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Top five moments from Big Blue Madness 2011

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There just really is nothing like Big Blue Madness. A combination of ebullient optimism about a season to come, dancing, dunking and pageantry, the event somehow seems to top itself season after season.

The 2011 edition was no different.

There were plenty of memorable moments from the evening, but here are my top five.

1. Hanging a banner

It's been 13 years since a new Final Four or national championship banner has been unveiled in Rupp, but that stretch ended tonight.

2. Mitchell channels MJ

Matthew Mitchell (not Michael Jackson) dances in front of the Rupp Arena crowd at Big Blue Madness. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Matthew Mitchell (not Michael Jackson) dances in front of the Rupp Arena crowd at Big Blue Madness. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Matthew Mitchell didn't do a tongue-wagging dunk like that MJ, but he did break out a white glove a la Michael Jackson.

After his team was introduced, the lights went down and "Billie Jean" played over the speakers. Mitchell took the stage and turned in a dancing effort worthy of the late pop star's legacy. The crowd absolutely ate it up, but there remains one problem: How on earth can Mitchell top himself next year? In 2010, Mitchell famously hit his Dougie to the delight of his team and Big Blue Nation, but he took things to the next level this time around. Needless to say, we're looking forward to seeing what he does next year.

3. Coach Cal's "Kentucky Effect" speech

Calipari gave a "State of the Union" address in his first season and the podium was dusted off again on Friday night. Cal talked at length about how Kentucky is a players-first program with the thousands in attendance giving their rapt attention. Check out the full transcript of his comments.

4. "I'm coming home"

Before Calipari and his team were introduced, the fans who trekked to Rupp got a treat. Nine former Cats currently playing in the NBA (Nazr Mohammed, Tayshaun Prince, Rajon Rondo, Jodie Meeks, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Brandon Knight, Josh Harrellson and DeAndre Liggins) returned to Rupp to the raucous cheers of the fans that supported them through their college careers. Watching the nine NBAers soak in the environment and take pictures, I think they enjoyed returning to Rupp as much as the fans enjoyed seeing them.

5. High hopes reinforced

Coming into Madness, fans of the men's and women's teams had plenty of reasons to be excited about the upcoming season and tonight only solidified those feelings. There's only so much that can be learned from intra-squad scrimmages, but there's no doubting Calipari and Mitchell have talent having watched them play Friday.

Coach Cal's latest group of top-ranked freshmen looks as advertised. Anthony Davis seems sure to terrorize opponents on offense and defense with his athleticism and length. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is going to score tough buckets around the rim all season long. Kyle Wiltjer has a beautiful stroke and the kind of fundamental game that will frustrate anyone trying to guard him. Marquis Teague is as physical a point guard as Cal has coached since Derrick Rose.

As for the returners, Terrence Jones looks like even more of a physical specimen than a season ago and may have some additional bounce. Darius Miller looks lighter and quicker and confident with his jumper. Doron Lamb still hits any open shot he sees. Stacey Poole looked more athletic than in 2010-11 and Twany Beckham showed the kind of frame and skillset that could allow him to contribute.

Mitchell's team may not have Victoria Dunlap anymore, but his roster has experienced an infusion of talent. Amber Smith looks healthy and ready to lead her team in her senior season. A'dia Mathies appears ready to thrive as return to her natural off-guard position. Maegan Conwright looks scrappy as ever and confident on the ball. Transfer DeNesha Stallworth won't play this season, but she has size and skill that should make her one of the SEC's best from day one. Freshmen Bria Goss, Azia Bishop and Bra'Shey Ali have the ability to contribute both now and for the remainder of their careers.

Beyond talent, watching these two teams interact is reason enough for excitement. Cal's talented group genuinely enjoys playing together and Miller looks poised to emerge as a senior leader. Mitchell has to be glad to have Smith back. Even while redshirting last year, she was a team leader and is reprising that role this time around.

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I wasn't there, but I thought that Brandon Knight was also introduced with the NBA group. Wouldn't that be 9, not 8?

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Recent Comments

  • Guy Ramsey: You are right, I left out Brandon Knight above but he is now added. Thank you for pointing that out. read more
  • Bret: I wasn't there, but I thought that Brandon Knight was also introduced with the NBA group. Wouldn't that be 9, read more