Every time he returns to his hometown of Hopkinsville, Ky., Tennessee sophomore Scotty Hopson finds the hoops hysteria inescapable and somewhat amusing. After four years of relative obscurity, the SEC's most tradition-rich program has its swagger back.
"I guess it's good for the conference," Hopson said. "Right now Tennessee is my main focus and I ain't really worried about Kentucky. That game is far away. But it is a good motivator - thinking about that game and all the hype leading up to it."
The Vols have won three of the past four SEC East titles and return their top eight players from 2008-09. Still, many observers already are conceding the 2010 league championship to the Big Blue and relegating Tennessee to the chase for second place. That puts a lot of pressure on Calipari and his youthful Wildcats.
"There's a lot of hype over their way," Hopson said. "It could help us and downfall them. People could believe the hype and they couldn't live up to expectations."
The Calipari hiring has generated so much hype that some folks seem ready to proclaim the 2009-10 Wildcats the team of the century before they play a game.
Hopson, clearly weary of the Big Blue buzz, isn't ready to concede the Wildcats anything.
"Every day I hear people say 'What are you all going to do with Kentucky?'" he said. "I just tell them, 'What are they going to do with Tennessee?'