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Back in October, John Wall and Anthony Davis returned to Rupp Arena for a preseason game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Washington Wizards. While in town, they attended Big Blue Madness and got a chance to interact with UK fans once again. In the video above, Wizards Magazine tags along with Wall.
For eight straight seasons, Kentucky has led the nation in men's basketball attendance. In each of those seasons, an average of at least 22,000 packed Rupp Arena.
So how do UK officials determine the announced attendance for any given game?
It starts with the number of tickets distributed for each game, which includes season tickets, student tickets and single-game tickets. That number -- calculated around halftime - for the last six years has been then communicated to DeWayne Peevy, UK's deputy director of athletics and men's basketball administrator.
Working in conjunction with the primary media contact, Associate Director of Media Relations John Hayden, and event manager, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Event Operations and Championships Kevin Saal, Peevy estimates attendance by combining the amount of tickets distributed with the more than 1,000 credentialed attendees at each game. That number includes players, coaches, band members, cheerleaders, dance team members, staff, media and workers.
No NCAA guidelines are in place for calculating attendance, but most of UK's peers use tickets distributed when determining estimated attendance.
Playing a very limited role in UK's process is the actual amount of tickets scanned at entry.
The primary reason for scanning at entry is to ensure event security and that each patron has a valid ticket for the game, but many attendees are not counted in this process. Rupp Arena officials also use scan counts to determine when fans arrive for the purposes of stocking concessions and staffing the venue.
Because scan counts do not provide an accurate picture of how many are actually in attendance, UK does not record these counts from past games.
To provide an example, let's inspect how UK arrived at the estimated attendance for its last home game vs. Eastern Michigan. For that game, there were 21,721 total season, student and single-game tickets distributed. Adding in an estimated 1,000 credentialed attendees in Rupp, the attendance was announced as 22,721.
Intellectually, Calipari understands how young his team is. Because of that, he gets that it will take time for it to jell, for players to grasp exactly what it takes to win at the college level.
Then his habits kick in. He sees the talent on the floor and he wants to win.
"I can't get caught up with winning and losing right now and I am," Calipari said. "I want to win every game, but what it's causing me to do is try to make these guys better than they are at this stage."
It's Calipari's job to get the most out of his players, but by March and April, not November and December. For that reason, his mind ultimately trumps his gut.
"But the reality of it is, we are what we are: a bunch of freshmen trying," Calipari said. "I'm trying to figure them out; they're trying to figure each other out. We're still not locked into how we're going to play."
Which makes this stretch of six games before the start of Southeastern Conference play a challenge.
Starting on Sunday vs. Providence in Brooklyn, N.Y., UK will face six straight opponents with at least realistic NCAA Tournament hopes. Three games will be at home, two at neutral sites and one on the road at North Carolina.
While fans might allow their attention to drift to that matchup with the Tar Heels or even the showdown with Louisville looming at the end of the month, Providence is plenty for Coach Cal to think about.
With the Friars boasting a 6-1 record and wins over the likes of Boston College, La Salle and Vanderbilt, Calipari sees them as a natural next opponent in UK's path of increasingly more challenging games.
"They run good stuff, they play hard," Calipari said. "It's the next step up for us. It appears as though every game has been like a stepping stone if you take out Michigan State."
Senior guard Bryce Cotton leads four Friars scoring in double figures with 17.7 points per game, but defense is where Providence's strength lies. The Friars are sixth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency according to kenpom.com and have held opponents to 40.6-percent shooting from the field.
"We're just now watching film on them, but we know they're a good team," Dakari Johnson said. "Coach Cal told us they're going to be one of the better teams we've played thus far, so I'm just real excited to go back home and get to play a good team."
Home for Johnson -- a Brooklyn native -- is not far from the Barclays Center.
"My whole family's up there," Johnson said. "They're real excited to come watch me play 'cause they haven't really had a chance to see me play, so just happy to get to play in front of them."
Johnson will look to continue his strong play from his last outing on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET. In just 10 minutes against Eastern Michigan, he posted 10 points and seven rebounds.
"I think it's progressing each and every day," Johnson said. "I think I'm getting all the things Coach Cal wants me to do."
With the Wildcats set to leave for New York on Friday afternoon, Johnson will get to spend a little extra time back home. Calipari isn't yet sure of his plans for the team, but he does plan to take advantage of being in the Big Apple.
"On this trip and other trips, I want to take trips for the sole reason of teaching whether we go to the stock exchange and do stuff," Calipari said. "If we'd have left today we would have done that. If we had left earlier today or last night and we didn't, so, but we may go to a theater or we may go down to the district."
A little sightseeing would be a welcome reprieve for the Cats, who have experienced some pre-practice changes over the last week. In an effort to emphasize staying in a defensive stance, Calipari is making players do wall-sits while passing a 50-pound sand bag.
"I don't like it at all, but it helps us stay down and that's how low we have to stay throughout the whole game," Johnson said.
That's just one item on a list of improvements the Cats are making, even if they might happening a little more slowly than Calipari might like. Regardless -- though he didn't say the exact words this time -- Coach Cal likes his team.
"Of all the teams in the country, we have the most upside so deal with that," Calipari said. "If you didn't want to deal with it, either convince kids to stay or recruit bad players, they'll all stay, you won't' have to deal with this."
Don't expect Calipari to do either of those things anytime soon.
You can add another to the list.
Willie Cauley-Stein tied a career with seven blocks, anchoring the UK defense against Eastern Michigan.
Cauley-Stein had five of his blocks after halftime, helping to turn a three-point lead into an 81-63 win -- UK's 500th in Rupp Arena -- in the finale of the Keightley Classic in Rupp Arena on Wednesday. The sophomore -- at least based on his play -- seemed intent to carry his (only slightly) younger teammates, but he said postgame his motivation was primarily internal.
"I was just kind of mad because the first half, I missed some bunnies and I wasn't really rebounding that much and Coach was getting after me for not blocking some shots," Cauley-Stein said. "So then I just decided I'm going after everything."
Whether it was intentional or not, Cauley-Stein's play did serve as an inspiration.
"It doesn't really surprise me anymore," said Julius Randle, who did the bulk of his damage after halftime in posting his seventh straight double-double. "Just seeing how active he is and how much energy he has on the floor, I kind of feed of it too. It's just something that we expect from him every game."
Cauley-Stein's solid play extended well beyond shot-blocking, as he posted 15 points, eight rebounds, two assists and a steal to go with all those swats. His coach, however, still knows he has areas to improve.
"Willie is playing well," Calipari said. "He still faded away on a couple shots that he didn't need to."
Calipari isn't talking about the free-throw line, where he says Cauley-Stein has built confidence after shooting just 37.2 percent as a freshman.
"I mean, eventually I just in my mind was like, 'If I make it I make it. If I miss it I miss. The game's gonna go on,' " Cauley-Stein said. "And that's kind of how I've been playing now and it's working out. I'm going to keep on playing like that."
It didn't necessarily show in the box score -- Cauley-Stein hit 3-of-7 free throws against EMU -- but the new mentality has completely changed his game.
"That makes a big difference in how you play because now you'll be aggressive and try and score because you're not afraid to get fouled," Calipari said.
Over the last four games, that effort has come off the bench with Marcus Lee inserted into the starting lineup to win the opening tip. That streak was set to end on Wednesday, but a pregame miscommunication undid those plans.
"He was going to start today. John Robic screwed with that," Calipari said, smiling.
Cauley-Stein was aware of the confusion, but doesn't much care whether or not he starts. That makes sense, because he's played no fewer than 24 minutes in any of the games in which he's come off the bench.
"I've been playing good off the bench, but just either way," Cauley-Stein said. "It doesn't really bother me if I don't. If I do, hooray. If I don't, I come off the bench."
Cauley-Stein is averaging 11.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks in a reserve role. But make no mistake: That will end on Sunday when UK takes on Providence in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"Willie, he was going to start today," Calipari said. "He'll start from here."