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("Fervor? I just want to coach my team...")[/caption]
Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com has taken notice of what many of us in the Kentucky/Indiana area have been anxiously waiting to see unfold: men's college basketball in the area is going to be phenomenal next season.
Kentucky, Indiana and Louisville all sit in the pre-season top 5 rankings, each with hopes of contending for a national championship. The close proximity of the three programs, fueled by three passionate fan bases-- all of which essentially despise one another-- is the perfect recipe for the drama to unfold right in front of our eyes next season.
"In our region, basketball's really come back in a big way with Indiana, Kentucky and us," Pitino told SNY.tv. "It's been a while since all three have been there so it's really picked up the fervor of basketball. Basketball is very big in Kentucky and Indiana anyway."
The fact that last year's NCAA tournament provided a collision course for Kentucky and both of the other schools on the way to a national championship, only creates more buzz. As if more buzz was even necessary.
The three story lines are very different for each team heading into the season.
Kentucky is a team full of new faces, young faces. Unproven, yet heralded young talent has once again been compiled in Lexington by John Calipari. The task of following up one of the greatest Kentucky basketball team's of all-time is a tall order, but one that is certainly in the realm of possibilities. Louisville, on the other hand, returns practically an identical roster to that of their Final 4 team last season. For some older veterans who have watched as the pieces continued to be put together over the course of the past few years-- this feels like "the time" for many Louisville players. It might be Pitino's best chance at a national title since arriving at Louisville. Indiana is the up-and-coming program. After a string of tough times due to the necessary clean-up of Kelvin Sampson's mess, Tom Crean has Indiana basketball on the rise. A few strong recruiting classes in a row, mixed with a fan base ready to explode back into national prominence, could mean a deep NCAA tournament run for Indiana.
"If you look at paper that's the way basketball history has really been in that part of the country and now we're finally a part of it because we got our program back up to where it can be in the same conversation with those programs (Kentucky and Louisville) and I think that's a really good thing," Crean said.
"I think it means so much because of the energy of the fan bases and the passion of the fan bases, you can't quantify how strong that is," Crean said. "It doubles, triples, quadruples because people are so passionate about their schools in that area."
Only time will tell which team from the trio of schools, carries the torch the furthest in the college basketball world this season. At this point in time though, with a few months separating us from the start of the season, the excitement and buzz has to be as high as it's been in years.
"I think it's great for the fans," Pitino said. "It's great for our area, it really builds big-time interest in college basketball."