Dick VitaleSPECIAL TO ESPN.COM
December 1, 2006
Each Friday I write about the sport I love, college basketball.
Gary Williams and his Maryland Terrapins had a great win in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, beating the Illini in Champaign. Any time you can get a victory when facing the Orange Crush, it is special. Maryland snapped a 51-game, non-conference home win streak that Illinois enjoyed. The Terps came through big time, even with Ebene Ibekwe on the bench with an ankle injury. Diaper dandy Greivis Vasquez had a super second half for the Terps. It was a special win on the road. After missing the big dance for two straight seasons, Maryland is back in a big way.
Watching Indiana's DJ White play recently, he has to be hungry and must want the ball. He doesn't look like the same player I saw earlier in his career, before injuries took a toll. White must also stay out of foul trouble to remain effective. People will try to be physical with him, and it will be up to White to see how good he can be in that situation.
Point guard play is so pivotal in college basketball today. I don't think you can get to the winner's circle on a consistent basis without solid point guard play. It is about decision making, and the better point guards know how to get the ball into the hand's of key shooters, and in the right position to take advantage of opportunities.
When Greg Oden comes to play for the Buckeyes, watch out. I was really impressed with Ohio State, even though Thad Matta's team lost in Chapel Hill Wednesday night. There is veteran leadership in Jamar Butler and Ron Lewis, and tremendous quickness in Mike Conley Jr. Diaper dandy Daequan Cook can flat out play. Add Oden into the equation and the Buckeyes are a legitimate Final Four contender. With the big man in the lineup, opponents will have to shoot over him or beat the team down the court in transition … good luck. He will be a major factor, and I feel he is the second coming of Patrick Ewing in college basketball.
Florida suffered a blow when Corey Brewer when down with mononucleosis. Billy Donovan needs him in the lineup. Speaking of Donovan, anyone who feels he doesn't do that much coaching should think twice. I watched him run his practice out in Las Vegas prior to the Kansas game and he does an incredible job preparing his team and running the workout. There is a good reason why he and his team won the national championship – hard work.
I recently spent time talking to Louisville coach Rick Pitino and I couldn't agree more with his statement that UCLA is the best defensive team he has seen. They are physical, aggressive and the style of Ben Howland has really caught on out in Westwood. With their personnel and talent, along with the commitment to play on the defensive side, they are going to be a tough, tough club.
It is all about fundamentals in basketball. Teams that understand what a good shot is, offensive efficiency, are the ones that get to the winner's circle. Blocking out is also a lost art in college basketball. That is a key to rebounding, getting position.
I don't think there are going to be many teams as efficient offensively as Lute Olson's Arizona Wildcats. The frontcourt of Ivan Radenovic, Marcus Williams and diaper dandy Chase Budinger will be tough. A key for Arizona is the need for consistent play from point guard Mustafa Shakur. This is going to be a special, special year. The Pac-10 is heavy up top with the 'Cats and UCLA.
When talking about efficiency, a squad that executes and makes sure the right people have the ball shooting, look at Pittsburgh. I can't wait to see Jamie Dixon and his Panthers play Bo Ryan's defensive-minded Badgers up in Madison.
Jim Boeheim is excited about the potential of diaper dandy Paul Harris. He knows how to win and if he can make the perimeter shot, he will be a special player. Harris is talented, physical and aggressive.
Louisville will have Derrick Caracter make his debut against the Wildcats. He has lost 55 pounds to get into playing shape. What a place to make his opener in the Metropolitan area… he got his publicity playing at St. Patrick's in New Jersey.
How about a salute to Western Kentucky forward Jeremy Evans. He hit all eight of his field goal attempts in a win against UAB and Mike Davis.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS. Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories