Kentucky Basketball: Big Blue Madness is completely off the rails again, and fans love it

LEXINGTON, Ky. — You’ll never believe this, but Big Blue Madness was once again an over-the-top spectacle of Kentucky basketball that cannot be matched by any other program in America, from the laser-light show to the eight national championship banners lighting up in the rafters to a totally ho-hum, “Hey, famous rapper Drake is here to hang out — again.”

“When is the last time I told you people you’re crazy?” coach John Calipari said during his annual big-tent rival/State of the Big Blue Union address, as some 20,000 people at Rupp Arena roared. “ This is Kentucky basketball.”

Calipari then spoke directly to the row of 5-star recruits — from the 2018, 2019, 2020 and, yes, even 2021 classes — when he said, “I always tell kids I meet, ‘This isn’t for everyone.’ It’s just different. My message has been and will always be, ‘Will you embrace the competition?’ ”

Then the Kentucky godfather prepared fans for a potentially bumpy road this season with a roster featuring zero juniors or seniors. And eight freshmen.

“I’ll ask you, the fans: Are you willing to embrace the process?” Calipari said. They howled in the affirmative. “OK, I want you to remember what you just said. I promise you we will be ugly early, but we always build toward March. We embrace high expectations.”

The loudest cheer came when the man who has often called the NBA Draft his favorite day of the year came right out and said what most of the crowd wants to hear: That his No. 1 goal is “to win a ninth national championship,” and eventually catch UCLA for the most titles.

Check that, the biggest roar might’ve been when Calipari introduced Drake, his longtime friend and “a friend of the program,” who served as an honorary coach for a mini-scrimmage Friday night — and showed up with some custom Nike shoes for the coach.

Like any wise man would, Calipari counseled the crowd, if they’d like to achieve their dreams and be a beautiful person inside and out, to “emulate Drake.” Then the rap superstar took the mic and told the crowd he is “a Wildcat through and through” and sent the place into a frenzy by announcing he’d be back to give a free concert for UK students.

This was a pretty standard first public practice for a college basketball team.

Wait, was this thing supposed to be about the 2017-18 Wildcats? Oh, well, there was some of that, too, but it was mostly just a big ol’ party. And nobody in Rupp Arena seemed to mind.

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