[dropcap]E[/dropcap]very year the Naismith Award is awarded to the best men’s and women’s college basketball player that season and is considered the greatest individual honor a college basketball player can earn. We had a chance to get some time with Clark Kellogg today to chat about a few things, specifically about the Naismith Award candidates which were recently announced; they are Michigan sophomore Trey Burke, Creighton junior Doug McDermott, Indiana junior Victor Oladipo and Georgetown sophomore Otto Porter Jr.

Q – Is this a down year for March Madness or a very special year given the surprises such as FGCU and La Salle?

Clark – The gap has closed across the country for perennial powerhouse teams and those teams that are not from power conferences. I actually enjoy the surprises and the unexpected; it is part of what makes it so special and captivating.

Q – What are the most important traits you look for in a Naismith candidate?

Clark – Consistency of excellent production. After that I look for two-way performance (offense and defense), and finally the differentiator would be “Moments of Magnitude,” which are significant moments in big games that impact the game. For that reason, my vote went to Victor Oladipo.

Q – Do you think any of the four players nominated will have successful NBA careers?

Clark – I think all are going to be really good NBA players. But it is hard with college players, except with the exception of a few, to really tell who will stand out. But I think each of these four players are going to be contributing NBA players and one or two could emerge as being All-Star caliber.

Q – Does Jim Nance rehearse his final “catch phrase” after the final buzzer of the final, or are you hearing it for the first time when we are?

Clark – You mean, does he practice his ad-libs?  I think he does a little bit of it, but most of it is spontaneous. He does give it some thought. He is such a clever word-smith and really fun guy to hang around. He will throw some of them out as trial balloons in our meetings and get a read on how they go over. And on occasion he will come up with some that he never reveals until the right moment. ‘Rehearsing them’ might be a bit too strong of a descriptor. But I know he gives them thought and what he comes up with are usually pretty fitting and appropriate.

Q – What do you think of the Tournament the way it stands now with in terms of number of teams?

Clark – I think we are at a really good number, adding the additional three and keeping the first four. I still think it is very special to earn the right to play in the tournament. I really like where we are at this point, a really good spot and don’t anticipate any expansion in the near future.

Q – How is this year’s draft class as a whole in your opinion? Is it strong or weak?

Clark – I would say that, on a whole, I’d agree that this draft class doesn’t have the same kind of punch and star power that some others have had in the past. But you look back at a number of drafts and there are always surprises. Looking for the player of the year can give you some indication; there is currently no clear cut player of the year candidate. There are a number of outstanding candidates but none of them have really distanced themselves from the others…  Not a lot of franchise guys out there.

Q – What do you think has been the biggest upset of the Tournament this year?

Clark – I would say FGCU over the #2 seed Georgetown, I wasn’t terribly shocked because I thought FGCU was a dangerous team. I think secondarily would be Wichita State taking out Gonzaga.

Q – What are your picks or who do you think are favorites?

Clark – Louisville is solid at both ends off the floor, they have the experience, they defend at a high level, offensively they find ways to make baskets from the perimeter, and find ways to score. Louisville would be the favorite in the eyes of most. IU is also very capable of putting together some pretty powerful performances. And then after that you have Duke, Miami, Kansas, and Michigan… Not ignoring the question, but when you get to the Sweet Sixteen all of these teams have pretty solid chances of winning the tournament.

Q – What was the best tournament team you’ve ever seen since you’ve been calling the tournament?

Clark – In terms of my time as a broadcaster at CBS I would say the most dominant teams would be the 1996 Kentucky team and the 2009 North Carolina team.

You can find Kellogg calling games on CBS for the rest of the NCAA Men’s Tournament with his co-analyst Jim Nance. The winner of the Naismith Award will be presented by AT&T on April 7 in Atlanta.