Vitale talks Florida-Baylor matchup, SEC, upcoming gala


Long-time ESPN college basketball analyst and Basketball Hall of Famer Dick Vitale will be back in Gainesville on Saturday, calling the Florida-Baylor, SEC-Big 12 Challenge for ESPN (noon tip).

Vitale, who lives three hours down the road in Lakewood Ranch, has spent the last quarter century of his life raising money and awareness for cancer research for the V Foundation for cancer research. His 13th annual gala, which has raised millions for pediatric cancer research, will be held on May 11 at the Ritz Carlton in Sarasota and will honor Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh, FSU basketball coach Leonard Hamilton and ESPN television and radio personality Mike Greenberg. More information on the gala can be found here.

Vitale, who called UF’s 81-74 SEC opening win over Vanderbilt last Dec. 30, is looking forward to the Florida-Baylor matchup.

“Baylor needs a win desperately,” Vitale said. “They are 2-6 in conference play. They are not on the bubble right now, they are off the bubble and they’ve got to get back on the bubble …

“On the other side, Florida, coming off the loss to South Carolina they want to get back to the winning mentality and have the kids finish the second half of the year really strong. I think it should be a good game. I think both teams, should be a good game, the one thing, they don’t shoot the 3 really well, Baylor, and that should be a plus for Florida.”

Vitale said he thinks Saturday will be a chance for the SEC to make a statement to get more quality wins in its 10 matchups with Big 12 teams.

“The SEC has been absolutely amazing,” Vitale said. “Who would have thought at this point at the season that Auburn, losing its top two players due to the FBI probe, would be in first place. I was talking to Arkansas coach Mike Anderson the other day and he thinks this is as deep and as talented the league has been since 1990s, when he was an assistant under Nolan Richardson.”