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Friday, August 22, 2008
Roundball Chatter

By Dick Vitale

Every Friday I will give my thoughts on the game I love, basketball.

• The NIT preseason tip-off pairings and seedings were announced recently. If the seeds hold up, Madison Square Garden could have an interesting final four Nov. 26 and 28. The top four seeds and hosts of the regionals are Purdue (1), Oklahoma (2), Arizona (3) and Boston College (4). Getting to the Garden will not be easy as the Sooners could face Stephen Curry and Davidson in the second round. Lute Olson's Wildcats could have a challenge against UAB and Robert Vaden in round two.

• Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon had to be disappointed with the NCAA's ruling that denied Mike Cook an additional season of eligibility. The school appealed to the governing body after Cook's senior season ended with a knee injury Dec. 20 against Duke. Cook played 11 of the team's 37 games, but that total included six postseason contests. The NCAA counts those six as one combined game when evaluating medical redshirt purposes.

• USC could receive some immediate help up front. Alex Stepheson has transferred from North Carolina to be closer to home, where his father is very ill. The former Tar Heel has requested a waiver to grant him immediate eligibility, and there is a precedent to give the young man a chance. You may remember Tyler Smith left Iowa and went to Tennessee, where he was allowed to play for the Vols right away without sitting out. Having Stepheson and Taj Gibson up front would help Tim Floyd's squad contend in the Pac-10.

• How much does Indiana appreciate Tom Crean? A 10-year deal has now been finalized that will pay the former Marquette coach over $23 million through the life of the contract. The school also will pay for season tickets to men's basketball and football games, travel costs for his wife and children to road games and the use of two cars. There is also a provision that would lead to his firing if NCAA violations occurred under his watch. Crean is already popular in the state, as he participated in Peyton Manning's recent charity bowling event in Indianapolis. He also added former Duke player Roshown McLeod to his coaching staff.

• Speaking of Indianapolis, according to published reports, the city is scheduled to host a pretty impressive doubleheader on December 6th at the new Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts. Crean's Hoosiers are slated to face Gonzaga, while Ohio State tangles with likely top 10 opponent Notre Dame.

• Lots of news out of Charlottesville. Virginia basketball coach Dave Leitao announced that center Tunji Soroye is returning and forward Laurynas Mikalauskas is no longer a member of the Cavaliers. The 6-11 Soroye, who played in only two games last season due to injury, received a medical hardship waiver. The 6-8 Mikalauskas, played in 20 games last season and averaged 7.1 ppg. Leitao did not elaborate on why the Lithuanian was dismissed from the program.

• Nice to see Ben Howland and UCLA getting involved in a new community event. The Bruins basketball team and Athletic Department have joined forces with UCLA basketball alumnus John Vallely, the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation (PCRF) and Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA, for the inaugural "Dribble For The Cure". The event will take place on the UCLA campus at Pauley Pavilion on Sunday, Nov. 2, from 8:30 a.m.-Noon. For many years, Vallely and his family have been on the front line in the battle against cancer. A starting guard on John Wooden's UCLA 1969 and 1970 NCAA Championship teams, Vallely is a cancer-survivor and the Director of Scientific Affairs for the PCRF. In 1991, John and Karen Vallely lost their daughter Erin to cancer at the age of 12. We have to beat this dreaded disease.