By Tom Hurley | @TomHurleyKernel
The bright lights and fanfare of ESPN College GameDay roll into Rupp Arena on Saturday, as part of a daylong buildup to the national broadcast of UK versus Missouri on Saturday night.
Fans and students have been able to pick up free tickets for GameDay, which gets under way at 9 a.m. with a live taping of SportsCenter.
At 10 a.m., the first GameDay show of the day begins, with the show airing live on ESPNU.
An hour later the show moves onto ESPN for an 11 a.m. hourlong broadcast.
Saturday will mark the fourth time Rupp Arena has hosted GameDay.
The show has proved something of a good-luck charm for the Cats, who are 3-0 on days when the show has been broadcast from Lexington.
Rupp Arena last hosted GameDay on Feb. 13, 2010, when 22,144 fans turned out for the show’s broadcast, a record which stands to this day.
That night, the Cats went on to defeat Tennessee, 73-62, helped by strong performances from then-freshmen Eric Bledsoe and John Wall.
ESPN presenter Rece Davis, who fronts the network’s college basketball and football coverage, will host the show.
Davis will be joined by three men well known to fans of college basketball: Jay Bilas, Jalen Rose and Digger Phelps.
Bilas, twice named as the best analyst in college basketball by Sports Illustrated, was a four-year player at Duke but did not face UK in his time with the Blue Devils.
He played on the losing side in the 1986 NCAA Tournament championship game and was selected by Dallas in the 1988 NBA Draft.
A short professional career in Europe followed before he returned to Duke as an assistant coach in 1990, joining ESPN in 1995.
Rose joined the network in 2007 after concluded a 13-year NBA career which featured stops in Denver, Indiana, Chicago, Toronto, New York and Phoenix.
Like Bilas, Rose also made it to the NCCA Tournament championship game, losing both the 1992 and 1993 title games when playing for the University of Michigan.
Phelps spent 20 seasons as the head coach at Notre Dame from 1972-1991, becoming the winningest coach in Fighting Irish history.
In addition to a short career in politics, including working for President George H.W. Bush’s administration, Phelps has written several books on basketball.
He is often seen on screens with ESPN’s lead college analyst, and cult hero among fans, Dick Vitale.
Tickets for GameDay were still available as of Thursday night and can be picked up from both the UK ticket office and through ticketmaster.com.
Doors open at 8 a.m. for GameDay ticket holders.
GameDay tickets do not include entrance to Saturday’s 9 p.m. game between the Cats and Mizzou.