Dick VitaleSPECIAL TO ESPN.COM
June 16, 2006
Each Friday I will write about the sport I love, college basketball
It is decision time and I wish players would be able to make the decisions earlier. With the deadline for early entry candidates to withdraw from the NBA draft coming this weekend, there are a number of players re-thinking about their position. It will be interesting to see what happens with Pittsburgh's Aaron Gray, UCLA's Jordan Farmar, Villanova's Kyle Lowry and Daniel Gibson of Texas. Word of advice for Gibson and Farmar to get back to college: Get back to the college environment and get more playing time and experience instead of riding the bench. Feel good about yourselves and the future.
One player who made a wise decision to return to school was Nevada's Nick Fazekas. He will be able to work on getting stronger and I believe he will go higher in next year's draft. He has the potential to be a first-team All-America.
Saint Louis coach Brad Soderberg had to be happy with the news that his 6-10 center Ian Vouyoukas withdrew from the NBA draft. Vouyoukas averaged 14 points and seven boards a game last season while making the Atlantic 10 first team. The Billikens have some talent coming back and could make some noise in the conference.
I can't wait to see the alignment in the Big 12 next season. There has been some turnover in the coaching ranks as five new guys step on the sidelines full-time in the conference. Greg McDermott (Iowa State), Bob Huggins (Kansas State), Mike Anderson (Missouri), Jeff Capel (Oklahoma) and Sean Sutton taking over for his dad, Eddie at Oklahoma State should provide interesting storylines this season.
Down at Louisville, I really believe Rick Pitino's club is going to make some noise. Something tells me that Scott Padgett, who had a monster game against Connecticut last year, will really be a major factor coming back from knee surgery. If he has his "A" game going, plus the young talent coming in, watch out for the Cardinals.
At Villanova, Jay Wright's squad will be better than some expect. Losing the likes of Randy Foye, Allen Ray and Jason Fraser is tough, but getting Scottie Reynolds will be a major plus. I fell that like Padgett, Curtis Sumpter will come back big-time and I believe he can be a difference maker. I am rooting for Padgett and Sumpter to have big years because they have had tough luck throughout their careers.
A sign of a marquee program is when you lose valuable assistant coaches to run their own programs. Boston College lost a pair of key ones in Bill Coen (Northeastern) and Ed Cooley (Fairfield). Al Skinner has done a great job in the past and he has Jared Dudley returning to key the 2006-06 squad. The Eagles also have Sean Marshall, Tyrese Rice, Sean Williams, John Oates and Marquez Haynes back. I feel the Eagles will be a first-division team in the improved ACC.
Speaking of the ACC, just wondering out loud how tough it will be for Wake Forest? Think about Skip Prosser's losses; Justin Gray with his shooting ability, the inside play of Eric Williams and the versatility and intangibles of Trent Strickland. Losing those three adds a burden and pressure to the incoming class, led by 5-11 guard Ismael "Ish the Dish" Smith. The class of diaper dandies, which also includes 6-4 L. D. Williams, 6-8 Jamie Skeen, 7-0 Chas McFarland, and 6-9 Casey Crawford, must make an instant impact. Smith will be special, according to several people who have seen him perform.
New Manhattan coach Barry Rohrssen lost some talent when Jeff Xavier transferred to Providence and C. J. Anderson went to Xavier. Let me tell you, Rohrssen will work hard and build a nice program, following the footsteps of prior Jasper coaches Fran Fraschilla, Steve Lappas and Bobby Gonzalez.
Good news down in North Carolina. Athletic Director Dick Baddour, who has done a good job with the Tar Heels, was given a two-year extension. Baddour is a class act.
North Dakota State stunned Wisconsin in Madison last season. Northwestern State (La.) upset Iowa in the NCAA tournament. Both of these surprise winners will be competing in Marquette's December tournament, the Blue and Gold Classic. Princeton, which has pulled a few stunners in the past, is also in the field. Tom Crean will make sure his team knows about these opponents and what they are capable of.
Good news for Travis Ford. Tiki Mayben has met eligibility standards and is now a member of the Massachusetts roster. Mayben was originally supposed to attend Syracuse last year. The Minutemen return their top three scorers, led by All-Atlantic 10 choice Rashaun Freeman.
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. Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories