Coping With the Madness: Basketball-lite Takes America by Storm

All I know about college basketball this year is that it’s not the NBA, and Virginia Commonwealth has a bunch of short guys (basketball short), with more agility than most college hoops players, and they play some buzzing, swarming defense.  I have plenty of issues with the NCAA and its out-dated position on the treatment of the best amateur athletes in America. The exploitation of college athletes is a disgrace and demands some correction.  Of course, some kind of legitimate NBA minor league (the NBDL is certainly not enough) would have to be developed to take its place.  And there is a solid argument to be made that certain young NBA players could definitely have used college coaching/mentoring, some attention to honing their communication, teamwork and personal discipline, but would you have chosen to stay four years in college at the risk of tearing your ACL and making zero million dollars instead of three, five, ten, or twenty?

Can you blame any of these athletes for leaping directly to the NBA as soon as possible? We all know that they are being exploited and there doesn’t seem to be much of an uproar among the casual sports fan, who continues to consume March Madness, with its endless trumpet fanfares and constant cutting to commercials, in all of it’s collegiate marching-band glory.  And there is a general sense of universal appeal when the little team overtakes the heavy favorite. There is a subtext that is not often discussed. In many cases, that small college team has a distinctly lighter complexion and relies heavily on 3-point shooting and zone defense. The college game is a roundball equalizer of sorts, especially in the modern era, when the best players are gone after their freshman year. We may have to wait another ten or twenty years or so for some kind of correction to be made, due to the financial impact events like “March Madness” and the BCS have on the colleges involved.

In terms of the actual tournament, I’m hoping VCU manages to upset a few teams and make the Final Four.  Other than that, I’m not much interested except for the fact that it does provide a showcase for college’s top players to show they are lottery-level picks.  Still, that shot-clock, and the limited athleticism, and that watered-down-talent-pool that is today’s college basketball landscape is not so enticing.  It can be fun, sure, to see a tiny school like Robert Morris, defeat the super-recruits from Kentucky, but it doesn’t have staying power for me.  I admit, if I had an alma mater that was in the dance, I might feel differently.  This is the secret weapon that NCAA tournament has going for it: the graduating classes of the biggest universities in the country all feel connected to this one-and-done tournament.  That, and the fact that human beings love tournament brackets and predicting (even if predicting the tournament is 99% guesswork).

To compare college basketball with the NBA is to compare a rolled-up pair of socks with a down pillow.

In order to deal with the sudden surge of popular interest in NCAA hoops among the casual sports fan, NBA fans can get resentful of all the water-cooler talk.  Personally, I have no water cooler to worry about.  Anyway, Paul Flannery’s column for SB Nation is worth a read.  Here’s the opening, with link below:

Dear fellow NBA heads,

I know, right? It’s that time of the year again. Time when college basketball takes over and pushes all of our hot takes about who will wind up with the third seed in the Eastern Conference off the main page, relegating us to the sports gutter along with spring training baseball.

I feel you. College hoops are slow, the 3-point line is too short and that stupid 35-second shot clock is ridiculous. The coaches get too much airtime, way too many timeouts and they still can’t draw up a halfway decent last-second set. Personally, I’d love to see Rick Carlisle coach a team with sixth-seed talent for one year so we could put this myth about the superiority of college coaching to rest once and for all.

Not only that, but suddenly everyone is an expert about who can play in the league next year. Every time a 6’1 guard who can’t create a shot makes a three or an undersized big man grabs a board people want to know if he’s a lottery pick. Spoiler alert: No.


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