Take yourself back to mid-February...now 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 Madness....best 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.