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October 25th, 2023

 Dickie V’s Super 6 Conferences for 2023-24

 

Screenshot 2023 10 25 at 2.02.48 PM
My VBDI (Vitale Bald Dome Index)
  1. Big 12
  2. SEC
  3. Big East
  4. Big 10
  5. ACC
  6. Pac-12
In making my choices, I don’t just factor in the upper echelon teams, but look at the conference from top to bottom. Let’s face it, in many cases, it is remarkably close. But, I give the edge to conferences that not only have national championship contenders, but also analyze the strength of the league in respect to its depth.
Big 12
We’ll begin with the Big 12 which has expanded by four schools. But it’s still the Kansas Jayhawks that are the team to beat. That added depth with the Houston Cougars, Cincinnati Bearcats, BYU Cougars, and the UCF Golden Knights makes winning this league even more arduous. With the departure of the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners after the season, the additions of the Arizona Wildcats, Arizona State Sun Devils, Colorado Buffaloes and Utah Utes make this league even more powerful on the hardwood in the upcoming years.
But enough about the future, let’s talk about this season. The Big 12 has ranked No. 1 or 2 in the top leagues for the past five seasons and this year is no exception. With eight members in the postseason last year (7 NCAA, 1 NIT), that total shouldn’t diminish this season. 
Kansas won the transfer lottery by snagging Michigan Wolverines’ Hunter Dickinson out of the portal. The three-time All-Big Ten performer will be featured more in the Jayhawks’ system and given them stability down low.
Impactful freshmen to watch are Ja’Kobe Walter from the Baylor Bears who might be the answer to their back court questions. I also want to see the physical nature of the Iowa State Cyclones’ Omaha Biliew on display. At 6-8, 210 pounds, he’s a versatile finisher. And not least, Kansas’ Elmarko Jackson, a 6-3 penetrating point guard should pair nicely with Dajuan Harris.
After years of success in the American Athletic Conference Houston rejoins four of its old Southwest Conference rivals this season and even with the loss of three starters from last year’s Sweet 16 team, the Cougars aren’t as vulnerable as you might think. With plenty of bench experience, look for Terrance Arceneaux’s role to increase as well as Emanuel Sharp to light it up from the perimeter.
I’m excited to see how one of the leading scorers the past three seasons will translate to a power conference as Max Abamas makes the move from the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles to Texas. Additionally, watch for another Longhorn as Dylan Disu is a potential all-conference caliber player.
Grant McCasland is the new head man at Texas Tech, while Josh Eliert is the interim head coach at West Virginia.
SEC
Do you enjoy the ups and downs of conference play? Well, then pay attention to the SEC this year. The Tennessee Volunteers are one of the oldest teams in the country and are listed as the odds-on favorite. But four other teams – Alabama Crimson Tide, Arkansas Razorbacks, Kentucky Wildcats, and Texas A&M Aggies - are poised to make a run at the top spot.
In contrast, John Calipari’s Kentucky squad is one of the youngest and most talented in Division I. But it’s veterans Antonio Reeves and Tre Mitchell that must guide these Diaper Dandies through the gauntlet.
There was no deeper league in the country last year as the SEC sent 10 of its 14 teams to the postseason, including a record-tying eight to the Big Dance of which three advanced to the Sweet 16 (Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama). There’s no reason it shouldn’t get 7-8 teams in again.
If you’re looking for an inspirational story of hard work to reach the top, look no further than Aggies’ Wade Taylor IV who has steadily progressed into one of the sport’s best guards. Not listed on anyone’s top 100 in the class of 2021, his development has been fun to follow.
As far as newcomers to watch, take your pick from Kentucky’s crop of Diaper Dandies in Justin Edwards, a strong contender to be the No. 1 pick of the 2024 NBA Draft, as well as DJ Wagner, Aaron Bradshaw, Reed Sheppard, and Robert Dillingham. Don’t discount Auburn’s Aden Hollway. He’s an elite shooter as an undersized point guard.
More underrated players to keep an eye on include Tennessee’s Tobe Awaka, who excelled for Team USA this summer, Alabama’s Rylan Griffen, and Florida Gators’ Riley Kugel, who’s primed to be one of the league’s top scorers.
The only new coach in the conference is former Texas Longhorns coach Chris Beard who is taking over the Ole Miss Rebels. 
Big East
The casual basketball fan may not realize that the Big East Conference has averaged nearly five teams in the NCAA Tournament over the last 10 seasons. Add to the fact that the defending national champion UConn Huskies reside in the in league, having won their fifth title since 1999, there’s a lot of positive buzz around this conference.
The Marquette Golden Eagles weren’t having any of the 2022 preseason projection as the ninth-place team as it pulled off the double-double by winning the regular season and tourney titles. No one is overlooking the Golden Eagles this year, especially with reigning Big East Player of the Year Tyler Kolek leading this Final Four contender.
It’s not just a two-team race between UConn and Marquette though. The Creighton Blue Jays and Villanova Wildcats will vie for top spot as well. Creighton was a play away from the Final Four last season and with a stopper like Ryan Kalkbrenner in the middle, they might take that final step. After missing the tournament last year, a trio of transfers in T.J. Bamba, Tyler Burton and Hakim Hart are expected to put Nova back in the Dance.
Excitement is sweeping through Queens where coaching legend Rick Pitino overhauled the St. John’s Red Storm roster and are projected to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019.
Expected to dazzle all season is 6-6 wing Stephon Castle from UConn. His size and dynamic play make him a possible one-and-done, but let’s just enjoy his on-court performance this season.
Others I like are Villanova’s Mark Armstrong who was part of Team USA in the U19 World Cup, Xavier’s Demond Claude, and Marquette’s David Joplin, the reigning Big East Sixth Man of the Year.
Two coaches joined the league in Kim English with the Providence Friars and Rick Pitino at the St. John’s Red Storm. Ed Cooley moved from Providence to the Georgetown Hoyas.
B1G
Is this year the Big 10 finally breaks through and wins its first national title since 2000 when Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans took home the crown? Since then, the league has finished as a bride’s maid seven times, most recently with the  Michigan Wolverines in 2018.
Preseason headliners Purdue Boilermakers, Michigan State and the Illinois Fighting Illini might be in the early spotlight, but the rest of the league should not be overlooked as it is jammed with teams that have realistic chances to make the postseason.
With consensus preseason conference Player of the Year in 7-4 center Zach Edey leading Purdue, be on the lookout for some of the top guards in the country. Highlighting that list are Terrence Shannon (Illinois), Jahmir Young (Maryland Terrapins), Boo Buie (Northwestern Wildcats) and the outstanding Michigan State duo of A.J. Hoggard and Tyson Walker.
Edey has a chance to become the first player since the Virginia Cavaliers’ Ralph Sampson (1981-83) to win consecutive National Player of the Year honors.
Look for McDonald’s All-Americans Mackenzie Mgbako (Indiana Hoosiers), Xavier Booker (Michigan State), and Jeremy Fears Jr. (Michigan State) to lead the parade of newcomers.
Also keep an eye on these under the radar players: Michigan State’s Jaden Akins, Northwestern Wildcats’ Brooks Barnhizer, Purdue’s Trey Kaufman-Renn, Michigan’s Tarris Reed, and Rutgers Scarlet Knights’ Derek Simpson.
Penn State Nittany Lions’ Mike Rhodes is the only new coach in the league.
ACC
Highlighting the ACC’s depth over the last decade was the surprise run of the Miami Hurricanes to the Final Four last year as it marked the fifth different league team to reach the national semifinals since 2015. Even with that deep run, none of the other four teams to make the NCAA Tournament field (Duke Blue Devils, Pitt Panthers, Virginia Cavaliers, NC State Wolfpack) got past the second round. Hopes are high to place more than five teams in the Dance this go-around.
If some faces look familiar, but the uniform doesn’t, it’s because a record 10 players transferred from one ACC team to another during the offseason. One player that didn’t move is North Carolina Tar Heels fifth-year senior Armando Bacot who is the school’s all-time leader with 1,335 rebounds and 68 double-doubles.
Last season’s ACC Rookie of the Year, Duke’s Kyle Filipowski, who turned down NBA money to return, is the odds-on favorite to unseat Purdue’s Zach Edey for National Player of the Year honors.
Be on the lookout for UNC’s Elliot Cadeau as one of the top freshmen along with Duke’s sharpshooting Jared McCain and gamer Caleb Foster among the top newcomers.
I also like Duke’s Tyrese Proctor who is ready to explode this season and could find a spot on an All-America team. And a guy with a great name, Wooga Poplar down in Miami, needs to be a consistent scoring threat on the perimeter for the Hurricanes.
There are three new coaches in the conference in Adrian Autry (Syracuse Orangemen), Micah Shrewsberry (Notre Dame Fighting Irish), and Damon Stoudamire (Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets).
Pac-12
In the final year of the Pac-12 before most of the teams bolt after the season, the league looks to improve upon last year’s showing in the postseason as it failed to have a team make it beyond the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season.
Arizona is once again the class of the conference, even after regrouping and replacing four starters through the transfer portal. But the anchor on the block is returning center Oumar Ballo, who averaged 14.2 points and 8.6 rebounds. Expect those numbers to rise if they want to make a deep NCAA Tournament run.
Overall play in the league should be high as it welcomes back five first team All-Conference selections [Ballo, Brandon Carlson (Utah Utes), Tristan da Silva (Colorado Buffaloes), N’Faly Dante (Oregon Ducks), Boogie Ellis (USC Trojans)], the most since 2007-08. Also keep an eye on Westwood for the reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in UCLA Bruins’ Adem Bona, who withdrew from the NBA Draft, is one of the best defensive players in the league.
The top Diaper Dandy in ESPN’s Top 100 also resides in Los Angeles in USC Trojans’ Isaiah Collier. He’s also in the mix to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. Joining him in USC’s lineup is Bronny James (20th in ESPN Top 100) whose health and well-being was the offseason story. If James does play, it would be a substantial boost for the Trojans.
Colorado made waves as well by bringing in the highest-rated recruit in school history in guard Cody Williams (7th in ESPN Top 100). The brother of NBA star Jalen Williams could spark a deep tournament run by the Buffaloes. 
A few more breakout players are UCLA’s Dylan Andrews, an all-conference caliber guard, USC Trojans’ Kobe Johnson is a great perimeter defender while Arizona’s Kylan Boswell takes over a point guard for the Top 25 Wildcats.
California Golden Bears’ Mark Madsen is the lone new coach in the conference.
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August 20, 2023

Dazzling Dozen Diaper Dandies
I’ve listed my preseason All-Rolls Royce Team and Top 25. Now it’s time to announce my Dazzling Dozen Diaper Dandies for the upcoming season. These are players who are hitting the college hardwood for the first time and will make an immediate impact for their teams with their skill, passion and maybe some showmanship. The transition is never easy, but there’s a fierce competitive spirit each of these players brings in a new era of athleticism.
This might be one of the deeper classes of impactful freshmen I’ve seen in a long time, and I’m so excited to watch them develop into PTPers. All 12 are projected starters and eight are considered NBA lottery picks, which could make the 2024 draft one of the youngest on record.
It was frightful to see Bronny James get sidelined, but I’m keeping him on this list with the hopes we get to see his talent displayed at some point this year. Get well young man.
 
Here’s the Dazzling Dozen Diaper Dandies:
Xavier Booker, Michigan St.
Elliott Cadeau, UNC
Stephon Castle, UConn
Isaiah Collier, USC
Justin Edwards, Kentucky
Kwame Evans, Oregon
Bronny James, USC
Jared McCain, Duke
Mackenzie Mgbako, Indiana
DJ Wagner, Kentucky
Ja’Kobe Walter, Baylor
Cody Williams, Colorado
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August 9, 2023

Dick Vitale’s Preseason Top 25
As you know, I eat, sleep and breathe college basketball year-round. And this year is no exception. Now that the transfer market has settled down and teams are finishing up summer tours, I thought I’d share my projections for the upcoming season. 

Check out my new post at V's Views

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July 31st, 2023

 
2023-24 All-Rolls Royce Teams
There’s nothing better in the preseason than looking at the new rosters and getting a feel for what might be in store. I had to wait for the dust to settle with all the player and coach movement during the offseason. With 13 of the 18 returning players that averaged 19+ points last season transferring and six of the top eight 20-point scorers on the move as well, the roster shakeup was noticeable across the board.
I enjoy watching the progress of youngsters that move from role players to PTPers. With only four of the 19 players returning that made first, second or third-team All-America last year, it’s been a joy to dig deep and project the stars for the upcoming season. I don’t put freshmen on these teams as they haven’t played yet.
So, here’s my All-Rolls Royce teams for the season. It’s full of proven stars, some on the rise and all-around ballers.
Purdue’s Zach Edey leads my squads as one of the dominant post players last year and had the Boilermakers rolling until they got untracked in the first round by 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson. The Boilermakers will once again be the favorite to win the Big 10 and finally make a deep run in March Madness.
North Carolina got a huge boost with Armando Bacot returning for his fifth year of eligibility. As the Tar Heels’ all-time leader in rebounds and double-doubles, he’ll be the anchor in hoping to lead North Carolina to its glory days of deep tournament runs.
Bruce Pearl puts together solid teams annually and Johni Broome looks to lead the Auburn Tigers on a deep NCAA run after they surrendered a 10-point halftime lead in a second-round loss to Houston in the Big Dance. He’s a powerful inside player capable of averaging a double-double just like he did during his sophomore campaign.
Tyler Kolek and four other starters will be returning to Marquette for the 2023-24 season, bringing about another case of unfinished business that coincided with a second-round loss to Michigan State. The reigning Big East Player of the Year is one of the top returning guards in the country.
A Bob Cousy Award finalist last season, Boo Buie returns for his fifth season as a Wildcat after scoring the third-most points in school history last season with 588. His leadership should put the Wildcats in the Dance for a second straight season, a program first.
 
Here’s the ALL-ROLLS ROYCE TEAMS

 

First Team
Zach Edey, Purdue
Armando Bacot, North Carolina
Johni Broome, Auburn
Tyler Kolek, Marquette
Boo Buie, Northwestern

 

Second Team
Hunter Dickinson, Kansas
Dillon Jones, Weber State
DaRon Holmes, Dayton
Terrence Shannon Jr., Illinois
Wade Taylor IV, Texas A&M

 

Third Team
Kyle Filipowski, Duke
Adem Bona, UCLA
Tolu Smith, Mississippi State
Tyson Walker, Michigan State
Max Abmas, Texas
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June 22, 2023

 
Now that the 2023 NBA draft is completed I will share some observations in analyzing what transpired. First, it is a draft filled with many young players that will need time, in many cases, before making a strong impact.
No doubt the “Star of Stars” is 7-4 Victor Wembanyama who was a consensus No. 1 selection according to all the draft experts. He is a legit multi-skilled talent who has received so much national PR similar to 2003 when LeBron James arrived on the scene from high school to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Obviously, the San Antonio Spurs are hoping Victor can do the same. The previous two bigs that went No. 1 to the Spurs, Tim Duncan and David Robinson, played vital roles in leading them to NBA titles and are now in the Hall of Fame. It is pertinent that the Spurs add other talented people to help Victor reach his potential and achieve stardom.
This draft, in particular, is filled with so much POTENTIAL and it’s important that teams have PATIENCE with the young talent assembled.
The biggest surprise was Villanova’s Cam Whitmore, who was considered a top 10 selection, sliding down to 21. The Houston Rockets will benefit as Whitmore is an explosive talent who dropped according to insiders due to a lack of effort at times during evaluations. He could be the steal of the draft as some thought he would go as high as No. 5. This should really motivate him to show that he is the real deal.
On a sad note, after brilliant collegiate careers, three dominating college stars were not drafted at all. Yes, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, Gonzaga’s Drew Timme, and UConn’s Adama Sanogo, though super on the college level, didn't have the skills and talent needed in the NBA according to the evaluators.
It will be interesting to see if they can sign on as free agents and prove all the critics wrong by earning a spot on an NBA roster.
Overall, this crop of 58 players features plenty of potential stars, high-end starters, quality reserves, some risk-reward projects and, yes, probably a few busts.
Two teams on the outside of the playoffs who made some huge pickups were the Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trailblazers. Luka Donic got help as the Mavs traded down to get Duke’s Dereck Lively to help defend the paint. Then they traded for Marquette’s Oliver-Maxence Prosper and acquired veteran center Richaun Holmes from the Kings for added defensive depth for Donic and Kyrie Irving.
Taking Scoot Henderson at No. 3 was an easy choice for the Blazers as they added one of the older players in the draft in Iowa’s skilled power forward Kris Murray and a long-term project with another overseas star in defender Rayan Rupert. Murray is a big 3-and-D wing who will play from Day 1 in the league.
Now, we sit back and see what happens with those first round selections and watch the drive of some second-round choices who want to prove they should have gone higher.
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Quote of the Week

 
 Keep battling and fighting to achieve your goals! - Dick Vitale