It's March Madness baby! It's here. I am so excited. I can't wait. It will be an incredible tournament. I am so excited to go down for the UNC-Duke matchup on Saturday night. You have so much at stake. That's what makes it the best rivalry. Eight miles apart. Great players. Great teams. And for this one, you have the ACC title at stake. You have a No. 1 seed at stake. It will be a rock and roll atmosphere. It will be a fun, fun time.
If UNC wins on Saturday, will they get the last 1 seed?
I think they have to also do well in the ACC tournament. Kentucky and Syracuse are locks for No. 1 seeds. Then Duke, Kansas, UNC and Michigan State if they get hot in the Big 10 tournament or if Missouri does well in the Big 12, they could sneak in there. They have a great front court.
Any reason in particular for UConn's struggles this season? Do you think UConn still gets in?
It's very simple. They've been a team that's had very little leadership on the floor. They've lacked in team chemistry. That's vital to the game of basketball. Last year they fed off of Kemba Walker. People won't like to hear me say this in Connecticut - if you're under .500 in your conference, you don't deserve to get into the tournament over a mid-major who's got a great record and maybe gets upset in their conference tournament.
That's what my VBDI - Vitale Bald Dome Index - says. But I think somehow they get in. Joe Lunardi, I have great respect for him, has 10 out of the Big East in the tournament, but I don't agree with that.
Are you surprised at all about the fact Duke's lost at home twice this year, especially in that hostile environment.
Duke has a certain standard that they've tried to live up to. At home, they feel more pressure dealing with that. Plus the teams that come in there play at a higher level because of the fear factor of being embarrassed. But look at the two losses, buzzer beater in OT. They've had a great year, wins over Kansas, UNC, Michigan, Michigan State.
Does Ben Howland Surive all this drama?
I think it's very simple, based on the article by the terrific writer. I think it comes down to character. Character. When you talk about players, you're not dealing with numbers like in football, if you have a couple of guys that go south on you and it builds and builds and it becomes a nightmare. I know Ben Howland, he cares about the kids and he cares about doing things the right now. He's had a bad mixture of players. They went to all of those Final Fours and lost some players who left. If you read some of Nelson's quotes, he says he didn't do somethings the right way. Ben Howland has to do a better job of evaluating and looking at character. Every coach, and I'm guilty of this years and years ago when I was a coach, thinks you can change a kid. It's a beautiful feeling when you take that kid and he does change and he makes it.
You saw Murray State at their best against St Marys, do you think they should get to play close to home in Nashville or Louisville
They were very impressive the day I had them. They dominated right from the gate. They executed well. They're a dangerous team. Size may come back to haunt them. Wouldn't it be incredible if they were in the same region as Kentucky and had at some point to face the Cats? It would be an absolute frenzy. I had one of my best times at Murray State in my 33 years at ESPN.
If they play like they did against Michigan State, how far do you see Indiana going in March?
Indiana is a very dangerous team. Zeller played phenomenal in that game. They played great inside. Michigan State has been a hot team. The problem with them is they have to go to the next stage. Stage one is they've earned the respect that Indiana basketball should have. Now they have to do it away from home. They have a chance to do that in the Big 10 tournament and they have to take advantage. They have to eliminate the inconsistency to be elite.
It appears the current Tar Heel squad lacks intensity. Do you feel they have enough to make it to the final four and eventually to the championship game?
My buddy Jay Bilas said, and I agree, is the one thing they lack is that killer instinct, like you say. I agree. They need that desire when they step on the floor. They have to understand that others see that Tar Heel uniform they have an intensity. They also need to defend the 3-point shot. But they do have a chance to win it all, absolutely.
Is there any team who could knockoff UK in the SEC Tournament next week?
I look on paper and I would say Big Blue Nation has a lot to cheer about. Vanderbilt can be dangerous. Alabama is playing better. Florida, if they get hot on 3s. You just never know. But if you're asking me, I say Kentucky is the team to beat. They're playing as a unit. There are three major factors I look for in the tournament: 1) you have to be strong on the perimeter, you have to run your halfcourt game. I've seen a big improvement in Kentucky in that regard. 2) You need a defensive presence. You need to stay in a game because of your defense. One thing they do is play defense as a unit. They have the enforcer of Anthony Davis, my national player of the year. His shotblocking ability is worth 15 points, I think. 3) You need a player who's not afraid of the challenge and will step up. Jones, Gilchrist, Davis. They have a number of those kinds of guys. Kenutcky is my choice to win it all.
any chance of another team like VCU and Butler making the final four this year?
I really do. This year we're loaded with a lot of mid-majors. I would hate to see these teams penalized and not get in vs. a big conference team who's been mediocre all year long. I'd hate to see them get upset and not make the tournament because of another team taht's 7-10 in-conference. I know UConn was .500 last year, but I'm talking about below .500 teams. This year, watch out for Wichita State. Creighton is dangerous. I firmly believe that people come tournament time love to see those small teams compete. People argue schedule strength. But how do we know if these teams couldn't compete? If you go 27-4, I don't care where you play, let those kids be a part of the party.
Dicky-baby,Can the Buckeyes circle the wagons and make a long run in the tourney?
OSU is dangerous. They got away with one yesterday. Sullinger pulled it out for them yesterday. They're dangerous. They could make a big time run.
Zeller was Awesome with a capital A last night babyy!! ACC POY?
I just posted my POYs for various conferences and he's my pick. When you look at what he's done, he's been a major factor. Whatever his mom and dad are doing, they better bottle it and sell it, because not only basketball wise, they've got some kids that really do things the right way.
How tough a matchup wil Mizzou be in the tourney as most teams do not have the speed to keep up and even though they are small how many forwards can stay with Kim English on the perimeter?
They have three teams they need to stay away from: Kentucky, UNC, Syracuse. Why? Size. And talented size. That could be a dilemma for them. Saying all of that, they can compete with any team in the country. They have quickness and speed. They're dynamite.
Could Tennessee get on the bubble if they win Saturday vs Vandy?
I think Tennessee has to do a lot more than that. But they've shown some some spirit and their new coach has brought some enthusiasm. I think they make some real noise as they get more players in.
Dick, how do you think Michigan does in March? I feel like they could get to the Sweet 16, but that any team with size is going to present major problems.
I sort of agree with that. Capable of winning a couple of games. Hardaway has some potential. But after that, they become limited.
Who would win on a neutral floor, UNC or UK?
It would depend on foul trouble and other situations. But that would be an absolute incredible national championship game. Either team could win, but right now, you'd have to give a slight nod to Kentucky.
Dick, the Cincy Bearcats have got to be a lock at this point right even with the weak non-conference, looked excellent against Marquette?
They have to get a couple of wins. It was a nice win last night. That was a big plus. They'll make the tournament. They're another club that's been up and down. Michigan's been up and down. Indiana too. Cincy is the same, but they've got that dangerous label.
Hey Dickie, any chance Mark Turgeon and my Terps pull a Jimmy V/NC State this season?
Mark's in a tough situation with Williams going to the NBA. Their level of talent has to go up up and up. He replaced a future hall of famer. You have to sit back, wait and evaluate what's going to happen in his tenure.
What do you think of the Badgers making some noise in the tournament? They showed poise during their win at Ohio State. Can you really ever count out a team coached by Bo Ryan?
You just answered your own question. I say Amen to what you say about Bo Ryan. Any time a team has players who can execute and are disciplined, you have a chance. Bo Ryan is a winner.
Duke/UNC better rivalry than Sox/Yankees?
I think people give the edge to the Sox-Yankees because of the emotion and the intensity and what's at stake in MLB. But when you're talking rivalries in college sports: Duke-UNC, OSU-Michiganare my two top. I think it's sad that we're going to see some of these rivalries lost with the realignment.
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