Nov. 24, 2004
As you watch the early-season tournaments all across America, notice how some mid-majors are taking advantage of the opportunity to challenge the big boys.
I saw it firsthand recently at Madison Square Garden. You could tell a lot just by looking into the eyes of some of the St. Mary's players before they met a pair of ranked teams, Memphis and Mississippi State.
The Gaels lost both games, but the experience will be important in the long term for coach Randy Bennett, who has done a remarkable job in a short time. Remember, he inherited a program that won two games prior to his arrival, and he took them to 19 big Ws a season ago.
Making the Coaches vs. Cancer semifinals will help St. Mary's when WCC play begins.
An experience like making the Coaches vs. Cancer semifinals will help St. Mary's when league play begins in the competitive West Coast Conference (WCC). St. Mary's can be a contender against Ronny Turiaf, Adam Morrison and Co. of Gonzaga.
Gonzaga will be tested by the Gaels, especially when they return to full strength, getting back Paul Marigney (suspension due to academics), Erik Bond (transfer from California) and Frederic Adjiwanou (sat out first four games due to transferring from a junior college several years ago).
Some mid-majors have pulled off upsets already. Look at Santa Clara's big 77-66 win over North Carolina.
Then there was Texas A&M-Corpus Christi shocking Florida State 70-67 at Tallahassee. Former South Alabama and San Jacinto coach Ronnie Arrow saw his Islanders pull off a real stunner against an ACC team expected to compete for an NCAA berth.
The big guys have to watch out. All the parity in college basketball makes for excitement. There are no gimmes, baby!
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.