BIG BLUE MADNESS BEGINS ANEW IN SEPTEMBER

Wildcat fans are ready for another season of Big Blue Madness.

On the heels of the University of Kentucky’s football team taking a 38-0 beating from Florida Saturday, it should be noted that UK’s basketball team started waking from its slumber with tickets for Big Blue Madness going on sale earlier in the day.

Five months and back at it. Really Big Blue never went dormant. There was the post-celebration from its national championship; head coach John Calipari traveled the state displaying the trophy; recruiting; the NBA Draft, where six UK players were selected; and Anthony Davis, the national player of the year, also made the gold-winning Olympic basketball team.

It has been a busy off-season. That is what happens when you win the national title and Coach Cal is at the wheel.

The 2012-2013 edition of Madness officially began Tuesday night, when hundreds of otherwise normal people began lining up on The Avenue of Champions in Lexington, looking for the chance to dash across the street Wednesday morning and secure a place in line to buy tickets for Kentucky’s annual pre-season basketball showcase that is Big Blue Madness.

This is what commonly is referred to as “Midnight Madness” on many college campuses. It’s the first hour of the first day that the NCAA allows basketball practice to be held. It started on October 15, 1971, when Lefty Driesell took his Maryland Terrapins on a 1.5 mile run at 12:03 a.m.

But UK is the originator of the Madness. Its 1982 squad, which featured Dicky Beal, Derrick Hord, Charles Hurt, Jim Master, Dirk Minniefield, Melvin Turpin and Kenny “Sky” Walker, was the first to officially participate in an event promoted as “Midnight Madness” where students were invited to attend.

Since then it has gone from madness to insanity really. Rupp Arena goes dark, the announcer comes up, and with fireworks, lasers, riser platforms and smoke-filled introductions, out come these 18-year old kids to all this adulation. Hell UK was doing some of this marketing stuff before the NBA figured it out.

It’s a bit of hero-worship for me, but folks have a great time. And with regular season games always sold out, this gives a different set of fans a chance to see the newest edition of Kentucky’s basketball tradition, which will be held on October 12 at Rupp Arena this year.

By early Wednesday morning thousands had joined the line, and at 7:00 a.m. the call went out and officials signaled the masses could go for it. This sprint across Euclid Avenue, with tents in hand, has become a bloodthirsty affair. Shoulder shivers, stunts, spins, elbows, stiff-arms, all’s fair when trying to stake out that valued place in line.

Sure UK could hand out line numbers and everyone could go home till Saturday morning, but where is the fun in that. It cuts down on the spectacle and the ensuing festivities that go on inside a three-day tent city.

Why would a school that lost six of its seven primary players be excited about the upcoming season? Reserve forward Kyle Wiltjer is the lone returning player of consequence, along with NC State transfer Ryan Harrow. They are joined by the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, which includes centers Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein, small forward Alex Poythress and shooting guard Archie Goodwin.

The Sporting News currently ranks Kentucky No. 4 coming into the preseason.

With that kind of potential there is no shortage of excitement in Lexington, and these basketball-crazy fans are hungry to get a look at Coach Cal’s new cast of characters.

As a result all 24,000 tickets to Big Blue Madness were gone within 35 minutes of going on sale Saturday.

I feel bad for the football team, but bring on the MADNESS!

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