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Vol. 45, No. 1 • November 2007 • .pdf version
College basketball: There's just nothing else like it
By DICK JERARDI / Philadelphia Daily News
The mystery is back.
When practice began last season, we all knew Florida was the team. So did they. And the Gators proved themselves a second time last April.
This season, there is no defending champion. Well, Florida is the defending champ, but all the starters from the team that won consecutive championships are gone.
If Florida wins a third straight title, Billy Donovan really does need to head for the NBA.
And stay there.
Beyond Florida, last season was so much fun because we saw the great freshmen in college again. That NBA rule surely seemed wise to college hoops fans when they got extended looks at Kevin Durant and Greg Oden.
We all knew they weren't hanging around, but one season was sufficient. And not just because of them.
We get more fascinating freshmen this season. We get Kevin Love (UCLA) and O.J. Mayo (USC) in the same city. We get Midwestern high school stars Eric Gordon (Indiana) and Derrick Rose (Memphis). And we will get other freshmen who will make names for themselves.
I can't wait for Brandon Rush (Kansas) to get healthy. Seeing him on television did not really do him justice. When I caught him live in Chicago during the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, I was dazzled. He was so smooth, so understated and so confident, all at once.
His legs looked like they never ended. His jumper looked like it was out of a shooting video. I saw no flaws.
I really thought he was the third best NBA prospect – behind Oden and Durant. Not sure if NBA general managers shared my opinion. They didn't listen when I told them Washington's Brandon Roy was the best prospect in 2006.
Then, Rush tore his ACL. Goodbye NBA draft. Hello Allen Field House.
With Rush, I think Kansas is the best team in the America. Without him, the Jayhawks are still really good.
After two NCAA rounds, I thought KU was playing better than anybody. The Jayhawks had the misfortune of drawing their stylistic opposites in the West Regional – Southern Illinois and UCLA. Had they played against teams with lesser defenses or that wanted to run, I can't imagine KU would have lost.
As I was watching UCLA beat KU in the regional final, I also could not believe how many really tough and very long shots the Bruins made. I was left with the impression that KU was not terribly lucky that day. They were playing against a team with a hard style to beat in a tournament setting on a day when every shooter looked like J.J. Redick.
So, I like Kansas. I also like Louisville, Memphis, North Carolina, Georgetown, UCLA and Tennessee.I think you can find the 2008 national champion in this paragraph somewhere.
Rick Pitino is the only coach to take three programs to the Final Four. No coach has ever won the championship at two different schools. I feel very confident Rick is going to be the first to do that, too. If it is not 2008, it will be soon. Count on that.
And count on another wonderful season.
Some people let us down. Some sports let us down. Sometimes, we let ourselves down.
College basketball, as a sport, never really lets us down. From October to April, there is simply nothing like it.
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