With the first of many pre-season polls coming out today placing Indiana, Louisville and Kentucky in the top 3 spots, it’s no wonder that the chatter is once again picking up about just how special this area is going to be for college hoops this season. Three historically great programs, all within a few hours of one another, all fielding great basketball teams. USA Today’s Mike Lopresti took a closer look at the triangle he expects to rule college hoops this season. And no, it’s not UNC/Duke/NC State.
“Indiana. Louisville. Kentucky. They go 1-2-3 in the first USA Today coach’s poll, like neighbors in mansions on the same swanky street. All, of course, with basketball goals in their driveway.”
The article is filled with great quotes from Tom Crean, Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Evan Daniels and KSR’s Matt Jones. All of the quotes pay tribute to the obsession with basketball in both Kentucky and Indiana in general, fueled by the fact that all three teams are expected to be at the top of the scene this season for the first time in ages. Over the past decade or two, all three have not been at this high of a level at the same time. Those times are gone and this season is shaping up to create an incredible atmosphere in the area. Not only are the three teams good, but the hysteria around college basketball never stops anyway.
“It’s a 365-day thing here,” Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones said. “They don’t just care. They care all the time.”
Added Evan Daniels, national recruiting analyst for Scout.com: “Basketball is everything. Basketball is absolutely everything to the state of Kentucky and Indiana.”
The three programs account for 15 national titles and 32 Final Fours. The article also talks about how these teams have the most supportive fan bases as well, whether you look at the financial aspects of it, or simply the attendance marks for each school.
Both Crean and Pitino talked about how they thought they understood before their arrival (Pitino referencing his stop at Kentucky first, then Louisville). Admittedly though, neither could have ever been prepared for just how intense and passionate the fan bases are about basketball.
Beyond the passionate fan bases in support of their own teams, between the 3 schools, a certain amount of hatred has been budding for years and years– increasingly fueled by recent events such as a Kentucky/Louisville Final 4 match-up, and the ending of the IU/Kentucky series. Even with the hatred, a sense of pride has started to come about for the return of this area to the epicenter of the college basketball world.
“There’s certainly an amount of local pride–even though these teams all kind of hate each other– that this is the center of college basketball again,” Jones said.
Indiana. Louisville. Kentucky. This is going to be fun, folks.