“Teague has got to be sensational at point guard, but that is not a big dilemma,” Vitale said. “Gilchrist is a winner. He’s a rebounder and a tough, tenacious kid I really liked in high school.
“Kentucky is going to get better and better as the season goes on. They will develop a rhythm, a chemistry. I think they are just going to be dynamite and a major, major factor in March. Jones and Davis will be great. I know that. This is going to be a big, big year for the Big Blue Nation. They are going to be absolutely thrilled with this group.”
Vitale believes North Carolina, Connecticut and Kentucky — he calls them Goliaths — are clearly the top teams going into the season with Ohio State and Syracuse also big-time threats. He says the late signing of freshman center Andre Drummond makes UConn a threat to repeat at national champion and calls Carolina’s front court “scary” and notes the Tar Heels have more experience than UK¿or UConn.
“Kentucky doesn't rebuild, it simply reloads,” Vitale said.
Yet Vitale did warn not to overlook Vanderbilt, or Florida, in Southeastern Conference play. He ranked Vandy No. 6 and Florida No. 10 in his preseason poll.
“Kevin Stallings has a lot of veteran talent returning, including center Festus Ezeli, shooter John Jenkins and athletic Jeffery Taylor. Experience will be a plus, and it is going to be tough to win in Nashville even for Kentucky,” Vitale said.
He says guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton give Florida coach Billy Donovan a potent offense and freshman Brad Beal and transfer Mike Rosario will provide a big punch. “Look for Patric Young to develop up front, too,” Vitale said.
He knows how the hype UK’s game with North Carolina Dec. 3 is already generating. However, he warned also not to overlook the Dec. 31 matchup with Louisville, another of his top 10 teams.
“I think this will be a big year for Rick Pitino. He has a lot of talent coming in with Wayne Blackshear and Chane Behanan. Then look at returning veterans Peyton Siva, Kyle Kuric and Mike Marra and there is reason for a lot of enthusiasm,” Vitale said.
As much as there is at Kentucky?
“The Big Blue is going to be crazy all year,” he said. “This could be a special, special year for Calipari. He has it all. If they win it all, it won’t surprise me.”