Vitale: Mid-majors challenge big boys

Vitale: Early injuries hit hard

Vitale: Preseason All-Rolls-Royce Team (updated)

Vitale's preseason content for '04-05

V-Mail: How will Duke, Carolina fare?

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Expect Illinois, Connecticut to excel


Q: You're the only one without Illinois in the top 10. Neither Dee Brown nor Deron Williams made your First through Fifth Preseason All-American teams. And Brown and Williams don't even garner a mention in your "dynamic duos" column. What do you have against Illinois? Do the Illini have to move to the East Coast or hire an Italian coach to get noticed? Typical again of ESPN (the Eastern Seaboard Promotional Network). -- Johnny D (Arlington Heights, Illinois)
Dee Brown
Shout it out, baby! Illinois guard Dee Brown and his backcourt mates are ready for the Final Four.
— When I was talking about dynamic duos, I was referring to inside-outside players. I do rate them among my top backcourts.

As far as All-Americans go, there are probably 30 guys you can talk about, and the Illini duo certainly is in the mix. If I were a player, I would prefer to be in the postseason All-America hunt.

Dee Brown and Deron Williams should have a great season as Illinois competes for the Big Ten title.

Q: How can you rank UConn so low in your poll? They're the defending national champs. I know they lost three very good players, but they have so many other players. What happened when Emeka Okafor was hurt last year for a while? Josh Boone stepped up and showed he can play inside with the best of them. I think they are at least one of the top three teams in the country. -- UConn fan (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
— So low? I think I've been pretty fair when you consider that the Huskies lost two guys who went in the top three in the NBA draft (Okafor and Ben Gordon). I think that putting them in the top 10 is pretty fair. Some people only see being No. 1 or 2 as being respectful of a program. I have a lot of respect for the Huskies, and they will have a phenomenal year. Coach Jim Calhoun would probably tell you that I overrated them.

Q: How can people continue to place the ACC over the Big East? With the addition of Marquette, Louisville, Cincinnati and DePaul, the Big East would seem to be the toughest conference in college basketball. The ACC is overrated and does not have the competition that the Big East has. -- Big East fan (Winston Salem, North Carolina)
— Remember, those schools join the Big East next year, and we're talking about this season. We will re-evaluate that in the future when those teams are in the Big East. For now, the ACC has five of the best 10 teams in America, so I give them the clear nod as best conference in the nation.

Q: How could you leave Oregon State out of your preseason top 30? The Beavers have everyone back and a very talented backcourt with Lamar Hurd and Chris Stephens. Forward David Lucas was first team All-Pac-10 last year, and they've added 7-footer Liam Hughes and a good transfer, Jason Fontenet. They beat Arizona last year, and they should finish in the top three of the Pac-10 this year. -- Scott Campbell (Corvallis, Oregon)
— Lucas has a foot injury and his absence really hurts the Beavers. Coach Jay John needs some time to build the program, and once he's had a chance to get the Beavers going, watch out. Oregon State, on any given night, is capable of big things. They must be more consistent to succeed big-time.

Q: Do you see Toledo doing any damage in the Dance this year? With Keith Triplett, Sammy Villegas and Justin Ingram, you would think that the Rockets can certainly hang with the big boys and even send some home early -- Josh (Chicago)
— Coach Stan Joplin has done a terrific job. I was familiar with him when I coached the Pistons and he came to camp. He has a great basketball IQ, and MAC teams have proven they can play with the big boys. Just look at Miami-Ohio beating Purdue and Xavier already. It's the most underrated conference in America, and Toledo will be in the hunt. Buffalo is improved and also a MAC contender.

Q: Nobody is mentioning Seton Hall this year. Are we forgetting that the Hall is returning almost its entire team? Although Andre Barrett is gone, Jamar Nutter is eligible this year, and 6-foot-5 Justin Cerasoli looks ready to take over the point. I think they have a legitimate shot to take the Big East. What do you think? -- Christian (Wayne, New Jersey)
— The bottom line is that Kelly Whitney is a rising star, and coach Louis Orr has done a nice job. Losing to Richmond in the opener was a bit of a surprise, but coach Jerry Wainwright and the Spiders are underrated. The past two years, the program has made the NCAA, but losing Barrett hurts. He was small in stature but big in heart and a truly valuable player.

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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