NCAA tournament: Time for redemption

Updated: March 14, 2011, 4:33 PM ET
By Dick Vitale |

Kruger/WeberUS PresswireIllinois coach Bruce Weber is setting his sights on UNLV coach Lon Kruger, a man the Illini know well.

The field is set and it is time to dance, baby! The selection committee has a difficult job and I questioned the decision to put in UAB and VCU over the likes of Colorado and Virginia Tech. My heart goes out to Seth Greenberg and players like Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen who never got the chance to play in the Big Dance. The Buffs had three wins over Kansas State, plus W's over Texas and Missouri, and were left out. Schools like St. Mary's, Boston College, Alabama and Missouri State can also state a good case, but the committee has spoken.

Now let's look at the tournament.

The East is the toughest region. Ohio State will not have an easy time. North Carolina has a super front line. Syracuse has great athleticism and Jim Boeheim has a championship ring. Then there is Kentucky, peaking at the right time after winning the SEC championship. Then add West Virginia, Xavier, Marquette, George Mason and keep an eye on Villanova, as the Wildcats are capable of making some noise despite going 5-10 in their past 15 games.

There are some great potential Sweet 16 matchups. Ohio State-Kentucky, Duke-Texas and Pittsburgh-Kansas State stand out.

The tournament is also a time for redemption. Illinois has had an up-and-down season but the Illini have a chance to win early against UNLV, which employs former Illinois coach Lon Kruger. Villanova can bounce back from struggle city. The same can be said for Michigan State.

To me, there are several coaches who know how to get the most out of their kids to compete in the one-game scenario. Guys like Jim Calhoun, Tom Izzo, Coach K, Bill Self, Rick Pitino and Jay Wright do well. Their teams can play with a frenzy at a high level. I just look at Connecticut and what it did in winning the Maui Invitational, beating Michigan State and Kentucky. Then Calhoun's Huskies won five games in five days in the Big East tournament, including four against ranked teams. Kemba Walker had the greatest performance in a conference tournament, in my opinion.

I think there will be some surprises in the tourney. Then again, it has been a wild and wacky season. I think Gonzaga can make some noise as an 11-seed. Belmont is a very balanced and well-coached team that played tough against Tennessee and Vanderbilt. I think Rick Byrd's club can surprise Wisconsin.

March Madness is here, baby! When all is said and done I like Ohio State, Duke, Louisville and Pittsburgh to make the Final Four, with the Buckeyes winning it all.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to