V-MAIL | May 29
Q: I'm a major Tar Heel fan. Do you think North Carolina can win a national championship in the next couple of years with Roy Williams there? And of course if everyone stays. -- Josh, North Carolina
VITALE: There is no doubt. Roy Williams brings great coaching knowledge, and he won nine league championships at Kansas in the Big Eight/Big 12. He brings a special passion and will put his own stamp on Carolina basketball. Besides seeing great athletes, you will see the level of play go up in terms of teamwork and talent. The Tar Heels will be in the hunt, recruiting any great player they want. They have a nice nucleus to build on, with Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton, Jawad Williams, Jackie Manuel and Sean May coming back. They are definitely one of my Dazzling Dozen going into next season.
Q: Do you think Kansas has the potential to make a third consecutive Final Four appearance in 2004 under new coach Bill Self? -- Tyler Cape, Girardeau, Missouri
VITALE: Why not? Self has come close with Tulsa and Illinois. He has a program with a rich tradition. Kansas has a phenomenal recruiting class coming in plus several standouts returning in Aaron Miles, Keith Langford, Wayne Simien and Jeff Graves. The Jayhawks do lose Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison. I don't think we'll see tandems like that stay together for all four years very often anymore.
Q: With all the talented and successful teams and players at Duke during Coach K's regime, why haven't Duke players fared well in the pros? In fact, no Duke player has won an NBA championship. -- Vic Brown, Chicago
VITALE: The bottom line is, players function so well within the team concept at Duke that sometimes you get misled in terms of individual talent. They are team-oriented. Duke players have been very good NBA players, just not superstars. Johnny Dawkins and Shane Battier are good examples. Jay Williams will be a very good player but was up and down on a young Bulls team. Danny Ferry has contributed for many years. Elton Brand is a solid player. Grant Hill has had injury problems or he would have been special. Christian Laettner, though not living up to what he did on the collegiate level, has had a number of good seasons. I don't know about that argument. When coaching on the collegiate level, you try to get the most out of your talent to be the best they can be in college. You don't coach with the idea of the NBA; guys who do that aren't focusing on the job at hand. The bottom line is that Duke players have blended into that system and made Duke extremely successful.
Q: Maryland point guard Steve Blake isn't getting a lot of attention as the NBA draft approaches. I think he will make an excellent NBA player. Why do you think he seems to be getting ignored? -- Dmitri, Boston
VITALE: Lots of people have doubts about him, but he's one of those kids you can't measure in terms of quickness or jumping ability. You have to look at Blake's basketball skills, and I think he can help an NBA club coming off the bench. He has good vision, good passing instincts and he competed in a great conference, the ACC. Blake has been well-coached by Gary Williams and he can be an asset for some team off the bench.
Q: If you had to take Mike Krzyzewski or Roy Williams to win a basketball game, who would you take and why? -- Chris Cox, Chapel Hill, N.C.
VITALE: It's like choosing between Magic or Jordan -- you can't go wrong with either one. In this instance, looking at the two resumés, Coach K is in the Hall of Fame because he has won three national titles. I think even Williams would have to agree that the edge goes to Coach K because of that. When it's all said and done in 20 years, Williams could win several championships at North Carolina. It's an argument that isn't much of an argument because they are both superstars in the coaching profession.
Q: You truly know your game, so let me ask you: How good will UCLA be next year after a horrible season? -- E.J. Gomez, California
VITALE: I think the Bruins will bounce back and play with a lot of pride. At the end of this past season they were devoid of that. So much transpired during the season that broke the spirit of the program. Fan interest dwindled and everyone knew Steve Lavin was out as coach, so it made it difficult for people to get excited. New coach Ben Howland will bring some excitement back, and there is a good foundation returning. He will have the Bruins scrap and claw, and eventually he will get UCLA's personnel and talent at the level it was in the past.
Q: The athletic director at my fine school, the University of Montana, hired coach Pat Kennedy to turn the program around and turn it into the "next Gonzaga." This year the Griz got beat by Weber State and received no bid to the NCAA tourney. Can Montana be the "next Gonzaga" under coach Kennedy? -- Jennifer, Missoula, Montana
VITALE: Every mid-major dreams of that now. They all want to be like Gonzaga or Kent State or Butler based on the regular-season and tourney success of those schools. Among the mid-majors, teams usually remain intact because fewer players enter the NBA draft early. If you do your homework in recruiting, there are a lot of hidden gems, since the big schools are wrapped up in the highest-rated players. If you can get a couple of kids who slip through, watch out. You have to dream big. My broadcast buddy, Brent Musburger, has told me it's really beautiful out there in Montana.
Q: I saw Kentucky's Jules Camara running past Memorial Coliseum at 8 a.m. He's training for next season, baby! He'll be getting some help from two new recruits Tubby Smith snagged. I wanted to know what you thought of the big men UK signed -- Bleedin' Blue, Matt Towles, Lexington, Kentucky
VITALE: I have not seen these two 7-footers, but you can't teach height, baby! Shagari Alleyne (7-2, 260 pounds) of Rice High School in New York City and Lukasz Obrzut (7-1, 240) of Poland signed letters of intent with Kentucky during the spring signing period. When you have two 7-foot post guys and the teaching ability of Tubby and his staff, you have a great head start. If they have the agility and mobility that people are talking about, they could blend in well with the returning talent and other incoming freshmen. Kentucky will have outstanding talent around those big guys.