Jan. 3, 2005
I've been around the game of basketball for many years, at the high school, college and pro level. One thing I love about college basketball is that it's so unpredictable. I've enjoyed my 26 years with ESPN/ABC, and I get totally amazed ... because just when you think you've got things figured out, you see some shocking results.
How many people were stunned Sunday night when the news came out of Pittsburgh: Bucknell 69, Pittsburgh 66. Are you serious? Yes, coach Pat Flannery's Bison had shocked St. Joseph's and came into The Zoo at Pitt with an 8-4 record on the season.
The loss snapped Pittsburgh's 26-game winning streak against nonconference opponents and its 49-game winning streak in nonconference home games.
For those who don't believe in upsets, consider this: Bucknell was 14-of-16 from the foul line while Pittsburgh was 9-for-20. That matters in a three-point game! The Panthers also turned the ball over 18 times.
On any given night, baby!
That's why I love college basketball. It keeps amazing me.
Moving on to another Shock City result: Come on, how many people would have predicted that St. John's, picked last in the Big East, would beat up NC State?
The Red Storm were without one of their best players, suspended forward Rodney Epperson, and coach Norm Roberts' club had already lost to Niagara and St. Francis of New York.
But that's why they play the games, folks. NC State was ranked and featured a New York City schoolboy looking to impress the fans at Madison Square Garden, the mecca of college basketball. Julius Hodge and Co. got a shock, though.
The Wolfpack scored only 10 points in the first half (27-10)! St. John's went on to a 63-45 win in a humiliating performance for NC State. St. John's dominated in the biggest win in Roberts' coaching career. This is the kind of win St. John's can build on, while NC State followed up with an 82-69 loss to West Virginia.
The NC State team apparently was bothered by flu-like symptoms in New York, and Hodge suffered a sprained ankle that sidelined him against the Mountaineers.
What about Santa Clara beating North Carolina 77-66 in the season opener? It doesn't get much better than that. Yes, I understand that the Tar Heels were without Raymond Felton. But Sean May and Rashad McCants were there!
Then, how do you explain that same Santa Clara team losing back-to-back games to Central Connecticut State and Yale in the Cable Car Classic? Think about it, those are not household names!
What about Missouri, a team that lost to Davidson earlier in the season, coming out and beating a Gonzaga squad that had wins over Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech and Washington?
Coach Mark Few's Zags aren't intimidated playing on the road, yet it wasn't meant to be in the 63-61 loss to coach Quin Snyder's Tigers.
And who would believe that Stetson, coming in at 2-6, would beat SEC member Georgia 56-52?
That's why I love college basketball. It keeps amazing me. The unknown, the passion, the energy, the enthusiasm -- those intangibles create an incredible environment. Then there's the 3-point shot. It all leads to some unbelievable results.
Dick Vitale coached the University of Detroit and the Pistons before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.