Kentucky raises the banner, headlines Midnight Madness


Love him or hate him, Kentucky head coach John Calipari, is sitting comfortably atop the college basketball world. Within the last two weeks, he’s landed the Harrison twins and James Young to what can be an even better recruiting class in the coming months. He has a solid core of freshmen that could make another run in March. And oh, yeah he got to raise another championship banner in Rupp Arena on Friday night.

“I came here to win national titles for you,” Calipari told the crowd. “This is about celebrating the start of the season, but we’re still going to celebrate the 2012 national championship. We’re here to celebrate the tradition of this program.”

The concerts, videos, dances, scrimmages, and all the other spectacles are nice, but regardless the banner raising at Kentucky is the biggest event on Midnight Madness.

Of course, Kentucky had the flashy moments, such as a court that looked like an iPad for much of the night.

Nerlens Noel, the nation’s top recruit, got an odd welcome to UK, getting dunked on by fellow freshman, Willie Cauley-Stein.

Several dunks were thrown down around the country:

Baylor sophomore, Deuce Bello showed his ups by jumping over 7-foot-1  freshman Isaiah Austin.

Mizzou’s senior guard, Keion Bell leaped over six people.

Wagner’s Josh Thompson, who jumped over both of his parents, a year after he jumped over his mother.

While Thompson’s dunk was a repeat of a previous Midnight Madness, Connecticut starts a new era with Kevin Ollie leading the Midnight Madness.

Ollie will have to overcome a lot in his first season without an NCAA Tournament for the Huskies in 2012-2013. However, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams battled a cancer scare and got a large ovation from the Tar Heel faithful.

Tom Izzo didn’t disappoint, as the Michigan State coach dressed as Iron Man on Friday night. Bill Self, who once drove a motorcycle into Phog Allen Fieldhouse, was a little more relaxed this time around. I guess that’s what a new contract does to someone. Pittsburgh Jamie Dixon dressed up like Jackie Moon and hoped on ESPN with Bill Raftery.

Unfortunately, not all the Midnight Madness events went as well as Big Blue Nation’s. Syracuse and North Carolina State, two teams that are expected to be a part of March, had to cut their evenings short due to medical and safety concerns. The grandfather of N.C. State’s Scott Wood was hospitalized, while a stabbing took place at the Carrier Dome.

UCLA enters the season unsure about their top two recruits.

More headlines will emerge from tonight’s events, yet none of the dunks or skits can touch what Kentucky unveiled down in Lexington.

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.