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Dick Vitale, right, with the late Jim Valvano in 1983.

Dick Vitale, right, with the late Jim Valvano in 1983.

By LARRY VAUGHT

Dick Vitale admits he was “crushed” when he watched Kentucky freshman center Nerlens Noel get injured during UK’s loss at Florida Tuesday night on ESPN.

He was even more despondent Wednesday when he learned that Noel, the nation’s top shot blocker (106) and UK’s leading rebounder (9.5 per game), had torn a ligament in his left knee and would not play again this season.

“Something like this just crushes you,” said Vitale. “I liked him. Really liked him. I went to his high school game. I talked to him before the game last night. He is a good kid. He plays hard and busts his butt out there.

“He was so good defensively to make up for offensive shortcomings. He has not even touched his potential yet. That’s why you hate to see this.”

Noel, who averaged 10.5 points per game, had eight points, six rebounds, three blocks and one steal in 23 minutes at Florida before hurting his knee trying to block a shot after a UK turnover.

“Obviously it is a major loss for Kentucky because he was such an impact player on defense,” Vitale said. “Losing a quality guy like that has to hurt you. Others now have to step up and take their play to another level. Willie Cauley-Stein is going to have to really respond with him out.

“They could still be a good team, but not an elite team. Their guard play is too up and down for that, maybe even with Noel from what we had seen. They could not get any rhythm at Florida because of their inconsistent guard play.

“The results don’t lie. Notre Dame, Baylor, Louisville. The big games they have lost have not been from a lack of effort or talent. They just don’t have enough veteran players or consistent guard play, and now this.”

Kentucky dropped to 17-7 overall and 8-3 in Southeastern Conference play with Tuesday’s loss. Kentucky plays at Tennessee Saturday and still has games at Arkansas and Georgia left along with home games against Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Missouri and Florida.

“I think they will still be in the NCAA Tournament. They have talent and there are games they can win if their kids are up to the challenge, and I think they will,” Vitale said.

The ESPN analyst is just as optimistic that Noel’s future won’t be permanently altered by this injur.

“Many players come back from this type of injury. It will take a lot of hard work, but he can still have a long career,” Vitale said. “The bottom line is a NBA team at the top (of the draft) will talk with UK folks and those who do the surgery. If all goes well, I still think he will be a top three pick (in the June NBA draft) if that’s the way he wants to go.”

28 Responses to Dick Vitale believes UK can still be in NCAA tourney but lacks guard play to be elite team

  • Larry Pup says:

    I’m not a big Vitale fan. I thought him and Nessler showed a little to much exuberance when UK was getting their clock cleaned Tuesday night in Gainsville. If you listen carefully you can pickup on it. I don’t think he’s a big SEC fan, and just listening to him run his mouth constantly is a real chore. He is just another talking head who thinks he knows everything there is to know about roundball.

    • Kokamo Joe says:

      Vitale talks too much. He tries to make himself as important as the game. But I doubt that Vitale actually hates UK. In fact, I have heard him say some awfully kind things about UK. He was critical during the last year of Gillispie, but IMO he was truth telling. Many of us live to hear UK praise, myself included. It is not pleasant to hear that UK has weak guard play. The truth hurts and it is sometimes easier to focus on the bringer of bad news than the truth. Yes, Vitale and other commentors also are critical of the SEC. Again one has to look at truth. I have friends who can’t stand to hear criticism of the SEC. Yet, they lambast UL’s football program for playing in the Big East. I look at it this way: just as the Big East has given UL football an easy ride the SEC has done the same for UK basketball. I delight in the fact that we play basketball in the SEC. Imagine what this year would be like if we played in the ACC or the Big East. We would not be talking about making the NCAA tournament. Thank goodness for big favors.

      • L believe Dick Vitale, helped College Basketball reach the popularity level that it is today…And look what he’s done for THE V FOUNDATION….

        • LindaS says:

          I hate dukie v with a purple passion and that is the worse kind. Go to youtube and check out the video of dukie v hating on UK when Tubby left. He hates UK.

          • And Dicky V has raised 10′s of millions of Dollars for Cancer Research. I’ll take the one incident you describe. I’ve met Mr. Vitale, I can assure you he Loves Ky and Coach Cal…unless he’ s at Cameron or Chapel Hill, with that being said, Welcome to the ” Entertainment Business “.

          • King Ghidora says:

            In case you can’t find the video it’s here:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZPJQrHsIng

            Vitale hates UK fans more than he hates UK. He has called us racists so many times it isn’t funny. He stuck Demarcus Cousins with a thug label that has hurt him tremendously too. He had the script written before the game started. I’ve seen Vitale and ESPN go after UK so often over the years it’s sick. Like how they played the documentary about the Texas Western game every year during the signing period. That can’t be a coincidence.

            Vitale did his best to keep Smith at UK but when Minnesota fans wanted Smith fired you didn’t hear a word about how great of a “family man” he was as if that had squat to do with being a basketball coach. I’m a good family man. That doesn’t mean I should be UK’s coach.

            Vitale trashed UK fans for turning on Smith so bad it was sick. And this wasn’t the first time Vitale has gone after UK fans. He constantly says we expect too much. He says we should accept parity but he never says that about any other team. He had to have an armed guard escort him to Rupp decades ago. This is not a new thing for Vitale.

            I know he can praise the Cats too. But he talks out of both sides of his mouth constantly. He judges all coaches by his own inept coaching career. If they were as good as him they were “great” and they should keep their jobs unless of course it’s at UNC. When Bad Brad ran the Tarheels in the ground Vitale didn’t support him. He doesn’t really support any bad coaches I guess except when they coach at UK. Then he wants them to stick around for decades. He is pure ACC all the way. And that is the ONLY reason he gets on board the Jimmy V Foundation so hot. Where was he when Cal and the Cats were raising millions for the Haiti earthquake victims? Coaches For Cancer isn’t the only charity going. It’s just the only one Vitale promotes because his ACC buddy was responsible for it. The world is full of worthy charities but why is it he only promotes the one? Bias, period. Cal showed up to help that charity along with the dozens of other charities he promotes. But you never even hear a peep about what Cal does on the networks. They’re too busy bashing him for telling players they shouldn’t risk what happened to Noel just to play in college. I could NEVER ask a player to stay if he was a lottery pick. But Vitale thinks they should all stay because that puts money in his pocket. Yeah he’s a great guy – if you’re a Duke fan.

            BTW I think ESPN has hurt college basketball a lot. They have promoted the ACC since day one along with the Big East. And those that think UK would suffer in the ACC should pay attention to how many titles have been won by both conferences in the past 20 years. The SEC has the same number of titles in that time period as the ACC. Both have 6. So I don’t get how the SEC is supposedly so weak. They aren’t.

            Vitale, with his unadulterated love of the ACC and the ESPN stranglehold on the NCAA, has done a lot to hurt college basketball. They did just fine before ESPN came along. College basketball was the #1 sport in the country dating back to the 1940′s. That’s right. Bigger than the NFL. Bigger than MLB. Bigger than the NBA and bigger than college football. And there was explosive growth during the 1960′s and 70′s during the UCLA dynasty but it wasn’t just UCLA. It was Pistol Pete, Notre Dame, and the UK Wildcats. Later Marquette made a big splash along with Indiana. It’s funny how the ACC never dominated anything until ESPN became their promotion arm. There were scant few ACC titles before ESPN. They promoted the ACC in every way and they convinved players that they would get more exposure going to those schools. Well the exposure was at places like KENTUCKY before that. And Louisville and Indiana and Notre Dame and Kansas. All ESPN did was give one long recruiting commercial to the ACC. They have stunk up college basketball from the word go. I wonder how UK would have fared with their own, national, network on every cable system promoting basketball there? Anyone guessing they would have done better besides me? They gave an unfair advantage to the ACC which is what really made me laugh myself silly when the ACC teams complained about ESPN doing those programs about UK practicing before the season.

            Well UK is beating the tar out of the Tarheels now and the Dookies too. Yes this is a down year but it will be one of a scant few. What really blew my mind was the SEC giving control of their basketball to ESPN. How insane does it get? I think they realized quick that ESPN didn’t want the SEC to do well when they stuck the SEC with third string announcers and tv cameras that were out of date when Nixon was president. Yeah they really promoted SEC basketball – NOT!

  • YVETTE says:

    Love Dick Vitale !

    • Kokamo Joe says:

      The King illustrates one kind of UK fan. The kind who thinks that every body including the refs, ESPN, TV announcers, the NCAA hates the team that they love. Everyone to his own opinion, but I can’t see it. I watched the video. Vitale was making a point about the BBN that had some truth to it. We do have some unreasonable fans. Some of them did treat Tubby Smith bad. Why are some of us afraid to face truth? Then there is the Cousins comment. Anyone can google Cousins and find out that he was thugish before he came to UK and he is thuggish now. He was a thug. The story should be about the good job that Calipari did in control of this giant. Those of us who love to rant about their imagined slurs anybody and everybody do our fanbase and the sports programs at UK no favor.

      • Larry Pup says:

        I agree with the King. I don’t like Vitale and I don’t like ESPN one little bit. Neither help UK when it’s all said and done. He is right on target. If you other fans want to praise Vitale and his nonsense go right ahead. I don’t like him. And there are a bunch of us out here.

      • King Ghidora says:

        Do you even watch basketball? Did you miss ESPN’s own Bob Knight refusing to say the words Kentucky or Davis for almost an entire season? Did you miss ESPN’s own Digger Phelps lecture UK fans about how to act at Nashville before Gameday at Vandy? If you don’t see the bias in that network you are just short sighted friend. And Vitale was an absolute jerk about UK fans in that video. Where’s the equivalent videos about other schools that are supposedly racist? Or is it JUST Kentucky that is racist? Nothing wrong with that POV, right Joe?

        Some people will buy anything if it gets said on tv. I’ll tell you that your view is by far the minority view around here. I’m not naming names but I’ve seen lots of people agree with the fact that UK gets unfairly treated.

        UK ticked off the NY press going back to the 1940′s and they have never gotten over it. I can show you news articles from back then blaming Rupp for the team being all white despite the fact that state law required that no blacks attend UK. They were called Jim Crow laws but according to the lying press Rupp was the reason for all that.

        I could sit here and write about at least 1000 different instances of bias without really trying but I have the feeling nothing that gets said will matter. Not the fact that Duke played in their home state in the tournament about 30 times before UK did once. I can point out the absolutely asinine arguments used to nearly give UK the death penalty and I have this thing called “proof” that what happened was pure BS. I gave you proof that Vitale bashed UK fans and you say they deserved it????????????? What kind of fan are you? An Indiana fan?

        I can cite the things Rupp said about the press practically on a daily basis on his pre-game and post-game radio shows. I guess he was just “one kind of UK fan”.

        You live in a dream world Joe where everything is fair and nobody ever cheats. And there’s a big rock candy mountain there. And the clouds are made of marshmallows.

        I’ll just ask you the one question. Was it bias when Bob Knight refused to say the word “Kentucky” last year even when the Cats were rated #1 in the country? If you can tell me with a straight face that the situation wasn’t insanely biased then… Well I will make certain assumptions about you from that point on.

        Why does the horrendous cheater John Wooden get praised as the “Wizard Of Westwood” while the non-cheater Rupp gets movies made about him based on supposed facts that have never been backed up by anyone? We KNOW Wooden cheated but they lavish praise on him like he was a Saint. In fact they call him a Saint. But Rupp is the super racist. Man if you don’t see this you are truly, truly a blind man.

        I won’t sully this board arguing with you. I said my piece. All I can say is if you think there is “no” bias against UK in the press then you should have laid off the Mr. Natural back in the 70′s.

        • Kokamo Joe says:

          Sorry King, we just dissagree. I see no reason to rant and rave about something that I cannot control. I do think that some of us get bent out of shape when the media comments on UK if those comments are not high praise. UK’s results on the floor will always speak louder than any TV commentor. When the Cats rolled last year, I heard nothing but praise. This year the Cats are struggling. Vitale commented on the guard play. His job is to comment. We are having trouble with our guard play. Why should the man not tell the truth, and why should we be insulted by this type of truth?

          Bob Knight does dislike UK. It goes back to the time when he coached. Do you honestly believe that his foolish approach can hurt the program? Praise for the Wizard of Westwood? A movie? Rupp in the 40s?

          UK is the king of the college basketball world…the New York Yankees. When you are the best you will get criticised. You will also get breaks that the also rans will not get.

          So, we dissagree. There is no dream world. Let’s leave it at that.

          • K J & K G, I enjoy both of your Comments, but I think we need to pull back. Your both Wildcats and Great Fans of BBN. I have my own reason to understand (Entertainment) Dicky V and his ” Winds Of Change “. Knight, Digger and the jealousy of ESPN, towards Kentucky is very distasteful to Me…But, NONE OF THESE OUTSIDERS are worth us arguing with each other, after the loss of Nerlens Noel, we Need Unity, we All were injured Tue. night and we need each other to help Heal. So Peace Brothers and ” Go Big Blue “…L P, you too !

          • King Ghidora says:

            Larry T C I didn’t start the attacks here and I won’t continue in them. But I wasn’t going to let it go without defending my POV. I went for years on this board without having an ill word with anyone. But some people just won’t let you alone.

            I have my opinions. I have facts to back them up. And I won’t stand by and let someone bash me without responding with the rationale behind my thinking.

            It wasn’t me causing the division here. And I really would prefer to just ignore the source now if you don’t mind. Thanks friend.

        • Larry Pup says:

          Amen King! You absolutely nailed it. If I was as smart as Digger Phelps thinks he is I would be a genius. That pompass ass! Bobby Knight is another story all together. Joe is right, we can’t control what they say, but we damn sure don’t have to like it. When Vitale is on the broadcast crew he wants to be a comedian. He is an ACC fan and always has been. If Florida wins the National Title this year, guys like Phelps and Vitale will still knock the SEC. I can almost here em now.

  • The last time we lost a Big Man (Enes Kanter) , the Team and Josh Harrellson, stepped up and made a heck of a Run….Does Willie Cauley-Stein and this supporting Cast have that ability….I believe they do. The situation with Nerlens is a tragedy. Don’t give up on this Team…As we all know,” Coach Noel ” will be right there with the players everyday, just not on the Court.

  • eddie says:

    Willie Cauley-Stein needs to step up big time and show us why he is the blue chipper that he is.

  • Jim Boyers says:

    WCS can make up the offensive half of the game, but NO ONE can make up the defensive half. This team is going to be in some big-time trouble, when they run into any fast players. Their “Ole” defensive was fine, when Nerlens was in the lane to clean it up. Now that he is gone, the blow-bys that the opposing players will get against our out of position and slow guards will turn into easy layups.

    I wish I could be optimistic and “Rah Rah” about how things are going to go, but I just can’t. I think this team is in tremendous trouble. I can wish they will pull it together all I want, but the reality is that they haven’t shown any sign that that is in their DNA. This group has not shown that they possess the so-called “Baskeball IQ” needed to make the neccessary adjustments to have a serious impact on the rest of the season.

    I hope I am proven very wrong.

  • Anonymous says:

    Dickie V is OK, however he can wear your ears a little thin with all his rambling. He is right about our guard play lacking enough experience to do anything this year in the tournament, provided we make it. I’m really hoping Ryan comes back and spends two years putting on some real muscle…he simply needs to get stronger. He’s got plenty of talent but just needs to let his body mature. Stay patient Ryan, live in weight room every chance you get, and you’ll play in the NBA.

    • King Ghidora says:

      I totally agree that there’s a problem with the guard play on the team. Anyone who knows basketball will tell you that. But I don’t think it’s right or fair to criticize kids for their failures. They’re working hard to improve almost without exception. In the old days an announcer would no more bad mouth a young man like that than he would slander an entire fan base the way some have been known to act.

      Announcers should be positive about these kids. They aren’t out there to be abused by professional jerks. That’s how I see it. I can barely bring myself to criticize players in this forum much less as the spokesman for a world wide network. Those kids don’t deserve that. Greedy and abusive adults bashing kids is the epitome of low class IMO. And they do it to make money by drawing attention to themselves and their network. Scandal sells. Bashing sells. And there’s always some low life ready and willing to sell that sort of thing.

      It doesn’t have to be that way. Larry’s site is NEVER that way. That’s a big reason I like his site and his work so much.

  • LindaS says:

    I so wish Cawood was here, I hate listening to dukie v, he gets on my last nerve.

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