I took a road trip to Indy this weekend to see my favorite former Wildcat, DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings were in town to take on the Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse. Conseco is a very impressive venue, but it seemed to lack the spirit of a place like Rupp Arena. I was reminded of a quote from last year's ESPN Gameday visit:
"When you walk into Rupp Arena, the tradition consumes you...
A record crowd with off-the-chart emotion for their beloved Wildcats."
I was happy to see Cuz and the Kings, but was surprised to find myself a little bored. Not with DeMarcus and the Kings, but with the environment and mood of the crowd in general. Maybe it was being the away team on hostile turf or my extreme distaste for anything remotely related to ManningFace, but it did get me thinking about the rebuild/remodel Rupp debate. Yes Conseco is a spectacular arena full of every creature comfort, but the last time I was in Rupp for some UK basketball, I don't remember thinking, "If we only had a Starbucks." For all the glitz though it seemed to lack some soul. I was in Rupp on Thursday for Disney on Ice. I couldn't help but look up at the banners hanging in the rafters. You can feel the tradition. I get excited thinking about all of the amazing moments that have happened there and the even more amazing ones to come. No matter what is eventually decided, in the end it is the Big Blue Nation that is the heart and soul of Rupp. Without that collective heartbeat, it is just a building, no matter how big and shiny you make it.
The Kings picked up a convincing win and DeMarcus had a nice night, but I have to admit it seemed to pale in comparison to the Cats taking down the #1 team in the nation a short while later. There is just nothing greater than college basketball during March Madness! Sorry DeMarcus. =)