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Lousiville vs. Kentucky is one to watch

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Roundball Chatter | Dec. 16, 2005

Each Friday during the season, I'll have thoughts on the game I love …

• Just thinking about the Louisville-Kentucky matchup. If the Cardinals are to be a top five team, Taquan Dean needs consistent help up front from 6-11 David Padgett. In Lexington, where it was shock city for the most passionate fans in college hoops because their 'Cats were manhandled by the Hoosiers. They also lost on their home turf to a depleted young Carolina team (top seven scorers gone from national championship team). Tubby Smith has been marvelous when they struggled early, waving the magical wand. This year, their big fellas like Shagari Alleyne, Sheray Thomas, Lukasz Obrzut and Bobby Perry must provide some productivity on the baseline.

• I am thrilled to see that Cincinnati and Ohio State will be hooking up next season in the John Wooden Tradition at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. These teams have not met since the 1962 NCAA championship and last squared off in a regular-season contest in 1921. Purdue is facing Butler in the other game in the Wooden Tradition. I have said that natural rivalries should take place, like Georgetown-Maryland, DePaul-Illinois and Cincinnati-Ohio State. The Bearcats and Buckeyes should battle every season. Getting a ticket to see an Ohio State game next year is going to be tough with Greg Oden and Mike Conley in the lineup.

• I have said it before, and I will say it again … it is time for college basketball to change the rule on alternate possession. I can't stand the current rule because it often penalizes a team that plays good defense. I know that some people feel it is difficult on officials, but jump it up, baby!

• I hear so much about the play of freshmen, but kids like Tyler Hansbrough, Josh McRoberts, Brandon Rush and Shawne Williams have experienced so much by the time they step on the college campus. Today high school kids travel across the nation for in-season tournaments against the crème de la crème. They gain so much playing on AAU teams.

• If he can stay healthy, Leon Powe could be among the nation's elite power forwards. He has been so courageous coming back from a series of injuries. If he had not suffered major injuries, he would be right up there with Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick for Player of the Year honors. Ben Braun needs him in the lineup for the Golden Bears to make some noise out west.

• The winner of my cupcake pre-conference schedule is Mississippi. Nothing against Rod Barnes, a coach I have a lot of respect for, but consider some of these opponents: Southern Utah, South Carolina State, Centenary, Louisiana-Monroe, Nicholls State, Arkansas State, Southeastern Louisiana, Alcorn State, Western Carolina. Yes, Mississippi has Memphis and New Mexico on the schedule, but this is still a cupcake list.

• How about a salute to Bob McKillop of Davidson. Year in and year out his teams consistently challenge in the Southern Conference, plus they knock off some of the big boys. If you don't believe me, go ask Quin Snyder of Missouri and Phil Martelli of St. Joseph's about McKillop's squad.

• Bruce Pearl's debut at Tennessee has been a sparkling success as the Vols are unbeaten. The real tests will come at Texas and against Oklahoma State (in Oklahoma City). The backcourt of C.J. Watson and Chris Lofton is one of the most underrated in America, and we will find out how good they are in these two games.

• What a scintillating environment in College Park, Md., for the ACC debut of Boston College. Former BC coach Gary Williams was able to guide his Terps over the well-prepared Eagles. Simple fact of the matter is Ekene Ibekwe dominated on the inside. Craig Smith can play for anyone in America. If Maryland is to make a strong run for ACC honors, they must limit their turnovers and protect the basketball.

• Down at Michigan, they are excited about their start and one key is the development of Courtney Sims in the post. He provides them the needed balance as the perimeter trio of Daniel Horton, Deon Harris and Lester Abram are outstanding. Sims has been hot lately, including a career-high 33 points against Delaware State.

• A couple of schools that get no PR, but the big guys would certainly sweat playing them -– Iona, and Indiana State.

• Some candidates for my All-Rolaids Team, guys that provide instant relief off the bench: Michael Neal, Oklahoma; Jason Fraser, Villanova; Rashad Anderson, Connecticut; Maureece Rice, George Washington; Ryan Appleby, Washington and Tyrese Rice, Boston College.

• Clemson has been a pleasant surprise at 8-0, including an impressive win over South Carolina. Oliver Purnell's team will be tested in ACC play, though the Tigers could enter January unbeaten if they play well in the upcoming San Juan Shootout.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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