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Hey majors, beware Wisconsin-Milwaukee


Here's a mid-major team to keep an eye on: Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Coach Bruce Pearl's squad entered the weekend 13-2 in the Horizon League and 20-5 overall.

Pearl has done an outstanding job in leading his Panthers to three straight 20-win seasons. Wisconsin-Milwaukee went out West to take on Hawaii in the Bracket Buster.

Pearl gained experience for a number of years under the tutelage of Dr. Tom Davis at Stanford, Boston College and Iowa. Pearl has really made a mark at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. You know that when the NCAA Tournament brackets come out, nobody wants to see the Panthers as the opponent. Two years ago, as a No. 12 seed, Pearl's club lost to Notre Dame by just one point.

The state of Wisconsin is in fine shape with Tom Crean at Marquette, Bo Ryan at Wisconsin and Pearl at Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

There's a great race on for SEC honors. It should come down to Anthony Roberson of Florida and Lawrence Roberts of Mississippi State.

Whoever gets hot the rest of the year should lay claim to the award. Roberts won it last year, but he got off to a slow start this season after suffering an injury. Mississippi State has to find a way to the winner's circle to give him a chance.

Roberson has had a super season, including a pair of 30-point performances in consecutive games.

Coach Tom Crean and Marquette might look back at Thursday's loss to Louisville and truly regret the last few minutes. The Cardinals closed on a 14-0 run to take a big victory.

Marquette had the game under wraps until Francisco Garcia put on a show at the end. The Golden Eagles started fast this season and Crean is a great motivator, but his team must get hot in a hurry to earn an NCAA berth.

Speaking of Marquette, I wish all the best to announcer George Thompson, who plans to retire from the broadcast booth after 27 seasons as a radio analyst. He has served the fans well in Milwaukee.

Coach John Calipari's team isn't out of the NCAA picture yet. Keep in mind that the Tigers are getting hot at the right time of the year.

Even more important is this: The Conference USA tournament is in Memphis. The Tigers have been redeeming themselves after a rough start. Darius Washington Jr. has really matured at the point-guard slot, and the Tigers have regrouped after a few bad losses.

Congratulations to Notre Dame coach Mike Brey on his 100th win with the Fighting Irish. Senior Chris Thomas has also moved up to third on the school's all-time scoring list, passing Pat Garrity. Only Austin Carr and Adrian Dantley are ahead of Thomas, which says a lot about the point guard's career.

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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