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Great nonconference games

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

May 15, 2006

When I look ahead to the 2006-07 college basketball season, I see so many great nonconference games. I really believe that coaches are reaching out to play the crème de la crème instead of loading up on cupcake city foes.

Teams are finding out how difficult it is to get into the NCAA Tournament when you don't improve the pre-conference schedule. That is a factor taken into consideration by the selection committee.

As I have said many times, the season breaks down into four segments: pre-conference schedule, league play, conference tournament action and then the Big Dance. You dream and play all year, hoping and praying to be one of the 65 tipping off in March for the greatest sporting event of them all, March Madness.

Look at some of the interesting games happening this season. I know Madison Square Garden will be rocking and rolling when Duke and Gonzaga meet. J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison said bye-bye, going to the NBA, but the names on the jersey will still say Duke and Gonzaga, and Mark Few has built a big-time program. The same can be said for that guy down in Durham, too! Yeah, Coach K! There will be new stars on the block and a time to get familiar with some of the guys starting to make an impact in that Blue Devils jersey. This is the opportunity to learn about Gerald Henderson, Lance Thomas, Jon Scheyer and Brian Zoubek.

North Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, Gonzaga and Notre Dame are all in the NIT preseason tip-off. Kentucky, Memphis, UCLA, Georgia Tech and Oklahoma are all in the EA Sports Maui Invitational. Kansas and Florida are scheduled to meet in Las Vegas. Bob Huggins returns to the Cincinnati area, taking his Kansas State team to Xavier.

That is what excites me about college basketball. In college football, even with the expansion to 12 regular-season games, you don't see that many thrilling non-conference showdowns. Some schools will face a top-notch schedule, but many prefer to get an easier "W" and the payday of a home game. College basketball is awesome, baby with a capital A!

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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