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Jimmy V Classic: Great contests, great cause


Dec. 6, 2004
More from Vitale -- Memories of vintage Jimmy V at first ESPYs

The Jimmy V Classic is always such a special evening. This year's event at Madison Square Garden features four talented teams in a dynamic doubleheader. The biggest winner of all are the cancer patients who benefit from the dollars raised to fight that dreaded disease. It will help fund the research to fight cancer.

Jimmy Valvano's legacy won't be the time he cut the nets down as the coach of national champion NC State in 1983. Instead, it will be his battle against cancer and the courageous speech he gave at the 1993 ESPYs that motivated so many, including the friends who helped form the V Foundation.

More than $30 million has been raised already, and Jimmy would be proud to see how much has been accomplished. It's a long road, and there's still a lot of work to be done.

Jimmy V would also be proud to see some of his coaching buddies hooking up on the court. In the first game, Memphis takes on Pittsburgh. The Panthers are underrated, because people talking about the Big East this season usually mention Syracuse and Connecticut but don't include coach Jamie Dixon's squad.

The Panthers have an outstanding inside-outside duo with Carl Krauser at the point and Chris Taft inside. They can create an unbelievable dilemma for most clubs defensively. Chevon Troutman is a force on the boards, and Pitt plays tremendous defense.

Memphis is an athletic team, but early in the season the Tigers have had to search for their identity. They've had a difficult time playing five-on-five basketball. But they do an outstanding job in transition and on the offensive boards.

For coach John Calipari's team to be successful, Sean Banks has to be a star, living up to his billing by playing to the level he's capable of. Memphis has been a Dow Jones team -- up and down, baby! Rodney Carney is happy to be back at the mecca of college basketball, Madison Square Garden. He was so impressive in the Coaches vs. Classic event.

So it's the athleticism of Memphis against the defensive ability of Pittsburgh.

In the second game, it's a battle between Oklahoma State and Syracuse. Coach Jim Boeheim, a cancer survivor, has his Syracuse Orange back in the Garden, where they won Coaches vs. Cancer.

What a coaching matchup of two future Hall of Famers, Boeheim and Eddie Sutton. These guys have been so consistent over the years.

The Cowboys do it with defense, excellent shot selection and a thorough understanding of how to share the basketball. John Lucas III is a brilliant point guard in a season where that position features so many star players. Lucas is so athletic, and he's an excellent passer and long-range shooter. Joey Graham is Mr. Versatility and Ivan McFarlin is a member of my All-Support team.

Oklahoma State will be a formidable foe, but it must be able to attack Syracuse's 2-3 zone.

Syracuse has a determined Gerry McNamara on the outside and, on the inside, Hakim Warrick (a member of my All-Rolls Royce first team). Josh Pace has also done a good job contributing for Syracuse.

What a twin bill, Memphis vs. Pittsburgh and Syracuse vs. Oklahoma State! Remember, the big winner is cancer research. If you'd like to contribute to the Jimmy V Foundation, simply call 1-800-4-JIMMY V. The life you save may belong to someone you love.

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.

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