Stick With NCAA, Stay Away From the NBA



Jason Rickett The excitement, the Cinderellas, the sheer and utter madness. College basketball is easy to fall in love with and follow, and it’s especially thrilling throughout the month of March. College Basketball is much better and more entertaining than the NBA, and if you are going to watch one basketball league, it should be NCAAM. What does 82 games times 48 minutes equal? A huge waste of your time, and that doesn’t even include the commercials. The NBA regular season is way too long, and most games barely matter. Coaches rest their best players frequently because even they know that the regular season doesn’t really matter. Even 3-time NBA championship winner LeBron James is in favor of a shorter season, stating that, “We all as players think it’s too many games in our season.” So, if the players think it’s too long and the fans think it’s too long, why don’t we just shorten it? The answer to that question reveals what is fundamentally wrong with the NBA: it is more a business than a sports league. Throughout the course of an NBA game, the viewer is bombarded with ads, especially at the end of each quarter. Who wins and loses often depends on who can cheat the cap and handle their financials the best. On the other hand, the college basketball regular season matters immensely and is highly entertaining all year long. There are countless games that college basketball fans remember and recognize as classics: the Duke vs UNC Austin Rivers buzzer beater, Notre Dame breaking the 88 game UCLA win streak, the six overtime Syracuse over UConn thriller. I can’t remember a single regular season game that has been a classic in the NBA. The only regular season games in the NBA I can remember are ones in which one player achieves something extraordinary, such as the 81 point Kobe game, Tracy McGrady’s 13 points in 35 seconds, or the Olajuwon quadruple double. The NCAA regular season has enormous implications on how a team might perform in the tournament. First of all, it is much harder to make the tournament in the NCAA than the playoffs in the NBA. Only about 19% of all teams make the Big Dance and 53% of all teams make the playoffs in the NBA. Every game can make or break your season, and one bad loss can keep a good team out of the tournament. Last year, Syracuse was not expected to make the tournament, but they received the benefit of the doubt and were one of the last four left in play, making it all the way to the Final Four. Seeding is also extremely important. Avoiding a quality team capable of an upset in the first few rounds is crucial if you want to make a deep run in the tournament. The top 4 seeds get protection (the equivalent of home-field advantage) and it gives them a huge boost.  4 seeds have defeated 13 seeds 80% of the time, and 5 seeds get upset about 34% of the time. Since 1990, thirteen 4 seeds have made the Final Four and only six 5 seeds have. Top 4 seeds have made up 84% of the final four participants in that same span. In the NCAA, it is very important to perform in the regular season in order to succeed in March. Winning a conference title is extremely meaningful and provides a great reward, but in the NBA the divisions are virtually meaningless. To be completely honest, I had to google the names of all the divisions in the NBA. Your place in the division gives you nothing and you aren’t rewarded in any way for winning the division. Playoff seeding is determined by record regardless of division. But winning your conference tournament is a great achievement that has a reward for the victor. Conference winners get an automatic bid to the Big Dance and often higher seeding than other teams in the conference that are also qualified, but didn’t win the conference. Even better, in most conferences the winner is crowned by a single elimination tournament with the best records having the high seeds. Winning your conference is extremely important if you don’t want to face elimination come Selection Sunday—just ask Monmouth and Murray State. The existence of “super teams” takes the excitement out of the majority of the NBA season. When LeBron went to Miami and teamed up with fellow superstars Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, he started an era that has brought upon a dark time on the NBA. These super teams take all the competition out of what is supposed to be the most competitive basketball league. During the “big 3 era” in Miami, they won the Eastern Conference every year and won 2 championships. This super team made the season irrelevant in the east until the Eastern Conference Finals. Even though the Heat never lost the Eastern Conference Finals, they at least sometimes had some competition. However, it has gotten even worse in recent years. LeBron formed an even better big 3 with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. They have steamrolled the East these last two years and probably will again this year. The plague that is the super team has now spread to the Western Conference. The Warriors have won the West the last two years and now have probably the most talented team in the history of the NBA. They have 4 of the top 20 players in the NBA, according to Sports Illustrated. If you aren’t a fan of the Warriors or the Cavaliers (or maybe the Spurs), your team has basically a 0 percent chance of winning this year. On the other hand, College Basketball is immune to the problem of a super team. Since 2008 there has been a different winner every year, except UConn which has won two National Titles. But UConn won’t even make the tournament this year unless they pull off a miracle in their conference tournament. While there have been dominating teams such as Kentucky in 2015, who went 34-0 in the regular season and dominated some of the best teams in the league, they did not win come March and the players that made up that team all left for the NBA. The equality in the college game makes for more fresh and exciting seasons every year. The college game is all about the team, while the NBA is all about the individuals. The superstars of NBA teams have free rein to do whatever they want, whenever they want. There is no real sense of chemistry or a team bond on most NBA rosters, because most players only care about themselves and their bank account. Coaches matter less and less with each coming year. When the team underperforms, the coach is blamed and they are disposed of like garbage. Only 4 current NBA coaches that have been the headman for 5 years without getting fired. The main job of the coach has been reduced to babysitting the big personalities in the NBA and sometimes motivating the players. College basketball is a completely different situation. There is a real sense of community and brotherhood within college basketball teams, and the passion that surrounds the game is evident. Most college players will never make a dime playing the game of basketball, but they play hard and train for the love of the sport. There is such a great atmosphere in all the stadiums, and the passion from the players is matched by the fans. The crazy college kids stand in the bleachers yelling all game long and they storm the court after big upsets. Coaches matter immensely in college as well. The only way a college team can stay good over a long period of time is to have a skilled coach who can recruit and develop the best players in the nation. Coaches also have a lot of power over their players, as they can rescind their scholarships or kick them off the team if they break the law or underperform. Legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski cut one of his best players, Rasheed Sulaimon, because he was accused of sexual assault. There is a reason he, a college coach, was chosen to lead team USA last Olympics instead of an NBA coach. Finally—the best reason of them all, the cream of the crop—the main reason to watch College Basketball over the NBA is March Madness. March Madness is by far the most entertaining and unpredictable tournament in all of sports. Every basketball fan I know, regardless of whether they follow college basketball during the season, fills out a bracket come March. I absolutely love doing all the research and making my picks just to have it all blow up in my face after some impossible upsets (thanks Middle Tennessee.)  There’s nothing better than having some unknown team that is going far in your bracket do just that in the actual tournament. Even though over 50% of you are NBA fans, according to a Forum survey of the Upper School, over 75% of respondents prefer March Madness to the NBA Playoffs. The NBA playoffs go on and on for months and consist of a bunch of 7-game series. But March Madness is a classic win-or-go-home tournament. The risk adds to the excitement of it all. The magic of the Big Dance makes college basketball indisputably the best sport to watch. Any comments or questions? Email me at [email protected] or comment below.]]>