BRACE YOURSELF: Listen closely. You might be able to hear him rehearsing.

"Jimmmmmy Boeheeeeim! You neeeeed a TO, baaaabyyyy!"

"No one does it like The General, Robert Montgomery Knight! Weeee loooove yooooou!"

Wham! Bam! Jam! Oooohhhh! Oooooohhhhh! I can't beeeeelieve it!"

ESPN producers are winding him up, getting him ready. College basketball returns to the cable sports network Wednesday, and the game's most visible voice -- and bald head -- is ready for verbal mayhem.

The countdown has begun. Five days till V Day.

Marquette plays at Duke in the first of ESPN's 205 college hoop telecasts this season. Dick Vitale will be there, eyes bulging and veins popping.

The network will televise more than 200 games for the third straight season. The final 32 teams from last year's NCAA tournament and 15 of the final 16 NIT teams will make appearances.

ESPN has the preseason NIT, the ACC-Big East Challenge and the season's most curious matchup, Nevada-Las Vegas vs. Princeton. Georgetown will be shown nine times.

Twenty-nine of the 30 conferences that receive automatic NCAA bids will be represented. The exception is the Colonial Athletic Association, which includes Navy, George Mason, American and James Madison. Agreeable dates could not be reached for regular season telecasts, CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager said, and HTS has exclusive rights to the CAA tournament.

HTS will show 131 games (82 live), the first four involving the Soviet Union's tour of U.S. colleges, starting Sunday at Indiana. The first regular game is Indiana at Notre Dame on Nov. 28. Many of Georgetown's nonconference games will be shown.

Channel 5 will release its Hoyas' Big East schedule soon and Northern Virginia public television (Channels 53 and 56) has a big, soon-to-be-announced lineup.

NOTES: HTS is sending tapes of its Capitals and Bullets broadcasts to the USNS Comfort hospital ship stationed in the Persian Gulf. About 800 of the 1,100 servicemen are from the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. . . .

WINX-1600 in Rockville won a March of Dimes Achievement in Radio Award for best sports coverage of a local team. Its entry was the Big 33 football game with Doug Glotzbach on play-by-play. . . . Scheduled guests for Montgomery Cable's new talk show, "Open Line . . . Sports," include Maryland Athletic Director Andy Geiger (Monday) and Bullets General Manager John Nash (Nov. 19). It's on at 8:30 p.m. on Channel 21. . . .

ESPN received its highest non-NFL game rating ever (6.5, 3.7 million viewers) for the Notre Dame-Pittsburgh football game two weeks ago.