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October 12, 2012

Kentucky tips off basketball season with Big Blue Madness

To celebrate the start of a new season, Kentucky basketball looked back on some of its best.

The Wildcats saluted their history at Friday's Big Blue Madness, re-raising their eight NCAA title banners with an assist from former players who helped win them.

"This is about all of us celebrating the start of this season," UK coach John Calipari told the crowd. "We might as well say we're still kind of celebrating the 2012 national championship. But more than that, we're here to celebrate the tradition of this program."

Once the fanfare was finished - Derek Anderson, Ron Mercer, Jack Givens, Kyle Macy, Joe B. Hall, Cliff Hagan, Wah Wah Jones, Odie Smith and Vernon Hatton joined Calipari in raising the banners - the Wildcats got down to the business of looking forward.

A 20-minute scrimmage highlighted some familiar faces (Kyle Wiltjer scored 19 points and Ryan Harrow 18 for a White team that won 56-55. Alex Poythress poured in 22 points for the Blue team.

That preceded a 10-minute video presentation that looked back at the first three seasons of the Calipari Era - the visits from LeBron James and Jay-Z, the 2011 Final Four, the tremendous NBA Draft success - and culminated with clips of last season's NCAA title run.

That was the capper to a night that, as usual, was full of flair. A projector in the Rupp Arena rafters displayed video images on the court below, a dazzling effect that wowed the crowd.

Matthew Mitchell started the night off with his customary dance shot, this perhaps his most carefully choreographed yet. The UK women's coach appeared on stage decked out in MC Hammer garb - the billowing top and baggy pants - and danced to a pair of Hammer hits, "U Can't Touch This" and "Too Legit To Quit."

Mitchell guided his team through a brief scrimmage, then watched as his players showed off some dance moves of their own before exiting the court.

"Thank you for your passion," Mitchell said to the crowd. "Thank you for letting us be a part of Big Blue Madness, and Go Big Blue!"

Calipari's team was next to be introduced, players strolling onto a stage - and some dancing their way off it - as their images were projected on the court. The introductions started with the most experienced players, building anticipation for another bumper crop of freshmen to be introduced.

Freshman Archie Goodwin had the most impressive dance moves, though Nerlens Noel - the last player introduced - might have had the most lasting maneuver, using his right hand to trace the outline of his trademark flat-top haircut.

It was the sort of show that Madness is known for. The real basketball can wait.

"I will say this: if we're in a dance contest, we're winning," Calipari said. "I don't know about a basketball game."


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