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Roundball Chatter

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

• Kevin Stallings has done an amazing job at Vanderbilt. First of all, it is not easy competing in the SEC East, going against Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and company. At Vanderbilt, there are such lofty academic requirements that you don't always get the athletes you want in your program. I feel he is an underrated coach.

• Washington State guard Derrick Low is one of the underrated guards in America. He is so steady, limits turnovers, can hit the trifecta. Let me tell you, the Cougars take on the personality of their coach, Tony Bennett, who was a heady player himself.

• This time of year sees many coaching changes. Think about what is going on in the Mountain West ... it has been flat-out wacky. New Mexico (Ritchie McKay), Utah (Ray Giacoletti), Wyoming (Steve McClain) and Colorado State (Dale Layer) have made moves and are looking for new coaches.

• South Florida is looking for a replacement for Robert McCallum and I have a candidate deserving consideration. Former Providence, Virginia and Xavier coach Peter Gillen would be a great hire down in Tampa. The school needs someone to sell the program to get fan support. This is a sleeping giant program capable of tremendous progress and Gillen could bring enthusiasm and energy to the Bulls. It would be a great fit.

• I really like what the NIT committee has done, making the tournament like a mini-NCAA. There are a lot of solid teams in the bracket and I really feel there are several NIT squads that could have made it to the Sweet 16 at the big dance. CM Newton, Dean Smith and company have done a super job with this event. Meanwhile there have been some outstanding games in the NIT already, including Marist's win at Oklahoma State and NC State showing guts by winning at Drexel. The Massachusetts-Alabama game was also outstanding.

• I just have a feeling that Arizona is going to beat Purdue and give Florida a very tough game in the second round. Lute Olson's club is talented, though it has not played to its potential. Chase Budinger, Marcus Williams and company could make it interesting against the defending national champions.

• My vote for most improved player in America is Darren Collison of UCLA. The Bruins point guard did a super job replacing Jordan Farmar in the backcourt this season. Collison can pass and run in transition. • Congratulations to Fred Barakat of the ACC on his retirement. He did a super job running the ACC men's basketball tournament for well over two decades. I was also very impressed with the way Tampa handled this year's ACC tourney. It was done in a first-class manner at the St. Pete Times Forum.

• I have said that the ACC is the best conference this season. The numbers back up my point. The ACC placed the most teams in the big dance with seven, followed by the Big East, Pac-10 and Big Ten with six each. The SEC got five teams in.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.