Celebrate the Ides of October




Celebrate the Ides of October

            UK basketball fans have many reasons to acknowledge the wisdom of the old adage, “Beware of the Ides of March.”   History has conditioned us to guard against an anticipated tragedy in the season the Ides of March usher in as the NCAA tournament begins shortly after the Ides of March.   Sixty-four of the sixty-five teams fortunate to participate will end their season with a defeat, which nearly always fulfills this prophesy of tragedy, at least for the fans.

            Fans, commentators, coaches and the players enter a protracted period of basketball isolation as the sports world attention shifts to Baseball, Golf, Tennis, and Football.   In the immediate aftermath of the Ides of March activities, basketball fans will spend countless hours pondering what might have been, if their own March fortunes had turned out differently than they did.   Then they will slip off into a protracted slumber to repair wounds, rebuilt strength, and devise new plans .      The spirit of the fan is marked by perpetual hope, captured by the “Wait Until Next Year” cry that forces each to refocus on a renewed optimism, an optimism driven by the certain knowledge that the Ides of October will soon arrive, and all creatures, great and small, will awaken from their off-season hibernation, ready to perform the entire drama again.

            Ever since October 1982, UK basketball fans have universally rejoiced and celebrated on the Ides of October to signal the return of the wildcats in shorts and sneakers from their off season hibernation.   Last Friday evening, at Rupp Arena, over 23,000 of their number congregated at the Mecca of their sport to celebrate the arrival of the Ides of October 2005.   Countless others watched on TV from their homes and neighborhood taverns and pubs all around the world.   This year's celebration provides all the justification necessary for the ultimate optimism that the next Ides of March will not deal it's usual tragedy to this set of UK Wildcats.

            The fans come to this celebration for many reasons.   Some wanted to see the new arrivals to the team.   Others wanted to inspect the returning lettermen to ascertain whether they have gained strength, quickness, size, and acumen during their recent slumber period to enable them to conquer the enemy and win the ultimate prize in a few months when the Ides of March arrive.   Yet others want to observe the brief blue-white scrimmage for evidence of offensive and defensive prowess.   Some attend in a ritualistic fashion to influence the future fortunes of their team by persuading current high school stars to become future wildcats.   Regardless of the primary reason any single person attends or watches, make no mistake, the return of basketball to the Bluegrass State is a cultural celebration, a happening.     The 2005 Ides of October celebration was fulfilling and met each of these expectations.

            The 2005-06 Kentucky Wildcat basketball team features twelve returning lettermen , three of whom were starters on the 2004-05 team that fell so painfully close to yet another final four appearance.   The player losses include two starters,   Sr. Chuck Hays and   Jr. Kelena Azebuike , and Sr. reservist Josh Carrier .  Coach Smith has filled these three vacancies with two freshmen and one junior college transfer .    As I watched the Celebration, I was impressed by all three of these newcomers .     Jared Carter demonstrated a perceptive understanding of interior play, while Adam Williams demonstrated his personal understanding of the significance of the UK tradition and his good fortune to become a part of this storied program.   Rekalin Sims showed why Coach Smith has repeatedly warned that Sims would be an impact player, from the beginning of this new season.   Could these newcomers compete with the three outgoers , in a pickup 3 on 3 game?   I believe they could compete, if not win in such a few games in a best of 9 competition.

            In addition, the dozen returners appeared stronger and better prepared for the battles that lie ahead for them.   I was particularly impressed by Rondo's ability to dictate the perimeter play, and Thomas' activity in and around the basket on both ends of the court.   It also seemed that Joe Crawford is ready for a breakout season in which his ability to create action will earn him considerable playing time and his time will benefit the players on the court with him.  

            Following this year's sneak preview of the team, I believe that this team will be stronger and deeper than its predecessor was, and should advance to the Final Four this season.   However, such a result is not a done deal, and some questions remain for the actual play to answer.   I remain concerned about 3 matters.   First, will this team shoot free throws better than last year?   Second, will this team rebound better than last year?   Third, will Randolph Morris [whenever he becomes eligible] and Patrick Sparks provide more consistency in their respective games than they did last season?  

            On November 2, we will begin to get the answers to these pressing questions.   Let's toss it up   and see what happens.   I can't wait for the answers this season, how about you?

For a brief history of Midnight Madness, see:


The Sporting News 2000



Click Here To Return to the Data


Copyright 2005 Richard Cheeks
All Rights Reserved