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Kentucky Basketball: The calm before the storm

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There has been a serious dearth of hoops-related posts around here for a while, and don't think I haven't noticed.  The fact is, though, that there is very little in the way of Kentucky basketball stuff to work with.  All is vewy, vewy quiet at Camp Gillispie, unlike last year when things were popping weeks and even months before Big Blue Madness even began.  The relative peace and quiet is a good thing, I think.

The constant attention on Coach Gillispie and the team last year did not help the transition of either the players or the coaches -- arguably, it made it much tougher on both, and I have no doubt in my mind that it contributed at least in some degree to Kentucky's lousy start last year.  Gillispie was forced to spend many more hours with the press last year, dealing with a house purchase, moving his stuff, learning about his players and the UK basketball culture, bogus stories about his personal life, etc.  In other words, a series of huge, off-the-court distractions that had to have an effect on him and his team.

This year, not a peep.  In fact, I can't remember a start this quiet to a UK basketball season in the last five years.  It's almost surreal, a bizarre sort of serenity surrounding the program that, at least for the moment, is allowing football headlines to completely dominate the news while they quietly prepare for the season to come.

Part of that, of course, is due to the rise of the UK football program.  Brooks & Co. have been giving the UK faithful reasons to pay attention to the football team, and they have responded with surprising zeal (some might say over-zeal, but, hello!  Kentucky fans...).  This new order in the Big Blue Nation plus the relatively early completion of Gillispie's 2009 recruiting class have given him much-needed breathing space.

All this serenity will soon come to an end with the Blue/White game and TV specials beginning this weekend as fans anxiously anticipate the arrival of the first of the pre-season exhibitions against Missouri-St. Louis next Monday.  For your convenience, I have created a basketball schedule widget on the lower right sidebar  (The SBN widget doesn't include the pre season, but it will be added after we get past the exhibition games).

I really expect the excitement to go gradually build this year and reach a fever pitch just before our really early matchup with the North Carolina Tar Heels.  Carolina is widely expected to be the best college team in the nation this year, and UK's game with them will certainly give fans an early idea of where the team is.  I expect UK to be very competitive with UNC this year, as we get them before they have really had time to find their legs.  The early matchup is, in my opinion, an advantage to UK, and one that they sorely need.  But more on that later.

For this blog, the overlap between football and basketball seasons is always a challenge, and this year it is likely to be doubly so.  Coverage of both sports at the same time in the depth that we like to provide is demanding, to say the very least, so please keep that in mind if you are wondering about the basketball coverage.  It will be there, as it always has been.

So treat this as an open thread -- discuss anything UK or NCAA basketball related.