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Friday, December 19, 2008
Roundball Chatter

By Dick Vitale
ESPN.com

Each week I'll talk about the sport I love, college basketball:

• People always ask me about up-and-coming coaches. One of the rising stars on the collegiate sidelines is Butler's Brad Stevens. This school has been a Cradle of Coaches in recent years with Barry Collier, Thad Matta and Todd Lickliter all moving on. Stevens hasn't missed a beat and Butler, picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Horizon League, went on the road and took Ohio State to the wire. Stevens can flat-out coach, my friends.

• Another school that is been a breeding ground for coaches is Kent State. Think about the recent string: Gary Waters (went to Rutgers, now at Cleveland State), Stan Heath (now at South Florida) and Jim Christian (currently at TCU). They have had some impressive players there as well, including All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates!

• Congratulations to coach Bobby Cremins, who earned his 500th career victory when College of Charleston beat Coastal Carolina. It was ironic that Cremins earned his milestone W against his friend and another former ACC coach, Cliff Ellis. Charleston is off to an 8-1 start, its best since 2003-04.

• While Pat Summitt keeps moving closer to the amazing 1,000-win plateau, another coach in the state of Tennessee celebrated a milestone this week. Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings earned his 300th career victory when the Commodores knocked off South Florida in the SEC/Big East Invitational in Nashville, Tennessee. He is in his 16th season as a Division I head coach, and in his 10th campaign with the Commodores.

• Out at Arizona, it is no surprise that Chase Budinger is putting up impressive numbers. Here's my question: how many people realize the season Jordan Hill is enjoying so far? He enters this weekend's game against UNLV averaging a solid double-double at 18.8 ppg. and 11.8 rpg. He is developing into one of the premier big men out west.

•This figures to be one of the best regular season Saturdays. December 20th should have been marked on the calendar, baby! Think about it: Gonzaga vs. Connecticut in Seattle has the potential to be a Final Four preview. Duke and Xavier is a top 10 showdown; can the Musketeers remain unbeaten? How about Michigan State vs. Texas as Tom Izzo and Rick Barnes lead their teams into action! Stephen Curry and Davidson hook up with Robbie Hummel and Purdue in the Wooden Tradition as Conseco Fieldhouse should be rocking and rolling. I know Syracuse fell from the ranks of the unbeaten against Cleveland State, but a match-up against John Calipari's Memphis squad should lead to excitement galore. BYU and Arizona State also square off in a doubleheader that includes Minnesota against Louisville with Tubby Smith and Rick Pitino renewing their rivalry. It should be a special day of hoops happenings, my friends.

• How about a salute to Utah coach Jim Boylen. He suspended guard Luka Drca for two games after the player committed an intentional foul against Oklahoma. Drca tripped Blake Griffin and the unsportsmanlike act did not go unpunished. Boylen wasn't required to penalize his player, but he clearly felt it was the right action to take.

• UAB suffered a major roster shakeup as four players were off of the roster. Terrence Roderick and Indiana transfer Armon Bassett to leave school, while Jeremy Mayfield and Ed Berrios were declared ineligible because of academic issues. Coach Mike Davis' team is shorthanded with Conference USA play right around the corner.

• It's interesting that the Big 12/Pac-10 roundball series actually runs into December after the first four-day window. The remaining games are Kansas at Arizona (Tue., Dec. 23) and Texas Tech at Stanford (Sun., Dec. 28). This way all 12 members of the Big 12 get a shot to participate. Arizona (lost to Texas A&M) and Stanford (beat Colorado) played two Big 12 opponents as part of this year's series.

• Connecticut got a boost with the return of forward Stanley Robinson. In his first game back with the Huskies, he contributed seven points and five rebounds in 16 minutes in a win over Stony Brook. Robinson will help a frontline led by Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrian. You know coach Jim Calhoun was happy to have Robinson back.

• Is this the season Leonard Hamilton has great success at Florida State? The Seminoles have a major test this weekend against a top five team, Pittsburgh. Florida State has already scored wins over Florida, California and Cincinnati this season. Hamilton's team got stronger with the eligibility of sophomore guard Derwin Kitchen.

• It was nice to see the University of Detroit honored one of its all-time greats. Spencer Haywood Night took place on December 17 against Aquinas. There was special significance in the that opponent for Haywood, who arrived at Detroit in time for the 1968-69 season after leading the United States to a gold medal at the Mexico City Olympics. Haywood's first game was also against Aquinas, 40 years ago. It ended as a 105-40 rout in favor of Detroit, but blowout city ended prematurely. With 6 minutes remaining in the contest, Haywood swept in for a thunderous dunk  and broke the backboard in the process.

• Keep an eye on the latest installment of the Illinois-Missouri rivalry on December 23rd. It should be an early Christmas present as both teams have started off well this season. This is the kind of game that can help build a positive resume heading into conference play.

• I wish the best to Loyola-Marymount coach Bill Bayno and Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury as both were sidelined recently due to health issues. Stansbury returned from a viral infection in time to coach his team against Cincinnati in the SEC/Big East invitational.