Indiana, Louisville and Kentucky Headline College Basketball in 2012-13

Paul AblesContributor IIISeptember 3, 2012

Kentucky and Indiana could meet in the Final Four next year.
Kentucky and Indiana could meet in the Final Four next year.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Kentuckiana will be the central focus of college basketball next season, as all three local powers are set to dominate the 2012-13 season.

Kentucky, Indiana and Louisville are poised to be among the best teams in the country and are shifting the focus of the sport to the triangle formed by Bloomington, Lexington and Louisville.

Even though all three schools are traditional college basketball powers, they are rarely great at the same time. The last time that the three schools were challenging for titles together was the 1980s, when Bobby Knight, Denny Crum and Joe B. Hall roamed the sidelines and went to multiple Final Fours and won four NCAA championships between the schools.

Since then, each school has experienced a down period that has coincided with a great period for one of the other schools. The 1990s decade was dominated by Kentucky, which advanced to three consecutive NCAA finals and won it all in 1996 and 1998.

Meanwhile, Bobby Knight's run at Indiana was losing its luster, and he failed to recapture the magic of their glorious run during the '80s. Denny Crum was doing the same at Louisville, and he eventually left the program as it lost its status as a national power.

In the 2000s, roles reversed for all three programs.

Rick Pitino took over at Louisville and guided it to a Final Four and multiple Elite Eight appearances and Big East championships. New head coach Mike Davis guided the Hoosiers to the 2002 NCAA final.

At Kentucky, Tubby Smith and Billy Gillispie led the program on a downturn that culminated in Gillispie's final team failing to reach the NCAA tournament.

However, all of that is changed this season. College basketball will likely be down next year, as many of the country's best teams lost a lot of players to the NBA draft and graduation.

Indiana and Louisville were exceptions to this and return nearly every key contributor from last season's teams, which advanced to the Sweet 16 and Final Four, respectively.

Indiana returns star big man Cody Zeller, who will challenge for National Player of the Year honors. Also returning are Christian Watford, Will Sheehey, Victor Oladipo and Jordan Hulls.

As for Louisville, it returns Peyton Siva and the frontcourt duo of Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan. Sophomore guard Wayne Blackshear is poised for a breakout year, as he is healthy for the first time in his college career.

Those two teams return nearly all of their starters, which is the opposite of Kentucky. The Wildcats lost their top six players to the NBA draft and only have one key returnee in forward Kyle Wiltjer. The rest of the roster is full of freshmen and unproven bench players.

At the same time, John Calipari reloaded with one of the nation's top recruiting classes and has his squad ready to defend its NCAA title. The country's best high school player, Nerlens Noel, is ready to replace Anthony Davis and man the middle.

Various preseason polls have all three schools in the top three or four heading into next season, such as Dick Vitale's Top 40 poll and the CBS Sports poll. This could be an unprecedented year of success for the three Kentuckiana schools and could resurrect the glory days of the 1980s for Kentucky, Indiana and Louisville.

Expect them to dominate the college basketball landscape and contend for a national championship in 2013.