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Jimmy V Classic ready to soar once more

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Dec. 8, 2003
The Jimmy V Classic is always a very special night, and Tuesday's doubleheader should be no exception (7 p.m. & 9:30 p.m., ESPN).

Jim Valvano
Jim Valvano
The event takes place at Madison Square Garden, the mecca of college basketball. Jimmy Valvano is known for his great upset of Phi Slamma Jama and Houston in the national championship when he coached NC State in '83. But he enjoyed another Shock City upset at MSG: His Iona squad stunned coach Denny Crum and then-No. 1 Louisville.

His legacy is his courageous battle against cancer. He wanted to spring the biggest upset of all -- finding a cure for the dreaded disease by raising millions. The dollars go for research grants and have helped a great deal in the fight.


The first game of Tuesday's exciting doubleheader features a Big Ten-Big East showdown. Big Ten member Illinois takes on Providence, a dangerous sleeper team led by junior forward Ryan Gomes (a solid scorer and rebounder).

Coach Bruce Weber's Illini feature the outstanding backcourt of Dee Brown and Deron Williams. You know that Brown will be hungry after he struggled on national TV against North Carolina in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

The Friars are one of the most underrated teams in America. This should be the best team coach Timmy Welsh has had in his six years on the Providence sidelines. Connecticut, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame get a lot of hype in the Big East, but let me tell you, the Friars can flat-out play, baby!


The second game pits Arizona and Texas -- and it has the makings of something special. Texas may be the best team in America, even without T.J. Ford (who departed for the NBA). Coach Rick Barnes can go two deep at every position, plus he has size inside.

Sydmill Harris and Brandon Mouton give the Longhorns scoring punch. Defensive stopper Royal Ivey, who is from Queens, will have a homecoming at the Garden (he started his high-school career in New York City but finished at Blair Academy in New Jersey). Inside, James Thomas, Brad Buckman and Brian Boddicker can play with the best.

Providence is one of the most underrated teams in America.
Arizona lacks depth due to the loss of big man Isaiah Fox to a knee injury. But the Wildcats have a starting five that can play with anyone in America -- they are flat-out sensational.

Mustafa Shakur is one of the nation's premier diaper dandies. Channing Frye is outstanding in the post. Andre Iguodala is exciting when he flies through the air and throws down his dunks.

Texas and Arizona had a classic confrontation last season, when both teams were in the top 10. The Wildcats prevailed 73-70 in Tucson as Salim Stoudamire led a balanced Arizona attack with 14 points. Thomas had 20 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Longhorns.

It should be an exciting night at Madison Square Garden. The biggest winners of all will be those battling cancer, as dollars will be raised to help find a cure for that dreaded disease. Remember, you can help the cause by calling 1-800-4-JIMMY-V. Make a donation, because you may be helping save the life of someone you love.

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