TOURNEY V-MAIL | April 2, 2004 | Send a V-Mail question
Final Four V-Previews: Connecticut-Duke | Georgia Tech-Oklahoma State
Q: Is the NCAA Tournament turning into the ACC/Big East championship show? Four of the past five champs came from either the ACC or Big East, and it appears that the 2004 champion will be a member of the Big East or ACC (taking nothing away from Oklahoma State). Why are these two conferences dominating college basketball? Will they continue to do so in the future? -- Michael Dwyer (Chicago)
VITALE -- You have to give a lot of credit to those two conferences, but the Big 12 has had good success in recent years too. Oklahoma State is here, and the Big 12 had two teams in last year (Texas/Kansas) and the season before (Oklahoma/Kansas).
By the way, look for the ACC to be back in contention for multiple Final Four spots in Saint Louis next year. The league should be unbelievable next season. I could see five ACC teams being in the preseason Top 15 next year, when you consider the likely returning talent at North Carolina, Duke, Georgia Tech, Maryland and Wake Forest. That doesn't even include an improving Florida State program (and NC State, if Julius Hodge comes back).
Q: Is there any question that Duke's Mike Krzyzewski is the best college basketball coach of all time? -- Shane Lear (Asheville, North Carolina)
VITALE -- You have to put Coach K up there with the elite coaches. This is his 10th Final Four, baby! Only two coaches have made more Final Four appearances: John Wooden (12) and Dean Smith (11).
There are so many exceptional coaches over the years who have put up great numbers and enjoyed tremendous success. My short list would include Wooden, Smith, Adolph Rupp, Robert Montgomery Knight and Krzyzewski.
Q: I was wondering: How can one call Duke's recent success a "dynasty" but not give other programs the same label? Consider the following: Since 1990, when the Duke Dynasty began, Kentucky has won 369 games, Duke 361. Kentucky has four Final Fours, Duke five. Kentucky has eight Elite Eights, Duke only six. While Duke has three national championships, Kentucky has two of its own. Take away Laettner's shot, and they have two apiece. How can such lopsided praise be given to Duke when Kentucky has had more success in numerous ways in the same amount of time? -- C. Mayer (Lexington, Kentucky)
VITALE -- I would never take anything away from what Big Blue has done, and I love their fans and the job that Kentucky coach Tubby Smith has done since taking over for Rick Pitino (including winning a national title in 1998). But how could you not love what coach Mike Krzyzewski and Duke have done over the years? Remember, this is Coach K's 10th Final Four. I feel that Duke's success speaks for itself -- and you cannot just take away Christian Laettner's shots. If he didn't make it, then you might have a better case.
Q: How much of an advantage will Oklahoma State have at the Final Four, since Cowboys' fans have the least distance to travel and should be the loudest of the four teams' fans in San Antonio this year? -- college hoops fan (Arlington, Virginia)
VITALE -- I think San Antonio will be really buzzing for all four teams. Just walking around the streets, already there is a buzz for each team. Oklahoma State is closer and certainly will be well-represented, but the other three will have plenty of support too.
Q: How about the Atlantic 10? Five points separating Xavier and St. Joe's from the Final Four! -- Jim Marong (New Haven, Connecticut)
VITALE -- I said all along that the A-10 was underrated and didn't get the respect it deserved. Xavier certainly impressed with wins over Mississippi State and Texas, plus the close call against Duke. St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli did a great job, and there is no doubt in my mind that Jameer Nelson and Delonte West were the best backcourt in America this season.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit before providing color commentary for ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he's been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.