Friday, April 8, 2011

Why the NBA Beats College Ball

Take yourself back to name 5 NCAA college basketball players...

If you succeeded, congratulations; you just named 0.111% (that's just barely over 1 out of a thousand) of Division I college basketball players (not to mention Division II AND Division III). If you failed, don't feel bad. So did I.

Now name 5 players in the NBA. How about 10? 20? Even if you only named 5, you still named more than 1% of the players in the league. Now, when was the last time you purposely watched strangers play basketball? Do you ever drive to the local high school to catch a game (assuming you don't have a friend or family member on either team)? How much do you enjoy watching Euroleague basketball games when they are randomly broadcast on NBA TV? The fact is, we want to watch basketball games when we know the players! It's impossible to become familiar with the 4738 players in Division I basketball, especially because they are only in the league anywhere from one year to a maximum of four.

While growing up, I remember several people trying to convince me that college basketball was so much better than professional basketball. I'm sure these people still try to convince innocent young men of the very same thing. They would say things like, "It's a faster paced game" and "It's more exciting."


Still, anytime I would tune into CBS on a Saturday afternoon to watch Keith Van Horn lead the Utes or Mateen Cleaves putting up points for the Spartans, I never got the same feeling as I did while watching Patrick Ewing dunking in MSG or John Stockton dishing out assists in his short shorts. In fact, it wasn't even close. I continued to wonder where these people got these crazy "NCAA is better" ideas. Several weeks ago, The Grey Nathan sent me text informing me of someone's Facebook status: "March time of the year!!" You would expect this to have come from a college-aged male. Wrong. College-aged female who is blatantly not a sports fan. How does this happen? Are some people really not interested in any other sport all year long but they legitimately love March Madness basketball? Or is this a social fad with no real explanation other than it's "cool" to like March Madness?

I am coming to realize that times have changed. I don't think I'm old enough to have realized this on my own, but I understand that it's a growing trend for college players to only stay in college for one, maybe two, years before entering the NBA draft. 20, 30 years ago, players stayed. Their college careers were just as meaningful to them as signing a big contract. This is nothing but bad news for the quality of the college game; it only means that all the good players are gone as soon as possible. Less talent equals a less good game. Is it possible that the college game USED TO be "more exciting" and "faster paced?" Maybe. I don't know.

The only thing that makes NCAA basketball more exciting is its single elimination tournament format. If the NBA had the same playoff format, it would become just as "exciting." A bunch of 20 year olds shooting a lot of 3-pointers with a few dunks scattered in now and again is not more exciting than watching Blake Griffin and Lebron James consistantly throwing down unhuman-like dunks. I don't think the more exciting system is necessarily better or worse than the current NBA best-of-7. In fact, it's easy to argue that the "best" team doesn't in fact win the NCAA championship a lot of the time.

If a person attended a particular college, or maybe their parent graduated from there, then understandably their March Madness experience will likely be enjoyed more than a casual NBA fan's playoff experience (as most people haven't graduated from an NBA franchise).

As in any sport, art, hobby, or game is it more enjoyable to watch a professional or an amateur show off their talent? Would someone rather admire a Da Vinci painting or one painted by the kid down the street? Who would give a better chess-watching performance: your grandpa or Bobby Fischer? Basketball is the same. NBA players are in the NBA because they are the best in the world at what they do. The games they play are simply more enjoyable than the games played by college students.

That being said, I still didn't get enough Jimmer.


  1. I completely agree. I remember being told that college was better, and feeling like I didn't know as much about basketball as I thought I did because I was being told by someone who surely knew better than I would. But I think I'm old enough now to realize that they were wrong. College basketball is horrible. Maybe it used to be good, but it sure isn't right now. I only like it because I just love the game of basketball. But they difference between college and NBA in terms of quality of play is huge. I didn't really realize how huge until this college season. After watching so many missed layups, missed free throws, and horrible decisions at the end of games by the best teams in the country, I understood what I was getting. It has its good qualities - fast paced, team oriented, fundamental, fun crowds - but it's definitely not the same quality of play as in the NBA. That makes sense though. But I agree, I don't see why you would prefer to watch anything but the highest level. I also agree that march madness is kind of the culturally cool thing to do. I would compare it with the first 3 episodes of Star Wars. Neither those episodes nor March Madness is actually that great, but we're culturally obligated to convince ourselves that they are. We can't admit that they kind of suck. And I'm guilty of that. Even though I just did admit it, I haven't REALLY admitted it. I love those episodes because I love Star Wars, and I love March Madness because I love basketball. But both probably suck more than we're willing to admit.

  2. I sure hope Grey isn't talking about the original Stars Wars that have Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader as main characters and lets not forget those lovable little ewoks. But if he's talking about the ones with Jar Jar Binx then I agree that people think they are a better than they actually are.

    I don't know if I was one of those people who said NCAA was better than the NBA. I could kind of see myself saying that espcially if it was in the heat of March. But I always liked NCAA basketball. I had a Super NES game called NCAA Basketball. UNC had a couple players who would never miss 3-pointers on the offensive side of half. It was, no it is a great game.
    I also had older siblings that were really into basketball. Thanks to them I would look through my Dad's Sports Illustrated. Thanks to them I bought basketball cards. Thanks to them I knew which teams were good and what players were good. Well, at least in their opinions. But thanks to them I remember when the Arkansas Razorbacks won the national championship. I also remember watching Chris Webber's infamous time-out call in Michigan's championship final game against UNC. I also remember watching Eric Montross. Watching NCAA basketball is more to me than just watching basketball. It's all tied up with family.
    But to really enjoy NCAA basketball, or any other sport for that matter, you need to follow a team. Sure it may not be the highest level of a given sport but that doesn't matter to the fans. We see fanatic fans of high school sports teams. There are people who go watch high school games regardless of whether or not they know people on the team or even in the school on a personal level. Sure this doesn't happen at Crescent Heights High School but it happens. In the US, collegiate sports
    is a much bigger deal to a significant amount of people than professional sports. Why? Because they are a fan of that school's team.
    March is a lot more exciting for me if I have been following a team. Thanks to my dad I follow BYU. BYU hasn't had a great NCAA tournament appearance record in the last dozen years so I've had to latch onto other teams. Like Arizona several years back. For a couple seasons they had Richard Jefferson, Gilbert Arenas Channing Frye and Luke Walton. They were exciting to watch throughout the season but then would come up a little short in March. But it made it a lot more meaningful to me since I had been through it all with them.
    So is NCAA better than NBA? Quality wise, no. Flashiness wise, 99% of the time no. But if someone says NCAA is better than NBA because they like to follow NCAA teams more than NBA teams, they aren't really understanding themselves.They should be saying they like NCAA more than NBA. Which to me is totally fine. But if they say the NCAA is better than the NBA, ask any b-ball player that if given the choice to play in the NCAA of the NBA, which one do think they would choose. NBA. No brainer.

    And thats Razr's reasons.

  3. Is razr talking about The arizona wildcats when he talks about arizona??
    If so, you can't forget about Jerryd Bayless. Who's averaging about 20pts 7 ast a game when he starts this season for the raptors.
    Just sayin' ... and it's a little something to be excited about with the raptors.

  4. I'm definitely referring to the Jar Jar Binks ones. The old ones are so awesome. The newer ones are good, but, you know...