Mark Story: As basketball starts, note to Cats fans: Enjoy the ride

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistNovember 7, 2013 

On the morning the Kentucky Wildcats basketball season opens for real, twenty-five tidbits to stoke the fire:

25. History. Last year, Kentucky's season ended in the NIT with a loss to Robert Morris. In the seasons immediately following the Wildcats' three prior most recent NIT trips, UK averaged 30 wins.

24. Revenge. The one team UK fans are absolutely laying for (kidding, sort of) will be in Rupp Arena before the season is two weeks old — Robert Morris (Nov. 17).

23. All-time wins. Kentucky begins 2013-14 with 2,111, Kansas 2,101 and North Carolina 2,090.

22. Lost ground. Ranked No. 1, the Cats should have a shot to regain the 10 games Kansas made up on UK last season and the four that UNC gained.

21. Sayre School. This year, the small Lexington private school will see one of its former middle-school students, Dakari Johnson, playing for the Wildcats.

20. Men of Izzo. The third game for Kentucky's talented, youthful roster is against Michigan State's talented, experienced roster. Any "40-0 pressure" on UK could be gone quick.

19. Undefeated season. If UK's talented, youthful squad beats Michigan State's talented, experienced squad in the third game, that 40-0 talk gets a lot less outlandish.

18. The Jon Hood anomaly. In UK's one-and-done phase, Hood has been part of every season of the John Calipari era.

17. Merry December. The Cats play six games this season in the 12th month and they are all against teams expected to be good.

16. Twins' fun. Because basketball players wear numbers, Cats fans will not face the challenge of telling Aaron and Andrew Harrison apart — unless the identical twins secretly switch jerseys.

15. Dominique mystique. Having earned Mr. Basketball honors after leading Madison Central to the 2013 Kentucky high school state title, Dominique Hawkins can join Darrell Griffith and Darius Miller on an elite commonwealth achievement list — if UK wins the 2014 NCAA title.

14. 'The Kentucky triple.' Presently, Griffith and Miller are the only male players to play on a Kentucky high school basketball state champion, earn Mr. Basketball and win an NCAA title.

13. Intense competition. If UK blasts teams like expected, the most spirited battle among Kentucky players could be among walk-ons Brian Long, Sam Malone, Tod Lanter and EJ Floreal to become the Rupp Arena crowd's favored "human victory cigar?"

12. History. Kentucky has produced two of the last four No. 1 overall NBA Draft picks, John Wall (2010) and Anthony Davis (2012). That did not stop 2014's projected No. 1, Andrew Wiggins, from picking Kansas over UK.

11. Revenge. Cats fans can root for Julius Randle to play his way past Wiggins and into 2014's No. 1 overall NBA Draft slot.

10. A Rupp Arena first. Amazingly, UK freshman James Young got a standing ovation against Montevallo in an exhibition for scoring a basket for the other team.

9. Young's encore? The standing O came after Young's attempt to save a ball from going out of bounds along the sideline improbably went in the Montevallo basket. In terms of thrills, how does a player ever top that?

8. 'Jerry World.' When it faces Baylor (Dec. 6) in the AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, Kentucky will get a trial run in the venue that will play host to the 2014 Final Four.

7. At home in Texas. UK's three most high-profile players, Julius Randle (Dallas) and the Harrison twins (Richmond, Texas) are from the Lone Star state.

6. Kentucky proud. All eight of UK's NCAA title teams have included at least one native Kentuckian among their top six scorers.

5. Homeboy pressure. UK has four Kentucky products on scholarship this season. Is there any chance Jon Hood, Jarrod Polson, Derek Willis and/or Dominique Hawkins finish among the Wildcats' top six scorers?

4. Alex and Willie. Root with extra vigor for sophomores Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein, who could have put their names into the NBA Draft but didn't.

3. History. When 2013 NCAA champion Louisville visits Rupp Arena to face 2012 champ Kentucky, it will be the first time that the Cats have been part of a game between the two most recent NCAA title winners in Lexington.

2. Revenge. So the one team UK fans are absolutely laying for (not kidding, not at all) will be in Rupp Arena before the season is two months old — Louisville (Dec. 28).

1. Fun. However this season plays out, UK follower, remind yourself to not be so uptight about the final destination that you don't enjoy the ride.

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: Twitter: @markcstory. Blog:

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