep rally, Big Blue Madness. Then he spent the next 15 minutes delivering a rousing speech to a crowd that needed little convincing.

    "I see the foundation for my vision of this program," said Calipari, at points yelling so loud that his voice seemed to crack. "It's a vision where we are the gold standard, not just for college basketball but for all college athletics."

    Smoke and pyrotechnics filled the air as Calipari -- decked in a gray shirt, not blue -- strolled across a huge stage erected at one end of the arena, flanked by three enormous video boards and surrounded by screaming fans.

    Calipari's first words to the sellout crowd: "All I can say, you all are awesome."

    Before his arrival, the players were introduced one by one -- standing on a catwalk above the center video screen as their names were called.

    A stirring video montage showed film clips -- many of them black and white -- of the great moments in the history of Kentucky basketball, which has won seven national titles and has more victories than any program. Among the words on the screen during the montage: "Envy our past. Fear our future."

    "I'm excited, I'm humbled and I'm honored to be your coach," Calipari said. "Tonight we turn the page from anticipation to preparation."

    After the players lined up to show off their best dunks, they split into teams for the customary scrimmage, which all-Southeastern Conference center Patrick Patterson started with three baskets -- including two dunks.

    On display, at least partially, was Calipari's patented dribble drive, which he called "basketball's most exciting offense."

    It was also the fans' opportunity to get their first glimpse on the Rupp Arena court of a star-studded freshman class, headlined by John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe.

    "If I have the choice between experience and talent, I'm taking talent every time," Calipari said.

    Wall showed off the athleticism that has some proclaiming him as a national player of the year candidate. During one drive, he sped past two defenders near the free throw line, then went airborne, finishing with a backward dunk.

    Although offense was intended to be the star of the show, defense was largely nonexistent. At one point, Calipari interrupted the scrimmage by taking the microphone and pointing out this shortcoming.

    "Folks, I hope you're enjoying this, but do you see how far we have to go?" Calipari said. "All right, just so everybody understands it."

    Among those who made an appearance over the course of the evening were country star Eddie Montgomery and former Kentucky great Tayshaun Prince. Calipari asked if actress Ashley Judd was in attendance, but that wasn't immediately clear.

    Big Blue Madness went more than an hour before the men's team was introduced, starting with a fan nailing a long 3-pointer to win a home theater system.

    Before the UK women scrimmaged, coach Matthew Mitchell acknowledged he knew who the star of the evening was, humorously urging the crowd to support Calipari because he is "a little shy."

    Calipari replaced the fired Billy Gillispie six months ago after two tumultuous years, including last season when the Wildcats failed to even reach the NCAA tournament.

    The crowd cheered loudly and often for the new team leader, and the coach gratefully basked in it.

    "I want to thank the Big Blue nation for your warming and hospitality," he said. "You all have made us feel like we've been in the Commonwealth forever."

    Introductions

    Calipari Speech Part 1

    Calipari Speech Part 2

  • 2010 -- Kentucky fans have demonstrated their insatiable appetite for basketball. All tickets to the 2010 Big Blue Madness were snapped up in the first 60 minutes of availability Saturday morning, the university reported in a press release.

    Thousands of fans were present at UK's Memorial Coliseum ticket office Saturday at 7 a.m. when the distribution of free tickets began. Others obtained their tickets via the school's Website, UKathletics.com and ticketmaster.com.

    Despite the fact that fans were limited to two tickets per person at UK's Memorial Coliseum ticket office and two per household online, this year's Big Blue Madness event sold out in 60 minutes.

    And now, THE event!

    Kentucky coach John Calipari raised his hand, calling for silence from the 22,000 who packed Rupp Arena on Friday night for Big Blue Madness.

    He gave a brief rundown of his dizzying first season with the Wildcats, when Kentucky won 35 games, the Southeastern Conference championship and produced five first-round NBA draft picks.

    Then, pausing as if to stress the point, Calipari delivered a message.

    "It's time to turn the page," he said. "We must focus on this team."

    Even if most of the focus during the team's first practice of the season -- which was equal parts pep rally and sloppy scrimmage -- centered on who wasn't on the court.

    While fellow freshmen Brandon Knight, Stacey Poole, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Jarrod Polson ran up and down the court, center Enes Kanter could only stand on the sideline.

    The 6-foot-11 Kanter must sit out team activities while the NCAA determines whether he lost his amateur status while playing for a Turkish club team in 2008-09.

    Kanter walked through pillars of smoke clad in a black hat similar to the one sported by professional wrestler "The Undertaker," one of Kanter's role models.

    UnderKanter Entrance

    He held his hands above his head as the crowd -- some of whom wore "Free Enes" T-shirts -- roared. Then, he walked to the sidelines and watched as the newest batch of Wildcats went to work.

    Free Enes

    Calipari has stressed it's not fair to compare this year's recruiting class to the one he landed a year ago after leaving Memphis for Kentucky.

    That class featured John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton, all of whom are now playing in the NBA.

    Calipari said comparing any other class to last year's isn't fair because "you'll come out on the short end."

    Maybe, but the departed stars paid homage via video message to the campus. Wall even busted out his signature dance move, the one that became a local YouTube sensation after he debuted it during last year's event.

    Several Wildcats tried to follow in his footsteps, with mixed results. Jones, Poole, Darius Miller and Josh Harrellson all busted a move during their introduction.

    All lacked the showmanship of Wall, but that might not be a bad thing.

    A year ago, Calipari turned his initial Big Blue Madness into a rock concert complete with an appearance by rising hip-hop star Drake.

    There were no celebrity guest appearances this time, maybe because Calipari knows he's got his work cut out. The Wildcats must replace their top four scorers and live up to the expectations of one of the nation's most exacting fan bases.

    Calipari knows those expectations come with the territory. But he pleaded for patience as the Wildcats try to find themselves.

    "I love this team, but we have a long way to go and I cannot wait to get started tomorrow to help these young men realize their dreams," he said.

    Video

  • 2011 -- Sept. 30th - Bundled up in temperatures that feel distinctly like fall, thousands of fans seeking tickets to Kentucky's Big Blue Madness have surrounded Memorial Coliseum. On the final day before ticket distribution at 7 a.m. Saturday, a record 570 tents have been set up.

    I'd like to call the 2011 total insurmountable, but I know better than to bet against the Big Blue Nation.

    Last year's camp-out was the previous record holder with approximately 525 tents, but UK fans needed only until Friday morning to top that. Since 9 a.m. this morning, another 20 tents have been erected on Stoll Field across the street from the basketball complex.

    At 2 p.m. on Friday, UK staff handed out control cards to fans. Patient Kentucky fans have been distracted by visits from John Calipari and members of men's basketball, women's basketball and volleyball teams.

    Oct. 1 - Once again, Kentucky fans have demonstrated their insatiable appetite for basketball. All tickets to the 2011 Big Blue Madness were snapped up in the first 60 minutes of availability Saturday morning.

    Thousands of fans were present at UK's Memorial Coliseum ticket office Saturday at 7 a.m. when the distribution of free tickets began. Others obtained their tickets via the school's Website, UKathletics.com and ticketmaster.com.

    Despite the fact that fans were limited to two tickets per person at UK's Memorial Coliseum ticket office and two per household online, this year's Big Blue Madness event sold out in 60 minutes.

    Big Blue Madness, the first practice opportunity for Kentucky's 2011-12 men's and women's basketball teams, is Friday, Oct.14. Times and broadcast info will be released at a later date.

    This will be the seventh time Madness has been held at Rupp Arena.

    Video - Anthony Davis shows why he's the number 1 prospect


    Oct 14, 2011 - More than 24,000 blue-clad fanatics got their first look at the latest incarnation of the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team Friday night.

    Saying they liked what they saw would be the understatement of the off-season.

    More than 45 minutes before Big Blue Madness started Friday, Rupp Arena was already filling up. Why? Because this year is the year, the one fans have been hearing about and looking forward to since Coach John Calipari arrived in Lexington more than two years ago.

    The John Wall/Demarcus Cousins team? That was a pleasant surprise. No one knew Cuz would be that good. Or Bledsoe. Or that Daniel Orton would get drafted in the first round (really Orlando? Really?).

    The Brandon Knight/Josh Harrellson team? No one thought that team would gel like it did, or win like it did. Or come within a bucket of playing for a national championship - like it did.

    Nope, fans would say. Nope, the so-called experts would say. No chance. Look to that third year, they would say, the year when we get Gilchrist. Now that is going to be a team. Heck, we could have Lamb and Terrence Jones and maybe a third season with Cuz and Bledsoe and Orton, and throw in Darius and DeAndre - and put it all together and you've got a title.

    Well it didn't really work out that way, did it? But the funny thing is, even though the situation has changed (no one had even heard of a center named Anthony Davis three years ago) we still have the same expectations. NATIONAL CHAMPS. Right?

    But of course. And why shouldn't we? Even though Cuz and Bledsoe and Knight and Deandre left (not to mention a guy named John Wall) Cal still brought in a third-consecutive No. 1-ranked recruiting class, one that featured the all-around No. 1 player in Davis, the aforementioned Gilchrist, the top point guard in Marquis Teague and a tall, throwback wunderkid named Kyle Wiltjer. Add them to a team that returns Jones and Lamb and Miller, and you've got a nice squad. Throw in Stacey Poole and (at Christmas) Twanny Beckham, and you've got the No.2-ranked team in the country.

    And let me just say this: They looked like a team that could very well be the second-best in the land.

    This team will have more depth than last year, and it will be more explosive. But will they get as far? Yeah - that's the question, right?

    Friday's festivities did nothing to quell the fans' hopes.

    THEN THE ROOF CAME OFF

    Things got loud when the NBA alumni were announced: Cuz, Josh, Knight, Jodie, DeAndre, Nazr, Tayshaun, Rondo and Wall all made appearances to loud ovations.

    Alumni Video

    After the team was introduced (Kyle Wiltjer may have taken the cake for best dance intro), Calipari made a speech talking about the standard UK has set over the past two seasons, and how they hope to go further this season.

    Then the 2011 Final Four banner was unfurled. Hey - it looks nice. And Rupp got very loud.

    2011 Final Four Banner Video

    THE SCRIMMAGE

    I know I only watched a scrimmage where there was no defense played, but due to the tremendous athleticism on the floor (and the shooters! and the scorers! and the rebounders! oh my!) but I haven't been this excited about a team in a long while. These guys have so much potential, you can really see this becoming a national championship-type of team.

    Random observations:

    - This team is big. And long. Maybe more long than big, but wow they look athletic.

    - Wiltjer has a gorgeous stroke from three. Just beautiful.

    - Davis and Gilchrist are dunk freaks. Can't even explain it.

    - With as many versatile players, this team will give others fits. Will be very hard to guard.

    - Gilchrist is everywhere, all the time, rebounding and putting shots back up and in. And he also hit a three.

    - Darius Miller shot the ball out of his mind (5 threes), and looked nothing but smooth on the court. Is it his time? Finally?

    - Terrence Jones, combined with Davis, could form the best tandem on the low blocks in the country. Hear that Carolina? Yeah, I said it. Jones lobbed two (TWO) passes off the backboard to himself for monster slams. That's how much non-defense was being played.

    - Davis added to his stellar evening of dunks and athletic moves by also canning a three. Nice. (Kevin Garnett, anyone?)

    - This team will have no problems scoring. Barring injury, they will score in bunches and bunches. And they will be hard to defend.

    - But the big question is: Will they guard anyone? It's much more fun to win games 100-60 than it is to win 100-99. If this team can play defense even nearly as good as last year's squad did in the postseason, these Cats will scare a lot of opponents.

    WOW. JUST WOW

    After I watched the scrimmage, I wondered how long it had been since I was this excited about a UK team. Cal's first year, maybe? I was definitely excited about Wall, but I didn't know about Cuz or Bledsoe. I was excited when Tubby brought in a No. 1 class with Randolph Morris, Joe Crawford and Rajon Rondo. Then add in transfer Patrick Sparks and toss in veteran Chuck Hayes and we had a great team.

    But I'm really excited about this year. Really excited. With all of the recruits there Friday night, I just kept wondering why wouldn't a kid want to come to UK?

    -- Ryan Clark

    2011 Big Blue Madness Highlights Video

  • 2012 --Friday night was cause for joyous celebration in Lexington, as the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team kicked off its 2012-13 season with an extravagant Big Blue Madness event.

    While the overarching point is supposed to be about the team's opening scrimmage, "Midnight Madness" has turned into a nationwide phenomenon for top-tier programs.

    Essentially a blown-up pep rally, Big Blue Madness was an opportunity for the Wildcats to introduce fans to the newest crop of freshman and bask in the glory of the past.

    For John Calipari, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate his accomplishments. Fresh off winning his first National Championship in 2012 (and eighth in school history), the Kentucky coach once again brings in the top recruiting class in the nation.

    With both facets on display Friday night, here's a look at all the best moments from this year's Big Blue Madness.

    Women's Coach Matthew Mitchell Does the MC Hammer Dance

    I'm not quite sure what to say about that other than the fact it made me laugh possibly harder than I have my entire life.

    Mitchell's dance, both horrifyingly awkward and endearing at the same time, makes you almost wish that Calipari would join him for a dance battle.

    Nevertheless, Kentucky faithful came into Big Blue Madness wondering if Mitchell could top his dance moves from years prior and the women's coach came through in spades.

    These events are about putting on a great show for the fans and there was perhaps no more entertaining moment than "Hammer Time" on Friday.

    Willie Cauley-Stein Dunks On Nerlens Noel

    Perhaps the most thrilling moment of the scrimmage portion of festivities came when Cauley-Stein took a beautiful behind-the-back pass from Archie Goodwin and threw down on the Wildcats' top recruit.

    While it was certainly a friendly posterization, the two freshmen will be battling it out in practice all season long. With Round 1 in the books, I'm scoring it 10-8 in favor of Cauley-Stein.

    Something tells me Noel will be getting his revenge sooner rather than later, though.

    Amazing On-Court Promotional Video

    Perhaps the most lavish segment of the evening came when workers spread out a projection screen over the court for a video that honored both Kentucky's past and present.

    Seen in the video are seemingly draw-ups of past plays by great Kentucky players, including John Wall and Rajon Rondo, instead of your standard highlight reel.

    Though it may have been a little confusing at first for those in attendance, that video was a stroke of absolute genius.

    The Re-Raising of the Banners

    Easily the best moment of the night, Kentucky brought back stars from previous National Championship teams to join Calipari in re-raising the banners to the rafters.

    While this night was certainly about the kickoff of a new season, it was obvious that the Wildcats wanted to celebrate and honor the past.

    This was a touching moment for almost every Kentucky fan and was easily the highlight of Friday night's festivities.

    --Tyler Conway

  • 2013 -- Once again, Kentucky fans have demonstrated their insatiable appetite for basketball. All tickets to the 2013 Big Blue Madness were snapped up in the first 30 minutes of availability Saturday morning

    Thousands of fans were present at UK’s Memorial Coliseum ticket office Saturday at 7 a.m. when the distribution of free tickets began. Others obtained their tickets via the school’s Website, UKathletics.com and Ticketmaster.com.

    Despite the fact that fans were limited to four tickets per person at UK’s Memorial Coliseum ticket office and four per household online, this year’s Big Blue Madness event sold out in 30 minutes.

    Big Blue Madness, the first open practice opportunity for Kentucky’s 2013-14 men’s and women’s basketball teams, is Friday, Oct.18.

    This will be the ninth time Madness has been held at Rupp Arena.

    Post Event

    Let's just call this one Bigger Blue Madness. Yet again, the University of Kentucky outdid itself Friday night at the annual extravaganza that is the first public practice by both of the school's basketball programs.

    There was a giant, spinning, firework-spewing video screen suspended above the court at Rupp Arena. As the men's players were introduced, they appeared to levitate from beneath a massive, temporary stage. They emerged through jets of smoke, wearing warm-up suits with buttons and jersey numbers that glowed in the dark. A "fan stunt" lit up the crowd's phones and synchronized their strobe with the music.

    "We don't just play college basketball," coach John Calipari crowed – from his own separate stage, using a teleprompter fit for the President, with all eight of the program's national championship trophies at his feet. "We are college basketball."

    This year's show cost "just north" of $400,000, a new record, said Jason Schlafer, UK's senior associate athletic director over marketing and advertising. The school spent about $300,000 on Madness last year, when the court was transformed into a huge, high-definition video screen.

    This year's crowd included a host of NBA players and a heap of elite recruits – the people the event is really meant for these days. Per usual, Calipari delivered a rousing recruiting pitch, er, speech.

    "Have I told you, you people are crazy?" he said as the capacity crowd roared. "We are borderless. We are everywhere. No corner is left untouched by the blue mist."

    UK women's coach Matthew Mitchell, who has built a tradition of hilarious dance routines at Madness, also did not disappoint. He came out in an afro wig and did his best James Brown impersonation, even dropping into the splits, before a quick costume change – at which time he transitioned into a routine with backup dancers in schoolgirl outfits and shimmied to Britney Spears' "Hit Me Baby One More Time."

    Mitchell grabbed the microphone afterward and said, "It can't get any more stupid than that, can it?" Later, his team cut its 10-minute scrimmage short by abruptly breaking into a choreographed dance and step show on the court.

    No official stats were kept for the men's scrimmage, although the presumed star, 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward Julius Randle, looked like it. He made moves that defied his size, sank spinning buckets, grabbed rebounds in traffic and led a fast break that he finished himself, dribbling behind his back to get into the lane and throw down a thundering dunk. Freshman guard James Young also hammered one high-flying dunk and rookie forward Marcus Lee was every bit as bouncy as advertised, blocking multiple shots and slamming one home.

    Lee finished a between-the-legs jam in warm-ups, where Randle also crammed a 360-degree dunk and senior guard Jarrod Polson, who is only 6-foot-2, wowed the fans by catching his own bounce pass and completing a spinning slam.

    In short, nothing happened to curb the hype about this year's Wildcats, who will begin the season ranked No. 1 after ending last season in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament.

    "We were humbled. I was humbled. Tonight we put into action what we learned," Calipari told the crowd. "Every team we play will be more experienced than us, but if we become one unit, play with one heartbeat and a love for each, we will be unbreakable."

    Former UK stars John Wall, Anthony Davis and Darius Miller were in the building – and drew roars from the crowd when they were introduced – along with most of the Washington Wizards and New Orleans Pelicans, who will play an NBA preseason game at Rupp Arena tonight. Calipari held a coin flip for use of the Cats' palatial locker room for that game. Davis and Miller's Pelicans won.

    But the recruits were the most important visitors. Top 2014 UK targets Stanley Johnson, Trey Lyles and James Blackmon – plus Cats commits Karl Towns and Tyler Ulis – were in attendance. Eric Davis, a junior guard from Michigan, was also on the guest list.

    Five top sophomore recruits also attended: Harry Giles, a power forward from North Carolina and the nation's No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2016, five-star St. Louis guard Jayson Tatum, four-star Alabama guard Josh Langford, four-star Georgia guard Kobi Simmons and four-star Taylor County guard Quentin Goodin, the state's top sophomore.

    The recruits were paraded onto the court before the men's team was introduced and drew a standing ovation. Calipari might as well have been speaking directly to them during parts of his speech.

    "Our biggest opponent? Ourselves," Calipari said. "At Kentucky we compete against ourselves every day and we cannot let the strain and spotlight of this program affect us. … We are the place to help you achieve your dreams. … If you want to be developed as an NBA player, if you want to be developed as a person of character, you come here."

    Assuming that message was delivered, the night was worth every penny to Calipari and the Cats.

  • 2014 -- LEXINGTON, Ky. - Once again, Kentucky fans have demonstrated their insatiable appetite for basketball. All tickets to the 2014 Big Blue Madness were snapped up in the first 30 minutes of availability Saturday morning.

    Thousands of fans were present at UK's Memorial Coliseum ticket office Saturday at 7 a.m. when the distribution of free tickets began. Others obtained their tickets via the school's website, UKathletics.com and Ticketmaster.com.

    Despite the fact that fans were limited to four tickets per person at UK's Memorial Coliseum ticket office and four per household online, this year's Big Blue Madness event sold out in 30 minutes.

    UK Athletics encourages all fans to neither buy nor sell their Big Blue Madness tickets.

    Big Blue Madness, the first open public practice opportunity for Kentucky's 2014-15 men's and women's basketball teams, is Friday, Oct.17.

    This will be the 10th time Madness has been held at Rupp Arena.

    Post Event

    LEXINGTON, Ky. – Standing on stage next to the rapper Drake Friday night, John Calipari borrowed a move from the hip-hop world to launch another Kentucky basketball season.

    "OK, enough talk," Calipari told the crowd at Big Blue Madness, "let's ball!," then dramatically dropped the mike. It's a move Drake has probably done more than a few times at his concerts.

    Fireworks ignited and smoke machines went off inside Rupp Arena, and the crowd went wild. UK's public "practice" continued in the oversized manner that perhaps only this oversized program can pull off. It started a season of great expectations for last year's national runner-up and this year's preseason No. 1.

    Drake, who has adopted the Cats as his favorite team and been an occasional visitor at their games, appeared at the end of the elaborate player introductions.

    "And from Toronto, Canada …. Drake!" the public-address announcer said.

    Drake then introduced Calipari, calling him a close friend and one of the most important people in his life.

    He also called the coach "the Godfather of those that bleed blue" as well as "the George Clooney of the hardwood," because of Calipari's well-kept hair. Drake's presence and kind words surely didn't hurt the Cats' efforts to impress their six five-star recruiting visitors.

    In a brief scrimmage, Alex Poythress led all scorers with 13 points as the White team beat the Blue 42-36. Marcus Lee led with the Blue team with 10 points.

    Calipari, who plans to give 10 players nearly equal minutes this year with a five-for-five "platoon" substitution pattern, closed the evening by telling the crowd the new season "is going to be a process."

    "We're trying things that have never been done before, but I can promise you that you have a talented group of great young men representing you," he said.

    It capped a night in which UK pulled out all the stops.

    There was an enormous stage where UK's men's and women's players were introduced one by one. Eight tall flat screens hung above it, each displaying a flowing animation of one of the Cats' national championship banners. Two bigger screens flanked the stage, and at one point, one displayed "Succeed," the other "Proceed." That's Calipari's slogan for a program built on sending players to the NBA draft.

    Rows of special concert lighting hung from the rafters, and extra speakers pumped in the bass. UK's mascots repelled from the rafters to start the night.

    Walk-on Sam Malone, unlikely to play much this year, made his season highlight with the dance of the night after his introduction, grooving down the stairs of the stage to the song "Tequila" in a mix of hip hop and Pee-wee Herman.

    Women's coach Matthew Mitchell took his tradition of performing an over-the-top dance routine to a new level. He sang two songs by Bruno Mars while dressed in an electric blue, sequined jacket and a pompadour wig.

    His version of Mars' ballad "Just The Way You Are," substituted the lyrics, "You're amazing" for "Big Blue Nation."

    "I hope it's apparent in that opening that we do love you," Mitchell told the crowd with a laugh.

    Freshman Jaycee Coe and junior Ivana Jakubcova, who suffered concussions during a car accident a week earlier, went through player introductions, but are sidelined from playing.

    Big Blue Madness also serves as UK's biggest recruiting weekend. Five-star senior targets Jaylen Brown, Malik Newman, Brandon Ingram, Carlton Bragg and Stephen Zimmerman, four-star UK commitment Charles Matthews and five-star junior target Tyus Battle were in attendance.

    After the women's scrimmage, the recruits received a standing ovation as they walked from one end of the court to the other to their seats. Bragg also posted a picture of himself with Drake on Twitter.

    Fans were glad to catch a glimpse of Calipari's Cats.

    "I know not to have too high expectations, and I'm not going to say 40-0 just yet – that's a little ridiculous – but I do have high expectations because Cal has shown he can get talented teams to play together," said Todd Jefferson, a UK fan who plays on the Asbury College basketball team. "I think that his biggest challenge this year is to get the egos to stay down, which he has before."

    - - Steve Jones

Directions To Rupp Arena

  • From Bluegrass Airport (Lexington):

    To High Street Lot: When leaving the Airport parking area, turn left onto Man O' War Blvd. Turn right at the lights, onto Versailles Road (US 60). Follow Versailles Road (US 60) into Downtown which will split into a one-way street called Maxwell Street. Take Maxwell Street for two blocks, and the Parking Lot is on the left side. The Parking Lot is to the left; enter at either gate.

    To Manchester Street Lot / Truck Parking for Event Load-in: When leaving the Airport parking area, turn left onto Man O' War Blvd. Turn right at the lights, onto Versailles Road (US 60). Continue on Versailles Road for approximately 4 miles. Versailles Road will change names to West High Street. Next, take a left onto Oliver Lewis Way, then your immediate right onto Manchester Street and finally your immediate left into Rupp Arena's rear parking lot.

  • From Cincinnati, OH

    To High Street Lot: Take I-75 South to Exit 113 (Paris Exit). Turn right at the end of exit ramp onto Paris Pike (US 27), which turns into Broadway. Follow Broadway in to Downtown, past Main Street. Turn right on High Street. The Parking Lot is to the left; enter at either gate.

    To Manchester Street Lot / Truck Parking for Event Load-in: Take I-75 South to Exit 115 (Airport/Lexington exit). Turn right at end of exit ramp onto Newtown Pike. Take Newtown Pike until it comes to West Main Street, downtown. Continue across West Main Street onto Oliver Lewis Way, then take your immediate left onto Manchester Street at the traffic light and finally your immediate left into Rupp Arena's rear parking lot.

  • From Louisville, KY:

    To High Street Lot: Follow I-64 East until it joins I-75 South. Take I-75 South to Exit 113 (Paris Exit). Turn right at the end of exit ramp onto Paris Pike (US 27), which turns into Broadway. Follow Broadway in to Downtown, past Main Street. Turn right on High Street. The Parking Lot is to the left; enter at either gate.

    To Manchester Street Lot / Truck Parking for Event Load-in: Follow I-64 East until it joins I-75 South. Take Exit 115 (Airport/Lexington exit). Turn right at end of exit ramp onto Newtown Pike. Take Newtown Pike until it comes to West Main Street, Downtown. Continue across West Main Street onto Oliver Lewis Way, then take your immediate left onto Manchester Street at the traffic light and finally your immediate left into Rupp Arena's rear parking lot.

  • From Knoxville, TN

    To High Street Lot: Take I-75 North to Exit 104. Turn left at end of exit ramp onto Richmond Road (US 25 & US 421). Follow Richmond Road (US 25 & US 421) into Downtown (Richmond Road will become Main Street). Turn left on Broadway. Turn right on High Street. The Parking Lot is to the left; enter at either gate.

    To Manchester Street Lot / Truck Parking for Event Load-in: Take I-75 North to Exit 104. Turn left at end of exit ramp onto Richmond Road. Follow Richmond Road into Downtown (Richmond Road will become Main Street). Remain on Main Street past Broadway; Rupp Arena and Heritage Hall will be on your left. Get into the left lane and turn left onto Jefferson Street (Circle 1928), then the next right onto Manchester Street and finally the next right into Rupp Arena's rear parking lot.

    From Ashland, KY

    To High Street Lot: Follow I-64 West until it joins I-75 North. Take Exit 113 (Paris Exit). Turn right at the end of exit ramp onto Paris Pike (US 27), which turns into Broadway. Follow Broadway in to Downtown, past Main Street. Turn right on High Street. The Parking Lot is to the left; enter at either gate.

    To Manchester Street Lot / Truck Parking for Event Load-in: Follow I-64 West until it joins I-75 North. Take Exit 115 (Airport/Lexington exit), and turn left onto Newtown Pike. Take Newtown Pike until it comes to West Main Street, Downtown. Continue across West Main Street onto Oliver Lewis Way, then take your immediate left onto Manchester Street at the traffic light and finally your immediate left into Rupp Arena's rear parking lot.

  • From Nashville, TN

    To High Street Lot: Take I-65N from Nashville. Then take exit 93 onto the Bluegrass Parkway and drive until it ends at Versailles Road. Follow Versailles Road (US 60) into Downtown which will split into a one-way street called Maxwell Street. Take Maxwell Street for two blocks, and the Parking Lot is on the left side. The Parking Lot is to the left; enter at either gate.

    To Manchester Street Lot / Truck Parking for Event Load-in: Take I-65N from Nashville. Then take exit 93 onto the Bluegrass Parkway and drive until it ends at Versailles Road. Continue on Versailles Road for approximately 9 miles. Versailles Road will change names to West High Street. Next, take a left onto Oliver Lewis Way, then your immediate right onto Manchester Street and finally your immediate left into Rupp Arena's rear parking lot.