By JESSICA JONES
Being a Kentucky fan living in Iowa isn’t always easy. Kentucky fans, like myself, aren’t just your casual fan. We bleed blue. We plan around Kentucky basketball games.
Before the days of SEC Network, it was a bit more difficult to watch every game in Iowa. We bought all kinds of extra sports packages from our satellite companies to ensure we could get the Cats on our television. However, this was even more difficult in tournament time.
Tournament games used to be broadcast regionally only which means in 2010 as John Wall’s squad was making its way through the bracket, we were stuck watching Kansas State and keeping an eye on the small box in the corner of the screen that displayed the Kentucky score. Luckily for us things have changed with the SEC Network and tournament games being broadcast on four channels. We never have to miss a game again.
My husband and I still travel back to Kentucky often to visit family. We typically try to plan trips around when the Cats play in hopes to catch a game at Rupp Arena. We even caught Big Blue Madness for the first time in 2014. However, this was a long drive and didn’t always work out.
Taking in games in Rupp Arena was great and we have been to a few. We frequented Rupp whenever we could. In 2011 the SEC announced that Missouri would be joining the conference. This was thrilling to us because it meant our beloved Cats would be playing in Columbia, Missouri, which was only about 3 hours from our home.
In 2012, we knew we had a special team. I bought tickets for the NCAA Tournament in St. Louis hoping Kentucky would come through. Only Selection Sunday, however, things didn’t pan out that way. We sold our tickets to some North Carolina fans and watched from home. We decided that if the Cats made it to the Final Four we would head down to New Orleans. It was an excellent trip. Blue everywhere!
In 2014 we were lucky enough to draw St. Louis. That was also a fun trip. Watching the Cats take on Kansas State and Wichita State were very memorable. We were also lucky enough to attend the Final Four in Indianapolis. We’ve made the trips to Chicago for the CBS Sports Classic and Champions Classic. All of these wonderful venues have been fairly close to us, 3, 4, or 5 hours so it’s been well worth it.
Never have the Wildcats come to Iowa though. We have always hoped they would draw Iowa State in the Big 12-SEC challenge. But then the NCAA announced that Des Moines would be a host spot for the 2016 NCAA Tournament. We thought it was a long shot to get Kentucky to come through, but we hoped. I had little faith that the Wildcats would be placed in Des Moines. In fact, I had hotel reservations and tickets waiting in my cart for St. Louis in hopes that they would come that close.
When it was revealed that Kentucky was placed in Des Moines, I was in a frenzy. I was thrilled. There was no way the Cats were coming to my backyard and I would miss it. I had been to Wells Fargo Arena several times this year to watch one of my favorite former Cats play for the Iowa Energy — Andrew Harrison. I met Andrew and even asked him to sign an old Kentucky poster we had gotten from a game at Rupp in 2014.
But now, the Wildcats, John Calipari and company, were coming to town. I immediately started looking for tickets. I had become a little discouraged by the prices. I had been to Final Fours, the Champions Classic, first round games, etc, and never seen ticket prices this high. I was a little embarrassed at the greed Iowans were displaying.
I had tried to buy tickets to the NCAA Tournament in Des Moines when they went on sale back in October. They immediately sold out. Iowans were definitely excited about the tournament coming to town but now they were looking to make a big return on their investment. I found a nice man via Twitter who offered me some lower level tickets at a decent price. I agreed to buy them and anxiously checked my mailbox for them to arrive.
The prices were more than any other venue currently as well as more than any other venue I had been to in the past. However, I thought since I didn’t have to pay for hotels and gas, it was worth it.
Here we are, the day of the game, and I couldn’t be more excited to watch my Wildcats begin their tournament journey just one hour away from my home. I couldn’t bone more excited! GO BIG BLUE!