ESPN basketball guru and Lakewood Ranch resident Dick Vitale talked some hoops with the Bradenton Herald on the eve of the NCAA Tournament.
Before we get started, he warns college hoops fans to strap themselves in because there are going to be some major upsets starting today and Friday that will shake things up.
His crystal ball predicts two No. 1 seeds will not make the Final Four, but when all the dust clears, Vitale sees Kentucky beating Kansas for the title.
Always willing to share his knowledge, here is some of what Mr. Vitale had to say:
What are the likely upsets you see happening this week?
You look at UTEP (against No. 5 seed Butler in the West). They are very athletic and have a great scorer in Randy Culpepper, and they like to play at a fast pace and really get up and down the floor. Butler has to control the tempo, and if their big guy (Gordon Haywood) gets in foul trouble, they could be done. Another one is Siena (No. 13 South) and Purdue (No. 4), which is not the same team without Robbie Hummel (15.7 ppg/6.9 rpg, torn ACL). Then there is Murray State (No. 13 West) against Vanderbilt (No. 4). Murray State (30-4) shoots 50 percent as a team, defends very well and won 30 games.
I am not saying these upsets will happen. But these are the games people should zero in on where you’ve got major differences in terms of seeding.
Is Siena capable of winning more than one game?
If they win that first game (will likely play Texas A&M) they could go to the Sweet 16. They’ve got a real good guard (Ron Moore) and last year beat Ohio State and are a very capable team, but their limit to me would run out at the Sweet 16.
What is the toughest region?
Look at the Midwest. It is flat out loaded. I look at it, and I see Kansas, the top-seeded team in the entire tournament, I see Georgetown and Ohio State and then Tennessee, Maryland and Michigan State. You’ve got a Who’s Who of basketball stars in that region. You could pick a legitimate Dickie V Rolls Royce All-American team from this region.
You’ve got Evan Turner (Ohio State), James Anderson of Oklahoma State, Greivis Vazquez of Maryland (ACC Player of The Year), and the Kansas great ones (Cole Aldrich in the middle and Sherron Collins at the point), Greg Monroe at Georgetown. The region is loaded and has three national championship coaches in Gary Williams (Maryland), Tom Izzo (Michigan St.) and Bill Self (Kansas). I think Kansas has a tough road, but I think they will make it out.
Is Baylor (No. 3 South) a Final Four team?
I look at that region, and I see if Duke (No. 1) plays up to its potential, it is the best team out there. Their big kids have gotten way better. However, saying all that, I still think Villanova’s athleticism and guard play could be a factor, and I have them winning in the Elite Eight and going to the Final Four. But Ladarius Dunn (Baylor) is phenomenal.
The Atlantic 10 has been getting a lot of hype. How will those teams do?
You see ball control and great defense when you look at those teams. Temple, Richmond and Xavier have good talent. A lot of people are picking Minnesota to beat Xavier and Cornell to beat Temple. But I think Xavier will find a way to win, and Temple will beat Cornell. I think Temple shuts down their 3-point shooters and gives them problems.
You hear a lot of talk about Louisville beating California and then knocking Duke off.
Louisville is not as athletic and talented as in the past. But Rick Pitino is a master in the one and done. A lot of coaches don’t comprehend how to get people to respond in a one and done, and he does. Duke has better personnel, but Louisville is a dangerous team. You see what they did at Syracuse.
Who’s in your Final Four?
I got Syracuse falling in the Elite Eight to Kansas State. I love Kansas State’s guards (Jacob Pullen/Denis Clemente), and they’ve got size inside. I like Kansas beating Georgetown in the round of eight. They’ve got a tough road; they’ve got to beat Michigan State, Georgetown and Kansas State to get to the Final Four. I got Kansas beating Kansas State for the fourth and moving to the title game.
I have Kentucky (No. 1 East) beating West Virginia in the Elite Eight and Villanova marching on (in the South); I got Kentucky with too much size for Villanova, and Kentucky and Kansas for the title. I see Kentucky winning with that combination of John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.
Is there any way Vermont can beat Syracuse?
I’ve got a better chance of being voted the sexiest man in Hollywood.