Dick VitaleSPECIAL TO ESPN.COM
May 4, 2006
Each Friday I will write a column on the game I love, college basketball...
Mark down November 29th on your calendar. The place: Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The time: 9 pm. That's right, Ohio State vs. North Carolina in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Wow, talk about an early-season monster match-up! Think about the talent on the court that evening at the Dean Smith Center. Two of the best recruiting classes will have a major impact. Greg Oden and his Buckeye diaper dandies face Tyler Hansborough, Ty Lawson, Brendan Wright and company. There should be excitement galore.
Duke and Indiana will meet again in the Challenge. Last season, the Hoosiers gave the Dukies a battle but fell short. This time, the teams will meet in Cameron Indoor Stadium. There are several intriguing match-ups, including Maryland at Illinois, Michigan State at Boston College (the teams met in last year's Jimmy V. Classic at Madison Square Garden) and Florida State at Wisconsin. By the way, the odd man out this year is Wake Forest, despite a 6-1 record in the Challenge. The Demon Deacons finished at the bottom of the ACC last season.
Speaking of the Hoosiers, Kelvin Sampson is doing a good job in establishing an outstanding coaching staff. Many have come along from his Oklahoma staff. Jeff Meyer, the former head coach at Liberty, brings a wealth of knowledge. Ray McCallum, the former head coach at Ball State and Houston, knows how to recruit in the state after establishing relationships while in Muncie. The latest solid move was bringing in Jerry Green as his director of basketball operations. Green has all sorts of successful coaching experience, including a great stint at Tennessee. I still find it hard to figure out why he was given the ziggy after several NCAA tournament appearances.
The Hoosiers also got some positive news by signing 6-8 Lance Stemmler from Southwestern Illinois College. Indiana beat out Saint Louis in the recruiting process.
Just thinking out loud, but is there a better young tandem of football and basketball coaches in America than Florida's duo of Urban Meyer and Billy Donovan? They have the people in Florida excited and they are thrilled, feeling they are in great hands with those two. Donovan had a real coup in this day and age, when the kids want to have their egos stroked big time. The Gators have Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer coming back to school instead of entering the NBA draft.
That is special, my friends.
Florida also got good news when it found a replacement for Anthony Grant, who left Gainesville for the head coaching job at Virginia Commonwealth. Donovan hired former Notre Dame assistant Lewis Preston, who spent six seasons in South Bend. During his time on the Irish staff, he worked with the team's post players and earned respect a highly-regarded recruiter.
It has been a busy off-season for Kentucky's Tubby Smith. Rajon Rondo decided to put his name into the NBA draft. Now Rekalin Sims has announced he will transfer from the school. Smith still has an exciting nucleus returning. Look for bigger and better things from Joe Crawford.
In a move that was expected, former Cincinnati Bearcats guard Devan Downey announced he will transfer to South Carolina. Downey wanted to move closer to home and he should be a major addition for coach Dave Odom when he is in the lineup in 2007-08. Downey has to sit out the 2006-07 season under NCAA transfer rules.
Norm Roberts did a great job bringing in five newcomers to bolster St. John's for the 2006-07 season. The Red Storm recruiting class includes 6-8 forward Qa'rraan Calhoun and 6-6 forward Rob Thomas up front, along with guards Larry Wright, Derwin Kitchen and Avery Patterson.
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.