Each Friday I will write about the sport I love, college basketball…
• You have to give Kansas coach Bill Self a lot of credit for his willingness to play a tough non-conference schedule. He already faces the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech in the Big 12, yet he is willing to face a competitive list of foes out of conference. Consider this: among non-Big 12 opponents this season, Arizona, Southern California, Georgia Tech, Miami (Ohio) and Boston College each played in the 2007 NCAA Tournament, while DePaul advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIT. Self compares it to the 2005 season, when his schedule strength was ranked number one in the RPI. USC (with OJ Mayo), Georgia Tech and Boston College are also on the road, making it even more challenging.
• A message to Marquette's Dominic James … please pull out of the NBA draft and go back to school. You can learn so much under the tutelage of Tom Crean. If it was meant to be you will be drafted after next season. Right now, the best bet is to return to Marquette where you can improve and be a difference-maker.
• Ohio State and Syracuse are slated to headline the Preseason NIT event this season. It will be interesting to see Thad Matta's team after the loss of Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. Believe me, my friends, this Buckeye team will have a lot of talent thanks to an outstanding recruiting class. Jim Boeheim was also very happy with his newcomers, plus Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf return.
• Great news for Lute Olson and Arizona. The Wildcats got a commitment from 6-1 guard Brandon Jennings out of Oak Hill Academy. Many experts rank him as the top guard for the 2008-09 class. Jennings originally planned to attend USC but changed his mind and re-opened recruiting. The fact that OJ Mayo went to the Trojans may have influenced the change of heart. Olson and the Wildcats are the big winners.
• Las Vegas should enjoy excitement galore in November. Remember last year when Kansas and Florida met last season out there at the Orleans Arena? This season North Carolina, Louisville, Old Dominion and BYU will be competing out there November 23-24.
• I know there is disappointment in Massachusetts as Kentucky wrote a check and got out of its scheduled appearance in Boston against the Minutemen. It is not often that you get a non-conference game of that stature, and then all of a sudden the opponent says bye-bye. It is a tough spot for Massachusetts since the school sold a lot of tickets for the game, plus this move came at a late date. It was a return game as Massachusetts played in Lexington last season. A new coach (Billy Gillispie) comes in and sees there are a lot of road games on the schedule and prefers to have it a bit easier. I feel for UMass.
• The organizers of the Great Alaska Shootout couldn't have been too thrilled with the news that Washington State, a team that should be ranked in the preseason, wanted out of that event. That news also came at a late date to find a suitable replacement.
• LaSalle got a boost with the addition of Mississippi State transfer Vernon Goodridge, a 6-9 forward. Goodridge was highly-regarded coming out of high school (Philadelphia's Lutheran Christian, where he averaged a double-double as a senior). Goodridge will sit out the 2007-08 campaign but will be more of a factor with the Explorers after that.
• New Orleans was happy with the news that Bo McCalebb pulled out of the NBA draft. He averaged 25 ppg. last season en route to earning honors as Sun Belt Player of the Year. He should put up big numbers again in 2007-08.
• A double dose of good news for Purdue fans. A renovation project of Mackey Arena has been approved by the board of trustees. The athletic department plan will cost over $80 million. The Boilermakers also added 6-9 JUCO transfer Chris Reid to provide a post presence for Matt Painter's team.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.