With the big game just about 48 hours away, we thought we'd try to get some expert analysis. Luckily, Bristol, where the ESPN campus is located, is about a 45-minute drive away from the Hilltop area of the Storrs campus. As it happens, we wandered down there today and caught Dick Vitale, ESPN's energetic, eclectic college basketball fanatic-turned-announcer on his lunch break. He shared with us his thoughts on UConn, Syracuse and decades of memories of college basketball. Check it out:
TheUConnBlog: Good morning, Dickie V! Pleasure to meet you. How are you doing?
Dick Vitale: I'm doing awesome, baby! I'm lookin' forward to a great rivalry week in the greatest game that the good Lord ever created for this earth: college basketball, baby!
UB: Absolutely. Now, which game are you looking forward to the most?
DV: Oh, they're all awesome, baby! Any time you get two schools that hate each other, that grew up hating each other, that are about eight miles apart in a basketball-crazy state, you gotta love it, baby! I can't pick one! I can't pick one!
UB: What if I made you pick one?
DV: Put a gun to my head, I'd have to go with the Tobacco Road classic - North Carolina versus Duke, baby! It's the Yankees-Red Sox of college basketball, baby! I'll be there in Cameron with the Crazies this Wednesday night at 9:00! It's a showdown you won't want to miss, baby!
UB: Yeah, I agree. Duke-UNC is a great rivalry.
DV: No kidding, baby! It's always a special game. Coach K is a phenomenal leader of men. And who can forget about baby-blue Roy Williams, the captain of Tarheelia! And it's always special when the Dukies are ranked No. 1 in all the land! It's why Duke-UNC is the America-Soviet Union of college basketball, baby!
UB: Actually, Dick, Duke isn't No. 1 anymore.
DV: Oh. But still, baby, you've gotta love Psycho T, mistah Tyler Hansbrough. What a motor on that kid! That's a kid who just flat-out works, who loves the game. He is a member of the All-Windex Team, baby! Because he always cleans up the glass! He is the reason why the Tar Heels are No. 1 in America, baby!
UB: Dick, North Carolina hasn't been No. 1 for more than a month.
DV: Sorry, baby, I just got a little confused in my old age! Besides, I think No. 1 Wake Forest will eventually fall to their deeper Tobacco Road rivals! Because when you play Duke and UNC, it's like fighting the crushing, helpless existential weight of nothingness of college basketball, baby!
UB: Wake Forest isn't No. 1, either, Dick. Do you even know who the No. 1 team is?
DV: How about the Terrapins of Maryland?
UB: They haven't been good in years.
DV: How about Georgia Tech, led by beautiful Bobby Cremins?
UB: Bobby Cremins left Georgia Tech in 2000, Dick.
DV: Virginia, with that PTPer Ralph Sampson, they're a tough out for anyone, baby!
UB: The Ralph Sampson whose kid is in college now?
DV: Sorry, baby! Enlighten me!
UB: That would be UConn. I'm from TheUConnBlog, remember?
DV: Oh yeah! How could I forget the Huskies of Storrs, Connecticut? It was either them or Clemson, baby! But James Calhoun's got a wonderful program up there! The Huskies love to run and gun.
UB: Indeed they do. UConn has a big rivalry game of its own coming up Wednesday against Syracuse. It's the first game of the ESPN doubleheader, leading into Duke-UNC.
DV: That's right, baby! I love that so many wonderful games should be televised to the good people of America!
UB: Now, Dick, you've been around a long time, clearly. What kind of memories do you have of the UConn-Syracuse rivalry?
DV: Oh, baby, I go back all the way, baby! I was talking about Derrick Coleman and Chris Smith back when you were toddling around in a crib, baby!
UB: I'm amazed that you managed to make a sentence in which the word "baby" could actually be used correctly and in context. And then I was further amazed when you ignored that setup and proceeded to use the word "baby" as a non-sequitur.
DV: Thanks, baby!
UB: So, favorite UConn-Syracuse moment?
DV: I have to say it was Gerry McNamara's run in the Big East tourney in 2006. I was in Greensboro for the ACC Tournament that day, but my oh my, what heart that kid had. What heart!
UB: That's sort of a sore subject up here.
DV: I imagine, but that's what makes college basketball so great!
UB: Yeah. Any other memories?
DV: Well, any time these two teams get together, there's always gonna be action! Jimmy Boeheim is one of the best coaches in America! So is Jimmy Calhoun.
UB: We just call them both "Jim."
DV: I remember the back-to-back championships in '03 and '04, I remember Etan Thomas and Jake Voskuhl battling. Caron Butler and Hakeem Warrick, Ben Gordon and Gerry McNamara! The list goes on, baby! Rudy Gay and Donte Green! A.J. Price and Jonny Flynn! J.J. Redick and Raymond Felton! There's so many-
UB: What was that last one?
DV (frenetically screaming himself hoarse): -names! Jeff and Jason Capel! Eric Montross and Elton Brand! Big East basketball! You gotta love it! Are you serious? It's UConn and Syracuse! Two of the best in the country! Light blue versus dark blue! You can't miss it! College basketball!
UB: You are a crazy old man.
DV (gradually lowering voice to gruff whisper): I just love the game, brother. I love the game. Especially UNC-Duke, the matter-antimatter of college basketball! And it's right after UConn-Syracuse! Does it get any better than that? Does it get any better?
UB: No, sir, it does not. And you clearly love the game.
DV: Thank you.
UB: Any last plugs?
DV: Catch me around Tampa, Fla., any time. That town is the Coach K of towns, baby! And don't forget Hooters restaurants and Papa John's pizza! They're the Duke and UNC of dinner time, baby!
UB: Thanks for your time, Dickie V.
Dick Vitale will probably catch the first half of UConn-Syracuse before turning his attention elsewhere, the Duke-UNC of abstract places.