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Vitale: Illini perfect on terrific Tuesday

Vitale: All-Velcro Super Six

V-Mail: A Big East-ACC question (plus)

Vitale: No doubting these Illini

Vitale: Bluegrass basketball rolling

Vitale: Kansas returns to Final Four form

Vitale: New coaches make impact

Vitale: Terps red-faced no more

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VBDI gears up with early Final Four-cast


Feb. 15, 2005
Plenty of people have accused me of being a cheerleader for college basketball. Guess what, there's plenty to cheer about right now, baby — so please continue to call me that! I'm lucky enough to witness the enthusiasm, passion and energy of the crowds, the players, the coaches, the fans and the cheerleaders.

It has been awesome, baby, with a capital A!

I'm staying with North Carolina as the team to beat in Saint Louis.
I've been fortunate enough to see some phenomenal games lately. I worked the Duke-Maryland game last weekend, and it was something special. Duke got into foul trouble and the Terps took advantage in overtime to sweep Duke for the first time since 1995.

There was a great, enthusiastic crowd at Comcast Center — the Maryland fans were really into it.

I also was at North Carolina-Duke last week, a game that went down to the wire as the Blue Devils played great defense on the final possession to win it.

Plus, I was fortunate enough to broadcast Notre Dame-Syracuse and Kentucky-Florida. To sit courtside and call those contests, which went down to the last few possessions, was thrilling.

If you don't think college basketball draws all sorts of celebrities, check out the front row at Maryland last week: Baseball legend Cal Ripken, Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick and owner Steve Bisciotti were all there cheering on the Terps.

I wanted to leave my seat and get Ripken's autograph!

We're about a month away from March Madness, and this year's NCAA Tournament should have all sorts of buzz. Many people have asked me about my picks for the Final Four.

I have three teams in mind, but the fourth is yet to be determined. My VBDI (Vitale Bald Dome Index) hasn't kicked in fully yet. But don't worry, it will very soon!

Right now, I'm staying with North Carolina as the team to beat in Saint Louis. The Tar Heels had a good road win Sunday over defending national champion Connecticut, bouncing back from a tough defeat against Duke.

I believe Illinois will get to the Final Four. Coach Bruce Weber has done a terrific job, and the backcourt trio of Dee Brown, Deron Williams and Luther Head is as good as any in the game today.

I feel that Wake Forest is making more of a commitment to play defense. Point guard Chris Paul is certainly one of the premier players in America.

The fourth spot is wide open, in my view, and that's what makes college basketball so interesting. It could be Kansas with Wayne Simien, Syracuse with Gerry "G-Money" McNamara and Hakim Warrick or Kentucky. Don't count out a team like Duke, either.

It's also possible that a sleeper team could make a run. It's been that kind of wacky year, with a lot of parity in the rankings from Nos. 10-20 in the polls.

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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