When College GameDay comes to Rupp Arena, you can rest assured that records will fall.
ESPN's popular Saturday morning show came to Kentucky on Saturday and the Big Blue Nation came out in predictably large numbers. The announced attendance for the event was 15,087, the largest crowd of the season for the program. It's also the second-largest crowd in GameDay history, with the 2010 Rupp edition holding the record.
"I love the fact that they want to come out and say, 'You're not having an event that pertains to Kentucky basketball that we don't support,' " GameDay host Rece Davis said.
Fans arrived in large numbers even before the live show began and 10 a.m. ET on ESPNU and continued to fill Rupp as coverage moved to ESPN at 11 with a dodgeball game inspired by John Calipari's motivational play from earlier this week. It was then that the Kentucky team arrived, injecting even more energy into the building.
"I love the way the fans like to come out and show their pride," Davis said. "And the way I define that is they like to tell the nation, 'We're Kentucky. You're not.' Everybody else has to live up to this."
One of the highlights of the show was when Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein participated in the "Know Your Teammate" segment. Noel and Cauley-Stein were given oversized cue cards on which they wrote their answers to a few questions designed to explore how well the two know each other. Noel got a huge ovation when he was introduced, but it was also a reminder that the Wildcats will have to play without him for the third time when they take on Missouri later in the day.
"Look, it's hard," ESPN's Jay Bilas said. "But the game starts at nine o'clock. You have to play no matter what."
For all the hoopla of GameDay, the real priority for the team is to win a basketball game against a quality Missouri team. If the Rupp crowd brings the same kind of energy it had at GameDay, the Cats will get a needed boost.
"I think Rupp is one of the great arenas in the country, and primarily because of the passion that crowd brings to it," Bilas said.