- Dick Vitale, College Basketball analyst
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Each week I'll talk about the sport I love, college basketball:
• March Madness is so unique and so special because it gives the little guy a chance to compete with the big boys. For a three-week period of time, all everyone wants to talk about the big dance. It is great to see a school like Wofford making its first trip to the NCAA tournament. The Terriers beat South Carolina and Georgia during the regular season, while giving Pittsburgh a real scare. You see North Texas, Murray State, East Tennessee State and on and on, getting an opportunity of a lifetime.
• This late in the season, it is not good for a veteran player to be suspended. Michigan State guard Chris Allen, a starter for most of the season, has been indefinitely suspended. He will miss the team's Big Ten tournament opener, and possibly even more time. Coach Tom Izzo explained that the guard was suspended for not meeting responsibilities to his teammates.
• Congratulations to Geno Auriemma. His team not only set a women's hoops record, currently at 72 consecutive wins, but UConn also walked away with another Big East championship, a 28 point rout of a top 10 opponent, West Virginia. The team beat another top 10 club, Notre Dame, by 14 in the tourney's semifinal. This Huskies club just keeps on winning. All 72 wins have come by double figures. They have been one of the most dominant forces in amateur athletics and what this program has achieved is miraculous. Women's college basketball has gotten stronger and Connecticut keeps on rolling. However, they still have to go through Tennessee, Nebraska and Stanford in the big dance.
• I hope a John Calipari backlash does not hurt John Wall in voting for national Player of the Year. Unfortunately, there is lots of envy out on the hoops landscape, baby! Wall has had a super season, and it comes down to him and Evan Turner of Ohio State in my eyes.
• St. Mary's of California earned a bid to the big dance by beating a good Gonzaga team. Last year, the Gaels should have been in the NCAA, but this time around, the team left no doubt! Randy Bennett deserves a salute, baby!
• Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun of Connecticut must be fuming over the Huskies' effort vs. St. John's! It was a disappointing way to end the Big East tournament as this UConn club really struggled in losses at Notre Dame, South Florida and against the Red Storm.
• It will be interesting to see what the NCAA tournament selection committee does with Purdue since Robbie Hummel will have to undergo reconstructive knee surgery. I think that you have to pass the eye test; you have to see if they warrant a high seed. The Boilermakers are not the same team without Hummel. If Purdue wins the Big Ten tournament, then you have to reward those kids for having a super year. I feel the odds of the Boilermakers winning that tournament are not great.
• One team that has really impressed me is Texas-El Paso. The Miners entered the Conference USA tournament on a roll and Tony Barbee is a rising star in the coaching profession. Randy Culpepper can flat-out score, and transfer Derrick Character has been a key contributor for UTEP. This can be a dangerous team in the big dance.
• Another team that stands out is Wisconsin. I really like Bo Ryan's Badgers as the combination of Jon Leuer and Trevon Hughes is a winner! This team can defend well and the return of Leuer from injury has made the difference.
• I am excited,some of next season's tournaments have been set already. At the 2010 Coaches vs. Cancer event Maryland, Pittsburgh, Texas, Illinois and Rhode Island are in the field. The 2010 CBE Classic in Kansas City will include Duke, Kansas State, Gonzaga and Marquette. Those are pretty impressive, baby!
Dick Vitale has the latest on news around the college basketball world, including conference champ surprises, UConn's record setting streak, and what to do about Purdue.