HD: For UK fans Big Blue Madness is Halloween, Thanksgiving & New Years all in one

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By Bob Watkins

 Big Blue Madness last week was as Barnum & Bailey as ever.  A fall classic Kentucky fans cherish as Halloween, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve rolled into one. With tricks and treats, family reunion and fireworks to fuel optimism for a new season. Never mind that BBM is a rock concert with bad music, Roman Empire extravagance that borders on tacky and a fire hazard. It belongs to them. Beyond the pomp and party at Rupp Arena, we should acknowledge the silver-haired wing of Big Blue’s fan club who tuned in from home. Life-long fans without tickets or a free ride to Rupp. Folks who maybe don’t hear or see so well anymore but still adore their Wildcats. A lady in Paintsville wanted to see player names on screen during introductions. A bespectacled gentleman in Monticello wanted to know who was who during the scrimmage. Dave Baker and Kyle Macy watched the scrimmage, but didn’t report it. The roster features a host of new players, but the teevee guys told their audience little or nothing about them. Never mind. For 20,000 thousand on site and BBMers at home, it was good fun and the ticket price was right. Fans at home get another look-see November 3. - BBM snap shots • 20-man roster, including half-dozen native son walk-ons, is a splendid idea.  • Tribute to Bill Keightley was touching and well done. • Players who may impact early. Kevin Galloway and Josh Harrellson.  Galloway has flare (so did Alex Legion). Ideally, the 6-7 California JUCO has substance and earn-my-PT patience. Harrellson is bigger, wider and more skilled and confident than Mark Coury. We will see if he has as much heart. • Uniforms. In an era of polls, of 4,000 fans who voted, 57 percent like UK’s new uni, 20 per cent don’t, and 23 per cent don’t care. I think the uniform is excellent. Kudos to designer Tracy Teague, a Corbin native. But an A-minus. Instead of an American flag on jersey or pants of college basketball’s winningest program appearing on national or regional television more than 30 times this winter, UK will advertise a shoe company. • Gillispie introduction. No motorcycle or fire engine, but clever. A lofty triangled curtain with hot lights and drum roll, curtain fell, no Gillispie. The coach came running out of the stands. Was Everyman perfect.  • Women’s coach Matthew Mitchell arrived on a fire engine. Yo, coach, skip the truck thing until your team puts up couple winning seasons. • University president Lee Todd as bench coach? Nah. • Cherry on top? Daniel Orton, a 6-10, 260-pound prospect committed to Kentucky. Postscript. Lindy’s College Basketball for 2008-09 now on newsstands listed its top 40 ranked teams. Kentucky is ranked nowhere.  Perfect to stir fan passion and make bulletin boards in the posh Craft Center.

UK-SOUTH CAROLINA Kentucky’s aspirations to be in the SEC football title conversation became a whisper Saturday as Steve Spurrier’s team made UK its little brother again. Contrary to reports that Kentucky “gave it away,” a more accurate assessment: Kentucky failed to take it away from the Gamecocks. In the big, tough, skilled, oft times brutal SEC, winning teams literally conquer opponents. Offense-challenged Kentucky must find a detour around Columbia again.  The large, flashing red sign blinking in the faces of frustrated UK fans after another train wreck against the Gamecocks, reads Road Closed!

Qs & A’s DEPT. Fans ask questions. Q. College basketball has changed dramatically since your self-proclaimed Golden Age, 1950s. Have you failed to change with the times? A. Basketball hasn’t changed. The veneer has. Big money, hype, individualizing a team game (point guard, power forward, go-to-guy and ‘get me the (bleeping) ball!’). Teevee talking heads, rules-tinkerers, and rich college coaches who pander for television face time. These are the changes.  Thankfully, basics of Dr. James Naismith’s game underpin a beautiful game - guard somebody, make a good pass, shoot the ball in the basket, play unselfish. Beautiful? Think Duke-Kentucky, Mar. 28, 1992.

KY. WESLEYAN PAY DAY Kentucky Wesleyan gets a budget boost November 7 when the Panthers play an exhibition at South Carolina.   Darrin Horn’s Gamecocks need an early workout and Div-2 Wesleyan accepted the call.  Perhaps with Gardner-Webb-at-UK on his mind, Panthers coach Todd Lee called it “ ... a great opportunity to prepare our team for the season. We appreciate Darrin playing us.” Wouldn't be something if ...? Wesleyan returns eight lettermen including three starters from a 24-8 team that tied for first in the GLVC East Division. Horn has four returning starters.

WORTH REPEATING Bill Keightley’s daughter offered quote to remember at Big Blue Madness. Karen Marlowe said, “Absolutely the most beautiful uniforms the University of Kentucky has ever had. I know Daddy would be so proud and so honored that you did this for him.”      PARTING SHOT Kentuckian Tony Franklin was fired at Auburn last week for publically second-guessing the boss. Upstaging Hal ‘Slick’ Mumme at Kentucky was one thing, but joining the chorus of Tommy Tuberville critics while cashing an Auburn check was kamikaze. And so it goes. Have an idea, a question or point-of-view to share, write bob Watkins at SprtsinKy@aol.com