Dick Vitale has pumped up the volume on college basketball for more than two decades.
Saturday, the world will find out whether he can be heard over the roar of the crowd at Memorial Gymnasium. ESPN’s lead college basketball analyst will be in the building when the No. 17 Commodores face second-ranked Kentucky in a matchup of the top two teams in the Southeastern Conference (5 p.m., ESPN).
“He’s a big-time name, so him coming in here will be awesome,” Vanderbilt sophomore guard Brad Tinsley said. “It’s going to be pretty cool. I haven’t really seen him in person, but it will be a lot of fun.”
Vitale made his travel plans known during a broadcast last Saturday and immediately got message boards buzzing among the Commodores’ faithful. On Tuesday, the always-energetic announcer Tweeted about his schedule for the next few days.
"Can't wait for this week … going to Georgetown and Vandy this week,” he wrote.
His appearance at Memorial (Brad Nessler will do play-by-play and Erin Andrews will be the sideline reporter) is notable because Vitale is one-of-a-kind, which means he can’t be two places or more at once. Hence, there are some locales he does not frequent or ever visit.
Coach Kevin Stallings, for example, is in his 11th season at Vanderbilt following six seasons at Illinois State. Saturday’s is his first game as a head coach with Vitale on the microphone.
“When I was (an assistant) at Kansas, he called a number of our games,” Stallings said. “I would think the people will be excited about Dick’s presence. He’s become quite a voice for college basketball. I think people will really be excited about him being here.”
The Commodores’ play this season has created a bunch of excitement on its own.
VU is undefeated (13-0) at Memorial in 2009-10, and the last four contests have attracted sellout crowds of 14,316. That stretch includes a down-to-the-wire victory over Mississippi State (75-72) on Feb. 3 and last week’s unexpected rout of No. 20 Tennessee (90-71).
“I’ve seen him TV and stuff like that,” sophomore forward Jeffery Taylor said. “It will be pretty exciting to have him here.
“More than that, I’m just trying to focus on the game and doing what I can do to help our team win.”
Before any of that, Vanderbilt first has to go to Ole Miss on Thursday (6 p.m., ESPNU), where the Commodores lost by 16 in their last visit, which was 2007-08.
“They’ll place a great deal of importance on this game (Thursday) and come out with a great deal of energy and emotion,” Stallings said. “We have to do the same. It’s life on the road in the SEC.”
Things at home, though, are likely to be a little more lively than usual — at least for one game.