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NBA early entries help create tourney parity

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

March 22, 2005 | ESPN.com's NCAA Tournament coverage

As we move toward the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16, isn't it amazing how much parity we're seeing in college basketball?

Think about this: The top two teams in the preseason poll, Kansas and Wake Forest, have packed their bags and finished their seasons. Expectations ran high, but these programs fell short. Wisconsin-Milwaukee, a No. 12 seed, is still playing. West Virginia, picked in the lower echelon of the Big East, remains alive.

The top two teams in the preseason poll, Kansas and Wake Forest, have packed their bags.
Eight of the top 16 seeded teams in this tournament are out. That's right, a pair of No. 2s, three of the No. 3s and three of the No. 4s are finished. That says a lot about the excitement of college basketball – that if you play hard, showing passion and emotion, you're capable of visiting Upset City!

Get five guys together and play as a unit, work hard, do a good job defensively and shoot the trifecta – and you can survive and advance, as Jimmy Valvano used to say.

The 3-point shot, as I have said many times, is a great equalizer. You don't need a great big man to succeed. Wisconsin-Milwaukee hit more than 10 trifectas in its wins over Alabama and Boston College.

The game is now guard-oriented. Big players are not as dominant as in the past.

Texas Tech guard Ronald Ross was a walk-on, and now he is a member of my All-Into-the-Sweet-16 team, doing a great job for coach Robert Montgomery Knight.

One factor that few have talked about is the change in recruiting. Think about players like LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Eddy Curry, Tyson Chandler and Kwame Brown – all of whom jumped to the NBA straight out of high school. If they had gone to college, they likely would have played at big powerhouse programs, and the smaller schools wouldn't have had nearly as much of a shot at some of those upsets.

So many kids become stars in the NCAA Tournament because of the style of the game and because so many big names go to the pros early.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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