June 15, 2005
I can't wait to see how strong the new Big East is going to be next season. And the league will be even stronger now that three solid underclassmen who declared for the NBA draft have decided to return to college.
Yes, I'm glad that juniors Kevin Pittsnogle of West Virginia, Torin Francis of Notre Dame and Brandon Bowman of Georgetown have withdrawn from the draft. Each player made a good decision.
West Virginia made the Elite Eight this year. The Mountaineers almost reached the Final Four, falling to Louisville in a close contest. West Virginia coach John Beilein, who did one of the best coaching jobs in America last season, gets Pittsnogle back. The 6-foot-11 center is a great outside shooter, as he showed with a terrific 3-point shooting display in the NCAA Tournament.
If you want to know about Pittsnogle, ask coaches Bob Knight and Rick Pitino.
If you want to know about Pittsnogle, ask coaches Bob Knight and Rick Pitino; the big man scored 22 points against the Red Raiders in West Virginia's Sweet 16 victory. He followed that with 25 against the Cardinals in the Elite Eight showdown.
For the Fighting Irish, who also get back Colin Falls and Chris Quinn, the return of Francis will provide much-needed help up front.
At Georgetown, coach John Thompson III must be smiling now that he knows Bowman is coming back to school. Six-foot-8 Bowman was named third-team All-Big East this past season, and he has the potential to move up the league's list next season.
Meanwhile, with a strong squad at Connecticut (featuring Marcus Williams, Josh Boone and Co.), and with Villanova returning its entire nucleus, the beat goes on in Big East country. Those are just two teams that will make the Big East special. Syracuse, led by Gerry McNamara, will always find ways to win. Those special fans at the Carrier Dome will have plenty to cheer about again next season.
Plus, of course, the Big East will add five Conference USA schools – Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette, DePaul and South Florida. So the Big East will be even more powerful, baby!
Coaches such as Louisville's Pitino, Cincinnati's Bob Huggins and Marquette's Tom Crean will join the current group of outstanding Big East coaches to make the league even more incredible night in and night out.
With all of this in the Big East's favor, commissioner Mike Tranghese has to be smiling these days.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit 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.