Kentucky's already in love with Mark Pope

More than 20,000 fans show up for Pope's introductory press conference. Plus, UConn celebrates its title, Texas headlines notable transfer moves, Duke loses two to the NBA and much more.

Never pass up a reason to celebrate or pack a gym after the season ends. Saturday was for UConn’s title, while South Carolina did the same on Sunday.

And Kentucky? It jammed people into Rupp Arena to open the Mark Pope era.

Let’s dive in.

1. ‘We are here to win banners’

The John Calipari era at Kentucky was never low key. Unending media attention. Elite players. Final Fours (at least at the start). And a certain arrogance befitting one of the sport’s true blue bloods.

It’ll be different under new coach Mark Pope. And by different, I mean … bigger?

More than 22,000 fans attended Pope’s introductory press conference on Sunday, all there to witness one of their own assume the reins of Big Blue Nation. Officials reportedly expected about 6,000-8,000 fans. They didn’t expect this (and more outside).

And when Pope showed up, it was with the rest of his famed 1996 squad, pouring out of a bus to adoring fans, eating it up. As Mark Story wrote, it was a pep rally x 100, the usual Kentucky volume turned up to 11, all because fans couldn’t get enough of something they know and love.

One of their own, here to win big.

"I understand the assignment," Pope said. "We are here to win banners. As we go through this journey, we're here to win banners [at the SEC tournament] because you guys turn out in Nashville like nobody else and that matters. And our job here and our assignment is here to win banners in the Final Four, national championships. That's our job."

There may be doubts that Pope, 51, can meet those expectations. He’s 187-108 in his nine-year coaching career, and has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game. But he’s never been at a place with Kentucky’s resources. His teams’ playing style — an emphasis on offense through ball movement and 3-pointers — won’t change. Now he said he’s focused on making sure the roster is as talented, but also with players who embrace playing at a place where 22,000 people show up to an introductory press conference.

“Entitlement leads to sorrow and depression. And gratitude leads to joy,” Pope said. “And I will tell you this: What all of the future players will learn really quick is that they are not doing those jerseys a favor by letting the jerseys clothe them. Our guys will know quickly that it will be one of the great honors of their life to put that jersey on.”

That means talking to this season’s players — Reed Sheppard is No. 1 on that list — and then hitting the portal.

It wasn’t all awesome news for Kentucky this weekend. Freshman center Zvonimir Ivisic hit the transfer portal. Not that he was only notable portal move from the weekend …

2. UConn celebrates, Clingan’s off to the NBA

Dan Hurley joked that one of the best part about UConn’s title run was that he got to avoid messing with the portal. Good news, Dan. After a bit of work in the portal, you got one another reprieve when throngs of Huskies fans rolled into Hartford for a victory parade.

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