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Dick answers your email

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

V-MAIL NOV 20TH, 2006

Nate Crestview Hills, Ky.
Hey, I was wondering if you think that Tennessee men's basketball would be able to make it to the NCAA tournament?

VITALE:
There is no doubt in my mind that Tennessee will make the big dance. Bruce Pearl has brought an excitement that is contagious. The Vols have some good young talent and Chris Lofton is a big-time shooter. The winner's mentality that came about last year will keep building and building. Pearl is a winner.

Jeff Mathews (Liberty, Indiana)
I watched the NIT at Indianapolis this week. There were 96 fouls called in the Indiana games. If that's how the game is going to be officiated now I will stop watching college basketball. Compare the fouls called in other games (NW-DePaul, Pitt, Florida, etc) it was terrible to watch. Let the kids PLAY!

VITALE:
The referees are beginning the season with the approach that they should get rid of physical play on the post. They are trying to eliminate hand checking and palming too. I feel players will make an adjustment as the season progresses. Remember, they will have to unless they want to give the opposition a lot of easy points from the free-throw line.

Mike Lindquist (Eugene, OR)
WHY does the Pac-10 get shafted in media coverage and overall coverage?

VITALE:
I find that mind boggling. Look at UCLA success last season, look at Arizona over the years; we have sung their praises over the years. Stanford has received its share of notoriety in recent years too. I think one thing in the world of television hurts them the three-hour time differential. By the way, and I don't want to sing our praises too much, but the lack of an ESPN contract hurts them big time. I think some of the coaches would agree.

Tim (Sterling, IL)
Will Illinois win the big ten because they don't play at Wisconsin or Ohio State and they never lose at home?

VITALE:
That is an interesting point. Not playing in Madison or in Columbus, especially when Greg Oden is back, is major. I feel the Fighting Illini will be better than people believe. You are right, I do love their fans and they are tough at home because the players and coaches feed off the Orange Crush, one of the great environments in college hoops. Bruce Weber's team needs to be at full strength as Jamar Smith and Brian Randle are injured, and Rich McBride is serving a suspension for an off-court incident.

LizLap (NY, NY)
How will SJU do this season? Do we have a shot at the Tourney? What do you think about the job Norm is doing recruiting kids from NYC?

VITALE:
Norm Roberts is trying to get the program to .500 or better in the Big East. There was the embarrassing loss to Maryland at the Garden, but the team responded the next night and played a talented, young Texas team to the wire, losing by a point. Give them a tip of the hat for bouncing back against Kevin Durant and company. They have to beat the people they are supposed to. The Red Storm must play competitively and I feel they will get a trip to the NIT.

Nate (Pensacola, Florida)
Hey Dickie V, I know the Tar Heels have a lot of young talent and Roy Williams is an excellent coach, but how can you take them over the teams with the experience?

VITALE:
They have experience as well, returning the nucleus from a team that did very well in the tough ACC. Then add three players that would have been first-round draft picks in Ty Lawson, Brandan Wright and Wayne Ellington, and it is easy to get excited. They have a great interior player in Tyler Hansbrough, who should be in the hunt for national Player of the Year honors all season long. North Carolina has a coach in Roy Williams who knows how to blend people together and get the maximum from his talent. I love the Tar Heels.

Jeff (Ashkum, Ill)
Hey Dicky will JJ Redick ever be a good player in the NBA?

VITALE:
He has had some tough luck with injuries, and that has set him back. He has to play and play to maximize his ability. Once he gets healthy, gets some minutes, I feel he will be a solid player. There is no substitute for guys that can shoot the ball. He will provide some point production.

Sean (Princeton jct)
After Michigan State sent 3 players to the NBA, what do you expect Tom Izzo's team to do this year?

VITALE:
The Spartans made a great showing in New York considering how young they are. They were hit as hard as anybody by the NBA draft, losing Shannon Brown, Maurice Ager and Paul Davis. That is quite a load to lose. Raymar Morgan looks like he will be a special player. Drew Neitzel will put points on the board and he had the big basket at the end of the game against Texas. Michigan State lost a tough one against a good Maryland team at the Garden too. This will be a rebuilding year but never count Mr. Izzo out.

Kevin Pittsburgh, PA
Do you think that Pittsburgh has a shot to win the national championship?

VITALE:
I think Jamie Dixon has a very talented team. Yes, Pittsburgh lost Carl Krauser, but there is depth in the backcourt and Aaron Gray is a force up front. The addition of swingman Mike Cook, a transfer from East Carolina, will be a positive as well. The Panthers are definitely a contender.

Dave (Salem, NC)
Dick, what's the deal with no Hokies in the top 40? Last year you said they were a sure top 25 team this year. What's that about?

VITALE:
Right before the start of the season, when I did a list of 65 teams to make the big dance, I had Virginia Tech in there. The main reason was veteran players, good experience and a coach that will get the most out of his talent in Seth Greenberg. I think Virginia Tech will get a big year out of Coleman Collins, who had a tough time last season. Maybe they were underrated by being left out of an earlier top 40.

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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