Vol. 44, No. 1 November 2006 .pdf version
Tom Shatel: NCAA extends olive branch
Andy Katz: A vote for Jamie Dixon
Dick Jerardi: Being wrong part of the fun
Steve Carp: Writers must shield writers
Joe Mitch: Start thinking USBWA triple crown
Ted Gangi: Talk radio is cheap

Dick Jerardi

We're all experts, but getting it wrong is part of the fun

By DICK JERARDI / Philadelphia Daily News
jerardd@phillynews.com

There are so many reasons to watch the games that we sometimes lose sight of the one that probably intrigues us the most. It is the unknown.

Obviously, there are many games where the result is pre-ordained. Then, there is George Mason.

Last season, a month or so before Selection Sunday, I wrote something to the effect that there didn't seem to be any teams in the SEC or Pac-10 capable of winning the national championship. Nearly two months later, the Final Four was two SEC teams, one Pac-10 team and George Mason. Florida beat UCLA for the title.

We all know some things. It is what we don't know that keeps us coming back to find out.

So, a new season is upon us with much that is known and far more that is unknown.

Florida, an afterthought a year ago and still a bit of a long shot when the 2006 NCAA Tournament began, is now the favorite. Still, it is instructive to note what Gators coach Billy Donovan said after his team won it. Sometimes, it is just your time. There is no rhyme or reason to it. It just is.

Logic now says that Florida is the team to beat. All of their players return. But will it be the same dominant team it was in March? Even teams with the same players are often not the same team from one season to the next. Some get better. Some stay the same. Some get worse.

There are no guarantees. Which is why we watch the games. We all made predictions with the knowledge that it won't take much to make us look foolish.

The Big East was acknowledged as the best conference last season. They had four teams in the Sweet 16. And none in the Final Four.

This season, North Carolina and Kansas have everybody back. They also had terrific recruiting classes. They figure to win 50 games between them. None of that guarantees anything in March.

The Big Ten did not have a team make the Sweet 16 last season. Many of the league's best players were seniors. Thus, the league figures to be down until you remember Ohio State got Greg Oden and all his friends. It takes just one team to change the perception of a league.

For years, I was certain that the game had gotten completely away from the little guys, that it was totally stacked in favor of the BCS leagues. Then, we get St. Joe's in 2004 and George Mason in 2006.

Will the BCS leagues continue to dominate the tournament and the Final Four? Obviously.

But schools and stories like George Mason and St. Joe's make us remember why we loved the games in the first place.

There is still an element of the unknown.

As long as we still have that, we still have a game that from the first jump ball in November to that championship Monday night usually delivers on what makes sports such wonderful theater. We simply don't know, even though we think we do.

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