[caption id="attachment_324600" align="alignnone" width="2048"] Photo by UK Athletics
Kentucky basketball season is officially here, as the men's and women's teams made their unofficial debuts at Big Blue Madness just days before games officially begin Nov. 25.
Between player introductions, head coach interviews, 3-point and dunk contests, and scrimmages, there were plenty of takeaways from the highly anticipated annual event.
To break it all down, the KSR crew took all 90 minutes of the broadcast and split it up into the event's biggest highs and lows.
HIGH: Families introducing the women's team
With no fans in the stands, we knew this Madness would be different. For the most part, UK did its best to make up for it. My favorite touch was having the women's players' families introduce them. They all did well, but Olivia Owens and Blair Green's families were my favorites.
LOW: Volleyball Makes it a Late Friday Night
When Kentucky fans turned on the SEC Network at 9 pm ET, Georgia was narrowly leading Florida in the fourth set of a volleyball match in Gainesville. The Bulldogs needed to score ten more points to secure the win, but the Gators went down swinging. After a couple of reviews, Florida appeared to be on the cusp of forcing a fifth set. Luckily, the Dawgs spared us from a long night by winning in four, but it still postponed the start of Big Blue Madness until almost 10 pm ET. The event did not end until 11:20 pm ET, well passed Coach Cal's bedtime.
HIGH: Ellen introducing her "roommate"
The men's team was introduced by former players, but when it came to John Calipari, UK had to bring in The Princess. Ellen Calipari, decked out in head-to-toe blue, introduced John Calipari as the father of Erin, Megan, and Brad, and her beloved roommate.
"The Princess probably had some fun with it," John Calipari said afterwards. "We laugh. I just said, 'Man I wish when I die, I want to come back as my wife.'"
LOW: The Scrimmages were a Crime Against Basketball
The Big Blue Madness scrimmage has never been an intense event for the men's or women's team. What happened at Memorial Coliseum could hardly be considered basketball. Players were throwing underhanded passes the length of the court. The women seemed to only try to make half-court shots while the men exclusively dunked. There was absolutely zero substance whatsoever in either of the scrimmages. I don't think the fans are asking much from these "scrimmages," but some sort of real 5-on-5 would have been nice when it's one of only two opportunities to see the team before they play for the first time.
“I want everyone to scout us off this." Of course you do, Cal.
HIGH: B.J. Boston's Hair is Bouncy
My eyes were glued to his bouncy locks. Maybe it's because I wish I could have hair that immaculate. I could not even attempt to asses his shot because I couldn't take my eyes off hair that's destined to be featured in a Head and Shoulders ad.
HIGH: Isaiah Jackson is a one-and-done
Hate to break it to anyone hoping for two years out of Isaiah Jackson, but it’s just not going to happen. After an entire summer of growing buzz, coaches and players constantly hyping him up during preseason media sessions, and ridiculous measurements and testing results, the five-star forward followed it up with yet another impressive outing at Big Blue Madness.
He started the event by showing off a gorgeous jump shot during the 3-point contest, then pulled off a one-handed windmill dunk from the free throw line during the dunk contest.
Every opportunity we’ve had to see him and/or talk to the people who watch him every day in practice, the result has screamed first round, one-and-done talent. Things could change when the season opens up on Wednesday and beyond, but you better believe NBA scouts are already doing their homework on the high-flying freshman.
HIGH: Maybe Davion Mintz is a lethal shooter?
Much has been made of the Davion Mintz/Devin Askew battle for Kentucky's starting point guard spot, with the argument for Mintz leaning toward his experience and defense. But after the 3-point shootout at Big Blue Madness, maybe Mintz should be looked upon as UK's best shooter?
A small sample size, we know, but let's not act like the transfer from Creighton didn't fill it up in the 3-point contest at Madness. He finished with 22 points in the competition with a pure stroke that has fans wanting to see more.
Yes, it was an empty Memorial Coliseum, but that shot looked nice. New York Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley even noticed:
LOW: Outside of Mintz, the 3-point contest wasn't very uplifting.
Maybe there was some truth in Cal's comments to Immanuel Quickley?
LOW: The event was pre-recorded
SEC Network commentator Tom Hart shared on Twitter earlier in the week that Big Blue Madness was being pre-recorded on Wednesday, even posting a preview of one of Jacob Toppin’s throwdowns during the dunk contest. Though Hart quickly deleted the tweet to keep things quiet for a while, John Calipari again let the cat out of the bag by previewing “today’s NBA Draft” during one of his interviews.
It also didn’t help that Hart was live tweeting the event while he was talking to players and providing analysis on television.
Solid effort by UK and the SEC Network, but Coach Cal spoiled the surprise.
HIGH: Rhyne’s crown still fits
“Yup, still fits.”
That was all Rhyne Howard needed to say for my entire back and spine to fill up with chills. The reigning SEC Player of the Year and consensus favorite to repeat again this season plopped a crown right on the top of her head during her video introduction. She hasn’t been quiet about coming out on a revenge tour this season after being snubbed from an All-American roster a season ago and the swagger isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
I, personally, am here for every second of it.
HIGH: Chasity Patterson wins back-to-back(-to-back?) 3-point contests
She did it in high school and now she’s a repeat champion; Chasity Patterson has won three 3-Point Contests (that we know of). Her first win came back when she was a McDonald’s High School All-American, and she was also the winner at last year’s Big Blue Madness during her debut season in Lexington. Going up against first-year player Erin Toller in a sudden-death round, Patterson made it back-to-back 3-Point Shootout wins on Friday night.
Why couldn’t we bet on this??
LOW: No Matthew Mitchell dance
Kyra Elzy’s introduction was fun, but nothing can compare to the empty feeling we all had when Matthew Mitchell never took the dance floor. We can all agree that Coach Elzy is going to be a fan-favorite for years to come, I just wish we could have gotten one more Classic Mitchell Moment.