ESPN held a media conference call with ESPN college basketball analysts Dick Vitale and Seth Greenberg on Wednesday, April 3. Below is a transcript of portions of the call:
Dick Vitale will call NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament Final Four games this year for the first time in his career. Vitale will serve as the analyst on Final Four telecasts from Atlanta, calling a semifinal and the championship for ESPN International. Longtime ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas will also work a semifinal telecast. Brad Nessler will call play-by-play on all three Final Four games. Vitale, a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, has worked more than 2,000 college basketball telecasts from hundreds of venues in his 34-year career with ESPN. While he has been a studio analyst on ESPN’s coverage of the Men’s Tournament every year since he joined ESPN in 1979 – including at the Final Four every year since 1983 – he has never called a game of the marquee event.
Seth Greenberg brings 35 years of coaching experience to ESPN as college basketball analyst. He appears on various platforms, most often as a game or studio analyst, and regularly appears on SportsCenter, ESPN Radio and ESPNU. Additionally, Greenberg co-hosts a weekly podcast with ESPN reporter Andy Katz on ESPN.com.
On Syracuse vs. Michigan
Vitale: “Michigan, Syracuse, two elite teams, two elite programs, you’ve got a coach who’s 9‑0 against the another. Michigan coach John Beilein is 0‑9 against Syracuse, but he never had the weapons that he has now. And their offense efficiency, they rank in the top two in America, Michigan, in offensive efficiency. On the other side they’re facing a zone that has been suffocating people – people shooting 29% and 15% from the three. So No. 1, certain things have to happen, you’ve got to beat that zone in transition. The question is, that’s easy to say in coach terminology, you have to have the personnel to do it. Michigan has that. Trey Burke is the best point guard in America. He is absolutely a guy that can get up and down the floor, push the ball, beat the zone before it sets. That’s phase 1.
“Phase 2: You better have a penetrator. If the zone is set up, it’s 5 on 5, to get in gaps and seams to create guys to help. Phase 3: You better have open shooters who can make shots. Bottom line is they’ve got to be able to make shots. They have Nik Stauskas, he can make shots. Tim Hardaway Jr. can make shots. Phase 4: You better be strong in the three second area. McGary is at 70 points, 46 rebounds, and has been a dominator. If I were given out a PTP award right now, prime time player, for the four games to get to the Final Four, it would be McGary. Great hands, tough, hard nosed and really can run up and down the floor.”
Greenberg: “Syracuse is probably playing the best zone in college basketball in the last 20 years. A zone that’s different to simulate in your practices, which makes it so difficult to prepare for. And then you’ve got a Michigan team that really probably is built to attack the zone. So I look at that basketball game, and will Michigan be able to attack the zone, will they be able to beat the zone down the floor, will Mitch McGary be able to get to the offense glass. And can they make the shots, because the whole idea about the zone is you still have to make shots.”
On Wichita State vs. Louisville
Greenberg: “Wichita State plays angry, but they play well. They’re very, very good. They’re a very good basketball team. They pass and catch. They’re disciplined defensively. They do a nice job of containing penetration, contesting shots and finishing with a rebound. And then offensively they’re extremely disciplined. They have great shot discipline. They pass and catch well and they’ve got a guard that’s really not afraid of anyone in Malcolm Armstead, a tough matchup in Cleanthony Early and a high energy athlete in Carl Hall.
“People need to understand Gregg Marshall’s background. Gregg Marshall played for a great Division III coach, Randolph Macon. He worked for John Cress, who was a disciple of Lou Carnesecca. He’s a high energy guy, that his team is going to play. They’re going to be aggressive. They’re going to be confident. They’re going to be tough. And they’re going in there with the expectation to win a basketball game.”
Vitale: “When you look at Louisville, you talk about the great guard in Peyton Siva and the defensive pressure is absolutely relentless. What they did at Duke in that eight-minute spurt where the score was 42‑42 and they went on a 20‑4 run, which was unbelievable. And it was their pressure defensively that created every opportunity. And then they have the anchor back there in Gorgui Dieng that blocks shots. They’re very athletic, and they will miss Ware. They’ll miss Ware, because he was playing at such a high level and is such an athlete. I saw that emotion, and I felt it because I remember talking to Rick Pitino when I did a Louisville game, he was raving about Kevin Ware, you could see the love that his teammates have for him.
“Their opponent, they have guys that can play. Malcolm Armstead, Tekele Cotton made a big three that really gave them incredible momentum when they beat Ohio State. Cleanthony Early is a guy that goes inside, outside. Carl Hall is explosive, a veteran player and athlete. And Gregg Marshall knows how to win. He knows how to design rolls for players. He understands shot selection, and understands how to defend as a unit. And that’s a key, playing as a unit defensively.”
On Mike Rice news:
Greenberg: “To me, the coaches are going to coach aggressively and coach hard and be passionate and have great energy in the practices. Where Mike crossed the line is when he put his hands on the player. You can’t throw a basketball at the head of a player. You can’t reach out to kick a player. You can’t put your hands on your players. People have done things that maybe they’re embarrassed about. But when you actually physically put your hands on one of your players, you’ve crossed the line. That’s unacceptable. That’s never been acceptable. That wasn’t acceptable when I was in college and that’s not acceptable today.
“I’ve watched Mike Rice’s interview and I think maybe the one thing that’s coming out of this is that Mike Rice was forced to sit down in his counseling and watch. And he didn’t like what he saw. To me at times you’re coaching your team, you’re watching videotape, you see what’s going on but you really don’t see what’s going on. I think that you saw a change in his behavior. It’s unfortunate it came for this. There’s no place for that. It’s unacceptable. Coaching hard and physical abuse are two different things. And that’s to me where he crossed the line.”
Vitale: “There’s no question whatsoever. Putting a hand on a player is an absolutely no, no. And what about the terminology? Utilizing some terms that you absolutely can’t make. The homophobic calls that he utilized. Come on. But I have a question and I’m asking this because I don’t know. Where was the administration when they looked at this a while back? Because this wasn’t like yesterday or the day before. They accepted that and just suspended him. If that is true, I think people have to start looking at the administration. If you watch that, you get sick.”
On Pac-12 referee situation:
Vitale: “That was just terrible. It was an absolute embarrassment, humiliation to the conference. Even if they had done it in a joking way. I have respect for the commissioner, who has come out and said in all the investigation that went on that it was just a tongue in cheek kind of thing, and it was really not meant to be, we’re not isolating Sean Miller. But to be able to carry on like that is just totally uncalled for and no place for it whatsoever.”
Greenberg: “To say it once, inappropriate. To say something twice, to me, it’s unethical. Relationships between coaches and players is all about trust and I have a hard time seeing how that trust is going to be rebuilt. I talked to a number of officials and people in administration, in officiating, and it was almost like a bounty was put on the head of Sean Miller. And to me that’s the case. What a sad commentary. Think about those players. When Sean went into that ramp after the game and he’s looking at Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons, he’s basically saying, you know what, this is it. They had a chance – it’s all about hanging banners, winning championships in a lot of ways. Those guys had a chance. It’s a four‑point game, you know, who knows what could have happened. There’s no guarantee that Arizona was going to win the game, but to me whether it’s inappropriate, unethical, whatever it is, it was for sure – there’s no place for it. “
On the four coaches:
Vitale: “Rick Pitino obviously should have been in the Hall of Fame, I thought, five years ago. I look at Rick’s teams, always well coached. Always motivated and inspired. You’re not going to beat them because they didn’t play hard. Rick Pitino’s teams always compete. Jimmy Boeheim, look at the record. He bleeds Syracuse Orange. He’s about loyalty. He’s about family. He’s about his team, program. A guy whose teams are always ready to play, prepared, basically people were writing them off, they were 5-7 in one spurt. Gregg Marshall, he’s been climbing the ladder. He’s the guy that came from nowhere to make himself what he is. He has great understanding. I think he has understanding how to teach the game. John Beilein. You talk about a guy that’s been on a journey, unbelievable. Unbelievable résumé. Where he’s been at every level. He’s been a winner at every level. When he walks in the house and he says to you, I’m going to make you dream for a moment that you’re a great player. The most important factor in all, in all of the coaches, you’ve got to get players. Recruiting is a must. If you can’t recruit, you can’t succeed. These guys all can recruit. They all can teach. They all can motivate and they all can coach. And they all win.”
Greenberg: “When I think of Rick Pitino, I think of a great teacher. I always say this about Rick’s team: He can take your team and beat you and he can take his team and beat you. He has the amazing ability to get guys to a place they can’t get themselves. All those coaches do. But Rick, especially. The development of the Gorgui Dieng, the development of Russ Smith and him having a better understanding and being a winning player, to put those guys in position to be successful, that’s coaching. That’s what all the coaches playing this weekend do. They put their guys in a place that they can have success. John Beilein has never been an assistant coach. He’s coached at every level of Division I. He’s a terrific teacher. He has a system, but he sets his system to his players. He figures out how he’s tweaked the system. Years ago he never would have set this many ball screens. Now at Michigan, it’s one big ball screen. The development of a Mitch McGary who is playing as well as anyone. You’ve got to recruit guys that fit your style of play and he’s done a great job of that. He’s very comfortable, he knows who he is and he’s going to coach basically in his own personality. Gregg Marshall is a great one, because if you know his pedigree, you know he literally is the spitting image of John Cress. The great energy, the positive energy, the teacher first, getting his guys to believe. Having enough of a chip, but not to the point where you lose confidence. I think that’s something that is really special. The whole play angry thing sounds good, but it means playing well, playing the game the right way, competing, playing to win, playing together. I don’t think people understand what a great game coach Jim Boeheim is, how he sees the game. Jim Boeheim sees the game in a way very few coaches see it in my opinion. Just his understanding of putting guys in a place where they’re really going to have success and keeping it simple, but letting guys, holding guys accountable. I think the guy is just brilliant.”
On what Wichita State can do to give Louisville trouble:
Vitale: “No. 1, control the tempo in the game. I think they’re capable of controlling the tempo and also getting into their offense and do the things they’ve been doing all year. Against Gonzaga they go 14 for 28. Made five big threes against Ohio State. They find a way to make big shots. They have people that aren’t intimidated. Controlling the tempo of the game is vital. Bottom line is they can’t allow Louisville to go in spurts, force turnovers, get layups up and down, that’s the way they break games open. They have to make sure they minimize turnovers and also try to get up on the glass. And that scenario I’m sure they’re concerned about”
Greenberg: “I think first and foremost they have to own the tempo of the game. They’ve got to run on opportunity and find a way to score a couple of easy baskets. It’s hard to play against that set defense, whether man to man or match‑up zone. They’ve got to limit live ball turnovers. I’ve never seen a team convert live ball turnovers on the basket as quick as Louisville. They’re so fast and relentless off of turnovers, off long rebounds, off deflections, converting them quickly into two points. So I think that’s really, really important. And I think that ‑‑ they’ve got to have someone step up. They’ve got to have someone step up in terms of someone make big shots. Is it going to be Ron Baker? Is it going to be Cleanthony Early? But they’ll have to have someone have one of those special, special nights.
“Finally they’ve got to figure out how to guard the flat ball screen. They’ve got to make Louisville a jump shooting team. If they can stay in front, keep Peyton Siva and Russ Smith out of the way, and make Louisville a jump shooting team. Then if they make the jump shots, so be it. But they can’t get on straight line drives, and now all of a sudden they’re going into the glass and getting kickbacks. That would make it really, really difficult for them.
“Wichita State is a good pass and catch team. They don’t turn it over excessively. And they’ve got a toughness about them. Their team, like their coach, they’re not afraid. They’re going to come and they’re going to play to win and everyone says they’ve got to get off to a good start. I’m not worried about their start, it’s not the first four minutes against Louisville, it’s the cumulative effect, it’s playing against Louisville for 40 minutes.”
On a Michigan Fab 5 reunion:
Vitale: “The bottom line is they brought a lot of notoriety and a lot of fame to the school. People made a couple of mistakes, they paid for it dearly. There comes a time in life you have to set that aside and move ahead in a positive way. I know Jalen Rose, and I know he has a great love for Michigan and all their guys do. I think it’s time to say let’s embrace, let us unite. We will never, ever, ever, I will say that emphatically, ever, ever see five freshmen as a starting group do what those kids did to get to the Finals two years in a row. It’s unbelievable. To have five freshmen come in and do what they did was very unique.”
Greenberg: “Think about the change in college basketball that the Fab 5 made. Look at the culture of college basketball and think about the excellence they created and the manner in which they played. They had a little swagger. They had a little arrogance. But that team was a great defensive team. That team shared the basketball. That team was unselfish, that team played good, winning basketball. Steve Fish did a great job with that team and that team had something special. They didn’t just play for the show, they played to win.”
On if Michigan’s Glenn Robinson will be the X factor in the game:
Vitale: “No, I think the X factor is making shots against that zone. You know Nik Stauskas, you know he’s going to get a lot of attention and Hardaway. They’re going to have to make shots. I think attacking the zone is the X factor. Robinson certainly – he’s a very good freshman player, he’s played well in the tournament, he went through a slump during the course of the way, which is always in young players. They played good defense against Florida, but against Kansas they were not very effective defensively for most of that game. The bottom line is I just think Michigan could score enough to be able to survive.”
Greenberg: “Robinson is a part of their success, no doubt about it. He’s a big target, flashing them to the middle of that zone. The guys that get to the middle of that zone have to be play makers. They’ve got to, not as much score, he has the quickness to score, but guys that can get in, make a play, and kick it back out. If you ask Jim Boeheim, he’d say you’re not beating us unless you make more than eight 3’s. They’re going to have to have guys shot ready, they’re going to have to beat the zone down the court, get penetration, get some post touches, they’re going to have to get into the offensive glass. But in the end you’ve still got to make shots.”
On point guard match‑up between Syracuse’s Michael Carter‑Williams and Michigan’s Trey Burke:
Vitale: “Michael Carter‑Williams has played brilliantly in the tournament. He’s got great ability. He’s quick. He’s also got a little swagger about him, which is great, as well. You’re not going to win without solid point guard play. You take a look at all four teams, you just cannot win in college basketball without the perimeter. And his sidekick is very good, as well, in Brandon Triche. That’s a real solid tandem.
“Michigan is playing the best back‑court in America when you look at Hardaway and Burke. I just feel that they have great rhythm together, a great flow. It doesn’t mean they’re going to dominate. It doesn’t mean they’re going to be successful, but in the long‑term that back‑court has been dynamite and they blend so well. It starts with penetration ability. Burke is very unique. Aren’t many point guards that have the ability to get in the lane. He gets in the three second area, a lot of great things happen.”
Greenberg: “It’s in the best interest to both their teams to start the game as facilitators, to get everyone involved. Syracuse is better when Michael Carter‑Williams is a play maker first, and a scorer second. Michigan is a better basketball team when Burke is getting Hardaway involved, getting Stauskas involved and hit McGary on rolls. Basically being the facilitator first. Burke is a great on ball defender. That match‑up is an interesting one to me, because you’ve got a guy like Burke, undersized point guard or just a small point guard against a long, 6 foot 7 inch rangy guard. Jim Boeheim attacked matchups in that Indiana game. He went right at Jordan Holmes. It’s going to be interesting if he tries to go after Burke a little bit in the man. Burke is as good on the ball as anyone. It’s a great matchup. One is going to play against the zone, the other one is going to play man to man. Can Carter‑Williams get out in transition early, if he gets in the half court, will he be content on being a facilitator as opposed to a scorer.”