12 burning questions for 2012-13
The Vitale Bald Dome Index (VBDI) is getting tuned up. It is getting shined up and ready for the new college basketball season, my 34th year calling games for ESPN.
It has been unbelievable, baby! The players, coaches and fans have all been great to me. It has been an incredible journey and I have loved every minute of it. I have some unbelievable feelings about the 2012-13 season.
I have a dazzling dozen questions and some answers as I look ahead to the competition.
1. Will Kentucky's diaper dandies live up to the accolades of past classes?
John Calipari lost six players to the NBA draft. Once again, he has reloaded and the newcomers are super, scintillating and sensational. You will see great things from Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin & Co. This will be an inexperienced team, but one that Calipari can mold into something special by season's end. That is why many, including me, believe as return trip to the Final Four is imminent.
2. Can Noel replace player of the year, Olympic gold medalist, Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA tournament and No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis?
3. Will Indiana's Cody Zeller be as good as advertised?
The Hoosiers are loaded and Zeller will be the key. I picked him as my preseason player of the year, so I guess the answer is yes! Expectations in Bloomington are pretty high, so there is pressure on the big guy.
4. Can Creighton's scoring machine, Doug McDermott, take his team on a run come tournament time?
McDermott is on my All-Solid Gold first team and he should have another big scoring season. Creighton is the favorite in the Missouri Valley Conference and has the potential to get through a few rounds in the Big Dance.
5. Will NC State diaper dandy Rodney Purvis be a major impact player?
Coming in, he should be a catalyst for a Wolfpack team that is favored to win the ACC. Purvis should fit in nicely with the likes of C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, Scott Wood and the veteran nucleus enjoyed by coach Mark Gottfried.
6. Will North Carolina and Duke be able to sustain their prominent roles despite losing key players?
I believe both of them will remain among the elite programs in America. Yes, they lost a lot of talent, but Roy Williams and Coach K have others to step up, including numerous diaper dandies. I look for big things from James Michael McAdoo in Chapel Hill.
7. Will UCLA's diaper dandies (Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson) be as dominant as expected, if they are eligible to play?
Muhammad recently suffered a shoulder injury that could impact his progress too. I am surprised that the NCAA has taken so long to make a ruling on this situation. On the court, these guys have potential, potential, potential on their side. There is reason for optimism in Westwood if they are eligible.
8. Will the Big Ten be as good as many projected?
I have the Big Ten as the premier conference in all the land. Just look at the top of the league with Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State. Then factor in Wisconsin, as Bo Ryan's teams always compete. Minnesota returns Trevor Mbakwe, and that will help Tubby Smith's team. Iowa will improve with the addition of big man Adam Woodbury. My friends, this league is loaded.
9. Will Louisville have the depth and talent to compete for the national title?
I picked the Cardinals to cut down the nets in Atlanta, and depth is one key reason. When you can put out a lineup with the likes of Peyton Siva, Chane Behanan, Gorgui Dieng and Wayne Blackshear, watch out. Blackshear missed most of last season and should be a big-time player this time around. It also helps to have a guy who should be in the Hall of Fame on that sideline, as Rick Pitino is ready.
10. Will the Atlantic 10 get the respect it deserves?
This league was strengthened with the addition of VCU and Butler, as Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens have Final Four experience. This conference was already solid and people forget that Phil Martelli's St. Joseph's team is a favorite with most of its squad returning.
11. Will the Pac-12 be as improved as many suggest?
Last season, there was a point at which many experts wondered if only one team from that league would make the big dance. Arizona has a great recruiting class coming in. UCLA will be much better. Stanford gained a lot of experience at the NIT last season. Don't forget about Washington, with sharpshooter C.J. Wilcox back. The conference will be a lot stronger.
12. Will we see a number of mid-majors in contention in the NCAA tournament?
The definition of mid-major is interesting. It used to be all about smaller budgets, but the bottom line is, if you are not in the ACC, Big Ten, Big East, Big 12, etc., then some group you as a mid-major. I feel there are a number of schools that will be very good, like San Diego State, UNLV, Creighton and Gonzaga, to name a few. Believe me, they are not mid-major in stature.
I cannot wait for the season to start, baby! It will be awesome with a capital A!