OU at the Final Four: Dick Vitale says Buddy Hield should be national player of the year
HOUSTON — Dick Vitale has one of the most recognizable voices in all of basketball. He was on the call for ESPN's first college basketball game and remains a staple on the network, with his signature exhuberance and catchphrases.
While TBS has the rights to the Final Four, leaving Vitale out of the U.S. coverage of the event, he's in Houston this week calling the games for ESPN International. Vitale also is going head-to-head in the AllState March Mayhem Challenge with astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
Q: What's the most impressive thing about Buddy Hield this year?
A: His ability to get to the basket. We know he can shoot the three, but he also has that ability that if you get up and try to take that away from him, he's got a great first step — explosive step to the goal — and get himself fouled. This year he went to the foul line a number of times because of his driving ability and he makes foul shots.
How impressive has Lon Kruger's coaching job been this year?
He's been a success everywhere he's coached, he really has, at the collegiate level. If you can't like Lon Kruger, there's something wrong with you. You can say the same about Jay Wright really. You've got two of the most liked coaches going against each other. They remember where they came from, there's no egos involved, they're all about their kids, their team. Lon really epitomizes that. I think Lon, I really believe if you look at the totality of his record and you factor in that he's never really coached at what we call the elite of the elite basketball programs in America — the programs you hear about often, the Kentuckys, the Indianas, the UCLAs, the North Carolinas — and you factor what he's achieved, I firmly believe ... he has to absolutely be considered for the hall of fame. His record is unreal. What he's done to go to the Final Four with two schools, he's taken five schools to the tournament. He's the only guy that's ever done that. When you think of Oklahoma, you're thinking Billy Sims, you're thinking about Heismans, you're thinking about football. You're not thinking about basketball and I'm telling you, he's got them basketball crazy. The question is, do they have a little more left in them. I was talking to Lon the other day and I said their worst nightmare might be the fact that they blew out Villanova the first time. If the kids think it's going to be a trip to the park, they're crazy because Villanova is way better.
What does Oklahoma have to do against an improved Villanova team?
For them to win a national championship and to beat Villanova, they've got to get play out of (Ryan) Spangler and (Khadeem) Lattin on the inside. I don't mean just defensively. They've got to put some points on the board so defenses have to play them, give more spacing and more driving ability for guys like (Isaiah) Cousins and Hield and (Jordan) Woodard. I think Christian James came up big. He was really tough on the glass. He gave them positive minutes. They can't rely just on Woodard, Cousins and Hield.
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Should Hield be the national player of the year?
I vote in a lot of these different players of the year. It would be a crime if that kid is not national player of the year. I really mean that. I have great respect for what Denzel Valentine's achieved. I have great respect for Tyler Ulis and what they've achieved, but what Buddy Hield has done from Day One to the end really, really warrants being national player of the year.
How is the bracket challenge with Buzz Aldrin going headed into the Final Four?
They're going to give money in my name for cancer research. They're giving money in Buzz Aldrin's name to the space center in Houston. There's nothing dearer to my heart than raising money for kids battling cancer. I'm dealing with a guy that's got a doctorate in aeronautical engineering. I got my degree in hoopology, so he gets an edge intellectually. Two teams killed me early. Michigan State killed me and Kentucky killed me. But right now I've been told that if Oklahoma beats Villanova, Buzz and I are in a tie. We're in a draw baby. Nobody wins. It's a draw. So Buddy Hield better have another big day. I don't want to lose to a guy that walked on the moon.