To say it was an eventful early season for Kentucky men’s and women’s basketball at the University of Kentucky would be a slight understatement.
The unofficial opening of the season took place Friday night with Big Blue Madness from the historic Memorial Coliseum as both men's and women's squads participated in the tradition.
Even though it was different in that Madness was moved from Rupp Arena and it had no public attendance, it was still blue and white, glitz and glam, SEC Network coverage, and all the bells and whistles we have come to associate with Kentucky basketball.
With COVID-19 raging and a lot of sad and tough news in the last couple of days, Madness at least for a little while gave the Commonwealth and fans across the nation a small respite.
The UK men’s team enters this season ranked No. 10 in the country with a blend of veteran transfers and heralded freshmen looking to make their mark on the program. If they can do so, they will join an elite company.
In the last 11 years of the John Calipari era, Kentucky has really asserted its dominance highlighted by three more Wildcats that were selected in the 2020 NBA Draft: Tyrese Maxey, Immanuel Quickley, and Nick Richards. UK has produced 41 NBA Draft picks, 31 first-rounders, 21 lottery selections, and three No. 1 picks.
On Friday, CBS Sports christened the Kentucky Wildcats “the Greatest College Basketball Program Ever.” Yeah, that’s right. EVER.
Using a data-driven formula from a variety of sources, the Cats ranked first in front of fellow bluebloods North Carolina, Duke, UCLA, and Kansas. That’s fun, right BBN?
For the UK women, it’s been a little more topsy turvy, first with the news of the retirement of coach Matthew Mitchell, who built the Kentucky women’s program into a national program in its own right. The interim head coach, Kyra Elzy, has a tremendous resume and will no doubt lead the team well.
The Cats will open at No. 11 nationally and feature its first preseason All-American in junior forward Rhyne Howard and a deep, talented team looking to make noise on the national as well as SEC scale. That’s good stuff, right?
So when the Cats open play next week ( the women on Wednesday afternoon, the men on Wednesday night) and you need to think about something a little positive, think about this maybe:
Any way you cut it, it’s really is nice to be a Kentucky basketball fan.
Shane Shackleford is a regional sports columnist from Speedwell, Tenn. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter as well as local media outlets The Corbin Times-Tribune, London Sentinel-Echo, A Sea of Blue, KySportsStyle.com Magazine, HarlanCountySports.com, and Wildcat Sports Talk.