In the spirit of John Calipari saying Kentucky's top priority last season was to produce first-round picks, and because it's never too early these days to look ahead, let's skip over the upcoming season and get to what's supposedly important. Here's how ESPN analyst Chad Ford judges UK players in the 2016 NBA Draft:
■ Tyler Ulis proves that size matters.
"I love him as a player," Ford said. "I know so many NBA teams that love him as a player. But we all know 5-8 or 5-9 is a real challenge in the NBA.
"It's size, and only size, for him. It's the only thing that's holding him back."
Ford lauded Ulis' court vision, skills, shooting ability, speed, judgment, competitiveness and athleticism.
"There's really not much to poke a hole into his game," Ford said. "If he was 6-1 or 6-2, he'd be a top-five pick in the draft. If he was taller, we'd be talking about him like Chris Paul."
What Ford called "a sort of renaissance of point guards" in the NBA jeopardizes Ulis' chances of a pro career.
"So many good ones," Ford said of the NBA's point guards. "Can you imagine him trying to stop Russell Westbrook? Or Steph Curry?"
Of course, Ulis-sized players can flourish in the NBA. Isaiah Thomas, who is listed at 5-foot-9, rescued the Celtics on opening night Wednesday. "An outlier" is what Ford called Thomas.
It's not unreasonable to think an NBA team will draft Ulis.
"If he went in the 20s, that wouldn't shock me," Ford said. "A team that said this kid is just so good at so many things, that we're going to hope he's an outlier."
■ Alex Poythress must, at last, give NBA teams a reason to believe.
"The whole thing with him is can he get anything going offensively on his own?" Ford said. "Every summer we hear he's improved on his jump shot a bit. He's improved on his ballhandling a bit. You know, if he ever put it all together, I still believe he can be a first-round pick because the physical tools are elite."
In the last three seasons, UK fans and NBA evaluators have gotten glimpses of Poythress's physical tools. A high-flying dunk or rebound in traffic. To move into the first round, Poythress must sustain the excellence.
■ Skal Labissiere can join John Wall, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns as first overall picks from Kentucky.
"Skal is going to be in the mix for the No. 1 pick," Ford said. "He, in my mind, is not only the best player on Kentucky's team, but could be a superstar in the NBA."
■ Jamal Murray is a lottery pick.
"For sure," Ford said. "Probably top 10. If he keeps playing the way he was playing this summer, he might be a top-five pick."
■ Isaiah Briscoe is an intriguing player. NBA scouts will need time to assess him.
"Briscoe is a wild card for me," Ford said. "There's talent there. Where he fits in all of that (at UK) will be the question mark."
Ford wondered about what happens if Briscoe is third on UK's unreal point guard depth chart. Behind Ulis and Murray. Ahead of Dominique Hawkins.
"There is probably going to be a problem with getting Briscoe and Murray significant minutes at (point guard)," Ford said. "If Briscoe spends all his time off the ball, that might not help his draft stock."
Then again, you can look even further into the future to judge Briscoe's draft status.
"Briscoe's got a chance," Ford said. "He's not a, for sure, one-and-done type of player. ...
"There's talent there. Where he fits in (UK's rotation) will be the question mark."
■ Marcus Lee is also a wild card
"He has the talent of a guy who could be a first-round pick," Ford said. "He hasn't put it together the first two years. If he puts it together this year, for sure, he could be a first-round pick. He absolutely has that talent. We just haven't seen it consistently on the court yet. But, for sure, he's an NBA player if he gets there."
Summing up, Ford saw Labissiere and Murray as lottery picks.
"After that, it gets a little fuzzier," he said. "Those two guys are the two clear-cut, elite NBA prospects. ...
"Right now, Lee, Poythress and Ulis are probably second-rounders. But all of them, especially Lee and Poythress, if they had big years, could leap right back up because they have all the physical tools you'd want in a player."
Besides basketball competition, fans who attended the Blue-White Game saw a Rupp Arena in the early stages of transition.
Ribbon board advertising ringed the facade dividing the upper and lower levels. It may take time getting used to relishing a good play while being reminded where to get enchiladas.
Next up will be new video boards in the upper corners. The new screens will be about 5 feet wider, and installed one at a time beginning after the exhibition game against Kentucky State. All four should be in place for the Louisville game on Dec. 26.
"Fans will actually see the contrast between the old and new as it is happening," Lexington Center Corp. President and CEO Bill Owen said in an email. "I think this is unprecedented."
In June of next year, work will begin on a press row at the bottom of the upper arena opposite the team benches.
Construction will also begin on a center-hung scoreboard and new sound system. The red ducts and support towers will be painted, plus a new scorer's table and video/message boards in the Hyatt Regency hotel lobby installed.
The Rupp Wi-Fi will be upgraded in the fall of 2016.
'Rupp is historic'
Meanwhile, UK Coach John Calipari was asked at SEC Media Day about Rupp Arena's viability going into the future.
"Rupp Arena is historic," he said, "and it's 35 years old."
(Actually, this will be UK's 40th season playing in Rupp Arena. And the arena has had several upgrades. UK fans of a certain age may recall the original multi-colored seating sections, including — ahem — bright red and bright orange.)
Calipari suggested that opinion about Rupp Arena would vary depending on the viewpoint.
"For me as a coach and my players, we don't see the upper concourses," he said. "We don't sit upstairs. ... Our locker room is nicer than any NBA locker room. ...
"For fans and the presentation of the game and their seats and all, something needs to be done at some point. Because it's 35 years old."
This led the questioner to seemingly get to his point and ask about the likelihood of UK building an on-campus arena.
"I don't know," Calipari said. "That's above my pay grade. If they were doing it, they'd probably tell me."
Job 1 for planners of an on-campus arena would be finding a place to build it. Job 2 — finding a way to pay for it. Job 3 — finding a way for Eli Capilouto to rationalize a new arena when only a year ago he did not support Mayor Jim Gray's plan for a sweeping renovation of Rupp because UK had more important non-athletic priorities.
Former UK player John Pelphrey was the analyst on the SEC Network telecast of the Blue-White Game. When Billy Donovan went to the Oklahoma City Thunder this season, Pelphrey decided to stay in Gainesville, Fla., where his son, Jaxson, is a high school senior.
After trying television work for a season, Pelphrey said he would re-assess his career options.
Of course, Pelphrey is familiar with the curious history of Big Blue Madness and the Blue-White Game. For Madness, UK fans camp out for tickets and fill Rupp Arena. For Blue-White, plenty of seats (whole sections!) are available.
Of the two preseason events, Blue-White provides a much better hint at how good the Kentucky team will be. UK broadcasting icon Cawood Ledford was proud to say he never attended the sound and fury signifying nothing that is Madness.
According to Rupp Arena's turnstile count, attendance for Madness was 19,480. The turnstile count for the Blue-White Game was 12,373. (UK includes every person in the arena — fans, players, coaches, cheerleaders, trumpet players, ushers, security — in announcing an estimated official attendance. That's why Blue-White's attendance was 15,007, which UK touted as the second-largest crowd for a Blue-White Game. UK also said the 15,007 surpassed the average home attendance last season of all but 13 Division I teams.)
To explain the greater popularity of Madness, Pelphrey cited the tradition and spectacle surrounding the event.
'Great young coach'
In the telecast of his debut with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Billy Donovan was described as a "great young coach." Donovan turned 50 in May.
Is that young?
Eleven of the NBA's 29 other coaches are younger than Donovan. The youngest is Boston Celtics Coach Brad Stevens, at 39.
Counting Minnesota interim coach Sam Mitchell, who is 52, the average age of an NBA coach this season is 51.5.
You might think there are no winners nor losers in an intrasquad scrimmage. Apparently, that would be wrong even though eight players logged minutes for both teams.
UK announced that the White team broke a 13-game losing streak by beating the Blue team Wednesday.
To Devin Booker. He turned 19 on Friday. ... To Chuck Verderber. He turns 56 on Tuesday. ... To former LSU Coach Dale Brown. He turned 80 on Saturday. ... To former West Virginia coach (and UK assistant) Gale Catlett. He turned 75 on Saturday. ... To former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer. He turned 86 on Friday.