V-Mail: Forecasts for '04-05 and beyond

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How will Duke, Carolina fare?


More from Vitale: Preseason Top 30 | Preseason All-Rolls-Royce Teams

Q: How will Duke respond after the graduation of point guard Chris Duhon and the NBA early entry of Shaun Livingston? -- hoop fan (Paragould, Arkansas)
Duke still has a solid nucleus with veterans J.J. Redick, Shelden Williams, Daniel Ewing and Co. to build upon. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is an absolute marvel when people don't expect him to do as well. I remember when he lost Elton Brand, Corey Maggette and William Avery after the 1999 season -- and Duke came back stronger than ever. The bottom line is that Duke will be in the hunt for ACC honors all season.

Rashad McCants
Raymond Felton
Q: Is this the season North Carolina goes all the way to the Final Four? -- Tyler (Aberdeen, North Carolina)
I picked North Carolina as my No. 1 team in America. I believe last season's record was misleading -- the Tar Heels lost one heartbreaker after another. I believe they had to familiarize themselves with coach Roy Williams' system and discipline (2004-05 will be Williams' second year as head coach in Chapel Hill). I think you will see the Tar Heels turn those close losses of a year ago into wins.

I expect a banner year out of Raymond Felton, who was my first-team All-Rolls Royce point guard. Rashad McCants was also on my list as one of the top 10 players in America. Fans of Carolina Blue will have a lot to cheer about, baby!

Q: Is this Kentucky's best recruiting class since Antoine Walker's group? -- Barry (Kentucky)
It's probably the best class on paper during the Tubby Smith era. He has always been able to fill in with quality players in spots where the Wildcats need help. This class is big-time and reminiscent of the Rick Pitino days of getting the mega-stars, the guys with the big-time reputations. Now it's a matter of taking those reputations and turning the expectations into realities.

Q: Do you think the Gators have enough power to be national champions this year? -- Param (Gainesville, Florida)
I think the Gators are a player or two short of winning it all. They should be a typical Gator team: NCAA-bound, win 20-plus games, take nine or 10 in the SEC. Coach Billy Donovan has a solid corps, with Matt Walsh and David Lee up front and Anthony Roberson in the backcourt. Donovan also has to be happy with his incoming class.

Q: How much impact will Drew Neitzel have in getting the Spartans back to the Final Four? -- Jim (Chicago)
I have great respect for the Super Garf, Howard Garfinkel of Five-Star Camp, who has had so many great players go through his camp. He said emphatically that Neitzel will be one of the big impact players in the Big Ten this season. If he is, that's exactly what the Spartans need -- a playmaker who can penetrate, create good looks for his teammates and also shoot from the perimeter. I expect this to be a big-time year for coach Tom Izzo and Co. A Final Four year? Stay tuned.

Q: Who are three to five former NCAA players who you would love to just see or call one more of their games? -- Brad (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Wow, interesting question. I'd start with Michael Jordan; anything about him was special. There was the confidence and the way he strutted on the court. He was a winner all the way who played with discipline and within the team system at North Carolina. He was truly an All-American.

I'd love to call another game featuring Shane Battier, because I loved everything about his game. He was unselfish, versatile and could defend as well as anyone. Battier could play anywhere on the floor.

I would love to call another of Danny Manning's games. Manning was the multitalented player who carried Kansas to the national championship in 1988. He was so special.

I'd love to call another of Chris Mullin's games. Mullin was a sensational shooter for St. John's whose great touch meant nothing-but-nylon, baby!

Then, I'd stay in the Big East and call another game featuring Patrick Ewing, a fierce intimidator in the three-second area who could dominate without scoring a point. His defensive presence and energy were unique and special for Georgetown.

There are lots more players I could also mention. I've had a great time sitting at courtside over the past 25 years, calling games featuring the best of the best. It has been the thrill of a lifetime, and if you want to read more about it, read my book, "Living a Dream" -- it highlights the best players I've seen on the college level over the last 25 seasons.

Q: What is the best advice you would give a new and up-and-coming coach? -- Haben (Silver Spring, Maryland)
First, have the special work ethic that sets the table for your people. Be enthusiastic, because that becomes contagious with everyone around you. Do things the right way and let everyone know that you carry yourself well and let people observe that. It's important to be punctual and make sure you handle yourself well in front of people. Also, go to as many clinics as possible and try to learn as much as possible.

Extend a hand and ask for help. Don't be afraid to learn from others, because implementing ideas of others is simply a sign of flattery. Many concepts and ideas from the great ones can fit into your system. On the high school or collegiate level, you have to understand your strengths and weaknesses. Understand the styles of play that mesh into your system.

You have to be flexible and be around for your players to talk to them about more than just basketball. Be there for them in many ways. Be there on and off the court. They want to share things that are happening, and they may want to lean on someone who is more than just a coach.

Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit before providing color commentary for ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he's been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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