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ESPN College GameDay Takes On Kentucky At Auburn

I arrived into Auburn on Friday afternoon with two of my media friends, Steven and Jack, to see what Neville Arena and its campus had to offer. The game is still hours out and it has not disappointed. Fans have been camping out since Wednesday night following their last game (vs. South Carolina) and they were let in this morning for the live production of ESPN's College GameDay.

We got to see hundreds of rowdy Auburn students eager to host the 22nd ranked Kentucky Wildcats on their home floor. Bruce Pearl stopped by for a segment, Frank Thomas as well, and an actual breathing, living eagle was sitting court side. The vibes were vibing inside the arena and I'm going to do my best not to fan-out of how cool it really is down here. This feels like what College Basketball should feel like.

Bruce Pearl walked out for a segment of the broadcast and the students gave him one hell of an applause. It's so obvious that they want him as their coach, they enjoy him as their coach, he in return loves being here, and the two sides are extremely complimentary to each other. It was honestly really cool to see that after covering the Kentucky side so heavily for years. It feels like the early years of John Calipari and I have to admit I was really envious of it all. Bruce Pearl praised the students for their efforts which resulted in them missing days of classes to camp out, and after a loud roar of claps we hear a "I love you Bruce!" from an individual off in the stands.

As per course of the show, the hosts of Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Seth Greenberg, Andraya Carter, and Jay Williams chose their winners of No. 22 Kentucky at No. 13 Auburn and it was a clean sweep of orange. Not a single one chose the visiting team. As 10-point underdogs this morning, one could understand why. The 'Cats have lost in the last 3 trips here including 5 of the last 6. Auburn is rolling at home and on paper it projects them to continue that stretch this evening. I'm predicting the same, but would be beyond happy to be proven wrong.

It's also my first time at this arena and I have heard plenty of compliments of its atmosphere. We walked in, only two levels of seats consisting of around 9,100 chairs with the students owning three of the four sections in the lower bowl which sets up for a crazy environment. Just from the few hundred students that were at the live show you can already prepare yourself for a 5-10 point swing just from how hostile the environment will be. I was informed that the students get in for free, there was free food trucks during the campouts provided for the experience, some of the current players were even out there shooting basketball and taking pictures with them, it all just seemed so damn cool. I love Kentucky just as much as the next person but Kentucky isn't doing any of this. Yeah we get the large crowds and a huge arena to flex, but the college atmosphere and being a dominant threat at home just feels about as far away as possible for the games inside Rupp Arena and I like to analogize it as a "rich person's problem." Let me explain. I feel like the Rupp Arena atmosphere is like a businessman who has created a very successfully company and now he is sitting in his mansion by himself with no fulfillment from it and is just reflecting on how good life actually was when he was broke and excited about the future. When looking at Auburn's environment, it feels like the group of people who are building a business, having great success with it, and are enjoying each step of the way during it all. Ones that are really enjoying the grind and every step of the process that comes with it. I know that's not the best analogy in the world, but I just really am fond of what they're doing down here. There's no reason Kentucky can't be a leader in this realm because it has all of the money and resources in the world to make the changes. On top of that, it has one of the biggest fanbases in the sport and marketing mastermind John Calipari running the show. They CAN be dominant, they can. It's just going to take a lot of change that I'm not sure anyone will step up and do. I can think of a handful of suggestions if anyone was to ask me, but I feel like I'd be waiting on that call forever. But I guess that's the delusional confidence we all have that makes us so obsessed with this thing twelve months out of the year.

The football stadium and basketball gym has just one 50-car parking lot in between them, it's smack-dab in the middle of campus and is only a few feet from the dorms. It feels like a college town, feels like a college atmosphere, and while Lexington checks the first one it just doesn't consistently feel like it checks that second one. Bruce Pearl was asked about their home court advantage while they remain as the only unbeaten SEC team at home (13-0) this season, simply saying he felt like they were "leading the way" in the category. I can't say he's wrong because they're doing a lot of things right. He credits it to being "all-in" as a coach and embracing the culture that's provided. If he secures that bond with the fanbase they will forgive him when he makes his mistakes because it's mutually understood that he's doing his absolute best. Those were his exact words, and I just laugh when I remember that I'm a Kentucky fan and how different those two experiences are.

Anyways, during my first trip to this city I documented the build up from ESPN's College GameDay show. Check it out on our YouTube channel.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. If you enjoyed it, please follow Cats Coverage on Facebook and Twitter so you can keep up with your Kentucky Wildcats on a daily basis.


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