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Why would any big man go to Duke?


Q: Given the legacy of Duke's inability to develop quality big men, why would any big man go to Duke? Even Christian Laettner hasn't had the NBA career one would've expected after he left Durham, and other than Elton Brand, Duke centers tend to be busts at the next level. (I met you in Chapel Hill after the UNC-Villanova game in '95, and I remember how genuinely nice you were. Thank you for that.) -- MJ Driscoll (Blackwood, N.J.)
-- What's up with the anti-Duke sentiment? I find it absolutely mind-boggling. People just look to nitpick when someone has done a great job.

The Duke program has done phenomenal things … it is not just about developing players for the NBA, but putting together a team that can compete on the collegiate level. If a player has talent, he will ultimately become a standout. Brand has been a pretty good player, and Laettner has been a good role player. Grant Hill, while not a bruiser, has done a great job when healthy. The anti-Duke sentiment reminds me of the sentiment against the Yankees in baseball and Notre Dame in football.

Q: I've been a huge Kansas basketball fan my entire life. For the past two seasons coach Bill Self has done an incredible job, but the team never seemed to peak last season. Add some offseason trouble with J.R. Giddens, and I'm beginning to question Self's control of the team and his coaching style. What do you think? -- Joe Shreve (Wichita, Kansas)
-- I have yet to meet a coach who hasn't pleaded with his kids to be outstanding citizens and make right decisions in their personal lives. Self is no different, and players have to be accountable for their actions. Giddens has decided to transfer now after the unfortunate incident in Lawrence.

These student-athletes are not little kids -- they know right from wrong, and they must understand the importance of who they associate with and where they spend their free time. They have to look in the mirror and be accountable. As for the Jayhawks, they will have a lot of young talent. We will see how Self blends them together with the few returning veterans.

Q: With the emergence in the past few years of many Jesuit schools (Marquette, St. Joseph's, Gonzaga, Xavier and Boston College), do you think there is any chance of maybe eight schools -- including these five, along with Georgetown, Holy Cross and Creighton -- being able to get together to form an annual eight-game tournament at the beginning of the season? -- Brendan Boyce (Wellesley, Mass.)
-- I don't see that happening in the future with the Jesuit schools. Right now, I think those schools are content competing in their quality leagues. With so many league games and other in-season tournament commitments, I think it would be difficult to pull that off.

Q: What would you do with Kwame Brown? Is he done? A bust? Or do you think he could develop somewhere else (like his hometown, Atlanta)? He is obviously done in Washington. -- Jorge W. (Atlanta, Ga.)
-- I feel that Kwame Brown is too young to give up on, and it appears the Lakers agree with me. They reportedly have agreed to a sign-and-trade for Kwame (Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins would go to the Wizards).

The Wizards made Kwame the overall No. 1 pick in 2001 straight out of high school, so he has talent and youth on his side. Brown has great size and touch. He has to focus mentally. He's a perfect example of kids getting so much cash so quickly and having problems adjusting.

Q: As an Iowa State fan, I am pretty excited about the upcoming season. With Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock as well as the recruiting class coming in, I think we can compete in the Big 12. Isn't it time you made a visit to Hilton Magic? I believe we have two Big Monday games this season. -- Dan (Des Moines, Iowa)
-- Stinson could be one of the premier guards in America. I hope that at some point in my career I get the opportunity to go to Ames. I hear nothing but positives and raves about the Iowa State Cyclone fans.

Q: For the NCAA Tournament, I suggest adding three more play-in games. This would allow three more teams to enter. I would like the NCAA to give strong consideration to mid-major teams that have won their leagues but have lost in their own tournaments.Why should three No. 16 seeds get an automatic spot while the other 16th seed has to play-in? -- Marianne (Middletown, N.Y.)
-- I think we have it right at the moment. The current setup is ideal. The 65-team field works beautifully, and I don't foresee a change. With the way Championship Week plays out, every team in America gets that last chance to join the elite and get into the NCAA Tournament.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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