Dick VitaleSPECIAL TO ESPN.COM
Each Friday I will talk about the game I love, college basketball…
How about a salute to George Mason! That's right, think about what was going through Jim Larranaga's head when he saw four Connecticut players go in the first round, plus Denham Brown at choice No. 40? It just shows that over 40 minutes, an upset can happen when a three-star player performs like a five-star athlete and the favored team plays like three-star guys.
Watching the NBA draft, I feel that the body of work on the court in a five-on-five situation is more important than these workouts. Look at what happens under pressure on the court in a hostile environment before 20,000 people to understand what a player is really all about. Big men often look better in these individual workouts and you don't always get a true evaluation.
There were a number of underclassmen who probably thought they would go in round one and get a guaranteed contract but did not. Guys like PJ Tucker, Alexander Johnson, Guillermo Diaz, Leon Powe, Daniel Gibson and Paul Millsap may have been better returning to college. Johnson ended up being traded twice on draft night! I wonder what Rick Barnes thought when Tucker and Gibson didn't go in round one. Imagine if they were back with the Longhorns, Texas would be a top five team. Having those two with Kevin Durant and D. J. Augustin would have been special.
I was really surprised to see that after 60 players were chosen, West Virginia's Mike Gansey wasn't one of them. This kid is a winner, he can flat out play and score. He was a big-time performer under John Beilein and I can't believe that there were really 60 better players in this draft.
The NCAA basketball tournament committee decided to keep the field at 65 times. Please, please, don't tell me that the NCAA tournament could ever expand to 128 teams!!! What, water down the greatest event there is, March Madness? The tournament is so special right now the way it is, and the committee agreed. I recently read the theory of expanding all the way to 128, but that was simply a thought to get more coaches in the tournament. There is no bigger supporter of the coaches, but I love the game of college basketball and the current format is first class in every way. It allows everybody (except the Ivy League) the chance to make the big dance by going through the conference tournament. If you went to 128, then 129 and 130 will scream that they were robbed. It is successful now, and it will remain at 65, a wise decision by Craig Littlepage and company. I personally felt there wasn't a real shot of going to 128.
I was sorry to see what happened to Tommy Herrion at the College of Charleston. If you look at his numbers, they were impressive enough to think there would not be a coaching change. There was a reported mutual agreement … oh well. The opening was created and it looked like Charleston made a great decision, hiring Gregg Marshall away from Winthrop, where he earned six NCAA berths over the last eight years. Marshall worked with John Kresse at Charleston, and the buzz has slipped down there. People were hoping and praying this program would be similar to Gonzaga, at that level on a regular basis. Then Marshall changed his mind and decided to stay at Winthrop, shades of Bobby Cremins announcing he would leave Georgia Tech for South Carolina before an about face. Wow, what a wacky scenario that was when Marshall changed his tune.
Ben Howland had some tough luck when Jordan Farmar stayed in the draft, breaking up the backcourt tandem with Arron Afflalo. Let me tell you, my friends, while Farmar and Afflalo had great success, helping the Bruins to the Pac-10 title and the national championship game, the Bruins will still be tough. Watch for this name … Darren Collison, a player who reminds me of Tyus Edney. Collison had some good moments last year, but with the departure of Farmar, he will get much more playing time, becoming a vital part of UCLA's success.
The ACC is going to be improved next year with North Carolina dominating. Duke will be a factor as well with the new kids on the block. Boston College has a solid nucleus, Georgia Tech will be better with a pair of McDonald's All-America performers in Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton. Wake Forest is excited about his young kids coming in. One team that should be getting more play is Virginia Tech. Seth Greenberg has a solid cast returning after losing many heartbreakers. I have a feeling they will make big noise.
Another conference to keep an eye on is the SEC. In the past few years, teams like Florida and Kentucky have been dominant. This league is getting deeper and deeper as LSU, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina and Arkansas make this tough. Look for the SEC to have a big-time year with quality teams up and down both divisions.
The pairings have been announced for the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer in early November. Four regional sites will serve as host – Maryland, Michigan State, Texas and St. John's. The winner of each Regional Round will compete for the championship at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Nov. 16 and 17.
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