From KSR College's Tara Bilby...
Before inducting Texas A&M and Mizzou into the SEC, the last time a team was added was in 1991. Rivalries have had time to build since then and playing certain teams is more then just adding a W on your record. It’s been over two decades and more then enough time to build animosity and bring tradition to these rivalries. When teams are used to playing with each other year after year the appreciation of playing one another gets lost. With the addition of Texas A&M and Mizzou there is a new buzz and a new excitement that has been added to the SEC and Kentucky’s schedule.
Texas A&M recognizes the impact their team is going to have by being in the same conference as Kentucky. But even more than that they realize what playing Kentucky at their home court is going to do for basketball in their community.
With Kentucky being such a power house since Calipari arrived, playing Kentucky has a different meaning than it use to. Kentucky gives these teams an opportunity to play with the best and better prepare them for March and Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy recognizes that as shown in thisAggies Sports article
“I’m excited about it,” said A&M second-year coach Billy Kennedy about the Aggies’ first run through the SEC. “We are playing Kentucky twice to get indoctrinated into the SEC right away. We have Florida at home and Missouri at home. Those are three teams that will be Top 10 preseason. To beat the best you have to play the best.”
But even more than that, playing Kentucky brings a new life into a program. A reputation like Kentuckys’ brings buzz that makes people flock to see them play. It intrigues the community. Seeing a championship contender team play on your court brings an excitement that brings people who may not have any previous interest in the team out to show their support. They not only want to see Kentucky play live, they want to see their team beat them, want to be apart of it and want to cheer them to a W. Kennedy is basically using Kentucky to bring a bigger appeal to Texas A&M basketball then there previously was, in terms of the fan base as well as recruits.
“That’s great for us, being new to the league and getting recruits to identify that hey, when we say we are playing Kentucky twice, we really can say that,” Kennedy said. “We need to use that as much as possible. We need to let Texas people know that SEC basketball is good and it’s real and it’s here.”
Kennedy is implying that Kentucky even draws recruits to other schools, and he uses playing Kentucky as an incentive to play for Texas A&M. What other team has that kind of power? If recruits can’t play for Kentucky, a large portion consider it a privilege to play against us. Calipari has said that playing Kentucky is like every team’s Superbowl. While he meant that as a way to say that every team takes playing Kentucky as the most important game on their schedule, there is an attendance aspect behind that expression as well. Kentucky is changing the game of basketball, not just because of the talent of the team and powerhouse we have become, but because of the excitement Kentucky has brought to the sport. While some may hate Kentucky and think the powerhouse we are is bad, they can’t deny that Kentucky has brought a buzz that is unlike anything college basketball has recently seen.