Illini Wonk
Monday, January 17, 2005
  Dickie V: Welcome to the bandwagon
As the Atlantic Coast Conference has improved the last few years and filled some of the void left by the Big Ten it seems at time that Dick Vitale has become cheerleader-in-chief for the ACC. This has not made him popular with Big Ten fans and even Illini Wonk has taken a (well-researched) shot at ESPN's bald commentator in this post.

However, Illini Wonk has noted in a more recent post that Dick Vitale has admitted the error of his early-season predictions and given the Illini their props. According to Vitale's midseason report, there is no doubt the "Flyin' Illini" have been the best team, he names Bruce Weber the coach of the year and has Deron Williams on his "All Rolls-Royce First Team.

In addition, on his midseason lists, Vitale puts Deron Williams on his "All-Thomas Edison Super Six" (creators at point guard) and Luther Head on his "All-Blenders" (best at blending in and helping the team).

Well, Vitale follows that up today with a column that heaps praise on the Illini. The headline is Can Illinois be perfect? and while Vitale doesn't directly answer that question, he does write:

The Illini have a premier backcourt — it doesn't get much better than Dee Brown and Deron Williams. That duo is up there with the best of them, including Wake Forest's Chris Paul and Justin Gray and North Carolina's Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants.

But Illinois is more than just a backcourt tandem.
Luther Head and Roger Powell provide great athleticism. James Augustine has improved and provides solid inside play. The Illini have tremendous balance and are well-coached and well-schooled.

Then he closes the column by saying: This team looks like a favorite to get to the Final Four. It looks like Illini fans will have to leave "Dickie V" off the hate mail list this week.

We'll have to stay tuned to see if he remains the only ESPN analyst with Kansas ahead of Illinois on his Power 16 list.

UPDATE: Vitale may have been replaced by Digger Phelps as the ESPN analyst who will get the goat of Illini fans. I was watching the UCONN/Seton Hall game and during the half time show, Digger said that North Carolina is still the best team in the nation. He must have missed this game.
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