CRAWFORD: And we're off -- IU, U of L, UK ranked 1-2-3 to start - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD: And we're off -- IU, U of L, UK ranked 1-2-3 to start season

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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- I don't think we can hold off basketball any longer. Football coaches in the area, take note. You are now in a competitive coverage environment.

Think I'm kidding? University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino and Syracuse Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim were sniping at each other, calling each other full of excrement -- or a more commonly used slang term for it -- at Big East Media Day today.

What's going to compete with that?

Talk about a blitz -- Indiana, Louisville and Kentucky were ranked No. 1, 2 and 3 in the USA Today coaches' preseason poll released today.

Games are going need to be stepped up. I picture that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, when Indiana Jones is running for dear life from a giant boulder. Except in this scene, the Indiana is named Crean, and the boulder is basketball.

Hoops hype is getting ready to roll over much that is in its path.

Yes, IU and U of L and UK all have been preseason No. 1 before. High rankings are nothing new here. But for all of them to be up there at once, well, things are about to get a little top-heavy and out of balance.

I'm telling you, it's going to cause erratic behavior. Bob Knight, for example, has decided to sell all of his IU memorabilia. They were talking about it on all the radio shows. Here in Louisville, Joe B. Hall and Denny Crum were wishing out loud that Knight would bury the animosity for IU, where he made so much history.

Instead, look what has happened. IU is preseason No. 1 in the nation. The Hoosiers have the preseason national player of the year in Cody Zeller. They are the pride of Indiana again, and Bob Knight is nowhere to be found. How can this be?

Huddle up. Basketball here is bigger than anyone, bigger than any coach, any program, any team. Even if his nickname is the General.

Nerves are already on edge. ESPN's First Take sent out a Tweet this morning giving viewers a multiple choice selection on who would win the NCAA championship -- UK, IU, Duke or North Carolina.

Louisville fans went ballistic. Their team is ranked preseason No. 2. They're sure its an ESPN conspiracy. They're sure it's a deliberate slam on the Big East. Of course, Jay Bilas has picked the Cards to win it all. So has Dick Vitale. It's not that ESPN has anything out for U of L. It's just that First Take is a bad show.

You've got to keep your head on a swivel in a season like this one. Hoosier Hysteria is this weekend. UK's All-Access show on ESPN makes its debut tonight. There were six NBA exhibition games last Saturday. A run-of-the mill intrasquad scrimmage for the U of L basketball team (with no additional fanfare) at the KFC Yum! Center outdrew half of them.

This morning at the New York Athletic Club, where Rick Pitino's picture is the first one hanging in one trophy room among club members who have won NCAA basketball championships, Boeheim said Pitino was full of it if he thinks Temple and Memphis are worthy substitutes for his Syracuse program that is leaving for the ACC.

"If he was in the Big 12 right now like he wanted to be, he'd being saying the Big 12 is the best," Boeheim said of Pitino. "That's the bottom line."

Pitino later said that both men are probably full of it. But give Boeheim credit for a first -- he's the first person ever to suggest that Pitino would rather be in the Big 12 than the Big East.

And so it goes.

In today's coaches' poll, Indiana took 21 first-place votes, while U of L and UK received five each.

IU coach Tom Crean told USA Today that he won't shy away from the expectations. At U of L, Pitino has been preaching humility in the face of preseason accolades (his team picked up others today -- being picked to win the Big East Conference, with Peyton Siva voted preseason Big East player of the year and Gorgui Dieng voted first-team preseason All-Big East by coaches.) At UK, Calipari told ESPN2 that the poll voters should "be drug tested" for voting his team No. 3. He also told WDRB that he doesn't think anybody knows what they're talking about with these preseason polls, but added that whoever Vegas likes, he likes. Vegas likes the Wildcats. But it also likes the Cards and Hoosiers.

Last season ended like no other in this basketball-crazy triangle. UK beat IU, then U of L on its way to the national championship. Today's poll confirms what we already knew. This season looks to be picking up where last season left off. And it's unlike any other place where this game of basketball is concerned.

"I don't mean this sound demeaning to football in any way, because we love football around here," Pitino said last week. "But football has sort of taken over the path and the journey (of college sports) . . . putting everyone else in an uncomfortable position. . .  So for those of us who love our game, if you look at three states that have still stayed with tremendous popularity basketball-wise, it's Kansas, Indiana and Kentucky . . . So for our states that are very rich in tradition in basketball, it's great to see."

It certainly is.

Copyright 2012 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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