BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — For college basketball analyst Jimmy Dykes, Kentucky's Big Blue Madness is more than a celebration of basketball. Amid the sensory overload is the chance to see the subtle but significant difference that separates truly elite players from the merely good.
Dykes, who will work UK's Madness on Friday night for ESPN, will be looking for this je ne sais quoi.
"John Wall was very impressive from the first time I saw him," Dykes said in recalling Madness 2009. "You could see something different about that kid. Anthony Davis was the same way."
The player with that certain special something this season is expected to be Julius Randle. Maybe it's a regal air or some unusual athletic gift, but there's a difference.
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They're not only comfortable on the grand stage that Madness becomes, but it seems to inspire.
"The way they carry themselves," Dykes said. "To me, the best ones, they're made for that moment. And that's a big moment. For me, that's a really big night."
Madness figures to be bigger than ever this year. UK's freshmen, who include a record six McDonald's All-Americans, have been the talk of the Southeastern Conference Media Days this week. That continues an ongoing conversation that includes the chances for an unbeaten season and national championship. Fans might get a better sense of the team's potential because for the first time Madness comes after a few weeks of practice.
Coach John Calipari suggested that the scrimmage that caps each Madness should look more organized. "We hope it looks that way," he said with a smile.
"It's not just the eyes of Kentucky basketball on that night, but the eyes of college basketball are on that night," Dykes said.
Calipari often notes that Kentucky basketball is not for everyone. The spotlight shines too bright for some.
"Cal does as good a job as anybody in identifying the kind of kid to bring into Kentucky and the exposure, pressure and big moments these kids will be immediately thrust into," Dykes said.
Madness is one such moment even though there's no winning or losing involved. Dykes will be watching the players' enthusiasm, energy and demeanor. If a player, say, twerks like Miley Cyrus, that sends a message.
"Maybe they have not yet completely grasped what Kentucky basketball is all about," Dykes said of that hypothetical. "Every move for good or bad is going to be scrutinized and analyzed and talked about.
"I think they'll handle that night like a bunch of pros."
Big Blue Madness
When: 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.)
Where: Rupp Arena
Tickets: Sold out
TV: Live on WKYT-27, with live stream on UKAthletics.com. Joined in progress on ESPNU. Delayed broadcast on Fox Sports South at 11 p.m.
No. Name P. Ht. Cl.
00 Marcus Lee F 6-9 Fr.
1 James Young G 6-6 Fr.
2 Aaron Harrison G 6-6 Fr.
3 Jarrod Polson G 6-2 Sr.
4 Jon Hood G 6-7 Sr.
5 Andrew Harrison G 6-6 Fr.
13 Sam Malone G 5-11 Jr.
15Willie Cauley-SteinF 7-0 So.
21 Tod Lanter G 6-2 Jr.
22 Alex Poythress F 6-8 So.
24 EJ Floreal G 6-3 Fr.
25Dominique HawkinsG 6-0 Fr.
30 Julius Randle F 6-9 Fr.
32 Brian Long G 5-9 Jr.
35 Derek Willis F 6-9 Fr.
44 Dakari Johnson C 7-0 Fr.
0 Jennifer O'Neill PG 5-6 Jr.
3 Janee Thompson PG 5-7 So.
5Kyvin Goodin-RogersF 6-1 Fr.
10 Bernisha Pinkett G 5-7 Sr.
11DeNesha StallworthF 6-3 Sr.
12 Jelleah Sidney F/C 6-2 Jr.
13 Bria Goss G 5-10 Jr.
15 Linnae Harper G 5-8 Fr.
23 Samarie Walker F/C 6-1 Sr.
25 Makayla Epps G 5-10 Fr.
31 Samantha Drake F/C 6-3 Sr.
32 Kastine Evans G 5-8 Sr.
50 Azia Bishop F/C 6-3 Jr.