I’ve heard all the reasons why NCAA hoops is inferior. The players suck. They are kids. The games are low scoring. It’s a joke compared to the NBA. Everyone who’s good is gone in a year or two. All very valid and I know these points all too well: I made them myself for years.
That is, till I finally filled out a bracket and sat down to watch “The MADNESS!” in all it’s glory. Instead of just seeing the championship game or the final four, I learned that the beauty of March is in the first two rounds. I learned watching crappy teams beat the better ones is unmatched. Here are 10 realities you nay sayers should consider about March. ( In my house “March” implies the Madness, simply because there is nothing else in the month that truly matters. That’s right, take it Easter!)
1. There are ‘plenty’ of good players in college. Great players even. Every year lots of them make it to the NBA as a result. In a good draft there can be 20 dudes who come in an contribute right away in all capacities on NBA teams. This year alone Blake Griffin and John Wall came in and ripped franchise player status from whoever was there before them as rookies.
2. Being a good basketball player and making the NBA are not the same thing. Many amazing college guys are loaded with talent but merely lack the size or athletic ability to compete at the NBA. Pro hoops are dominated so much by those two things. Just because a 6 foot shooting guard is too small to defend 2’s in the NBA doesn’t mean he’s a bad scorer/player.
I can guarantee this: Gerry McNamara is an AMAZING basketball player. He’s 6’2″ in shoes and no, not as good as Nash or athletic like Iverson, but he’s amazing none the less. I watched him carry Melo for huge stretches on their way to an NCAA title. Fantastic. As was Stephen Curry. He’s yet to accomplish anything in his NBA career that compares to the ass kicking he gave the entire NCAA in 2008.
3. Teams in the NCAA are not stacked like the NBA. Powerhouse teams will have a guy, maybe two, who will be an elite NBA player. They’re better then everyone. But what’s so amazing to see is when the ‘sucky kids’ use heart to overcome the super teams. If heart can’t beat talent there’s really no point to sports at all. Nothing exemplifies this more then March.
4. These guys who ‘suck’ are actually more like you and me. Watching someone who has no hopes of a pro career hit massive shot after massive shot to beat someone who is headed for stardom is infinitely more entertaining then watching a stacked juggernaut plow through an NBA season. Tony Skinn is one of my favourite players of all time. He might end up selling insurance.
I watched him live the story he will be telling his grand children till the day he dies. It’s like how Boston fans rooted for Brian Scalanbrine because he was the closest to them and they related. Except instead of rooting for him to finally be put into garbage time or actually hit a shot in a game, I was rooting for him to win a national title as a starter. Have I ever been emotionally invested in a team more then George Mason? Probably not. They were like me beating guys like them.
5. Players in college are not paid money, and the vast majority of them never expect to be paid big money. Hoop is everything to them. Half the NBA lumbers around all season talking about how ‘it’s a business’ and frankly look bored most of the time. Everyone admits that the NBA season is much too long and would be better if it had half the games… you know, just like the NCAA season. Watching teams play their hearts out for nothing but the sport itself will always be better then watching ego driven dudes living in luxury play for their contracts.
6. Fans at college games are drunk.
|Lets let Gus Johnson Tell You Why|
Really drunk. And they’re into it like Charlie Sheen is into Bree Olsen and another line of coke. I just watched a game where I swear the fans didn’t stop jumping up and down for an entire half and were cheering at insane decibels entire game. March is like watching Dallas @ GSW in the 2007 playoffs for an entire month. I love the NBA, but I can hardly remember a game or crowd that matched that intensity.
7. Stars are stars, but they’re not given star treatment in any similar way shape or form as they are in the NBA. There’s still bad calls but there is so much less “well, that was close so we’ll give it to the star” situations. I just watched Grant Hill foul out because Kobe gave him an elbow while going by him and looked at the ref. Not in college. It makes for a cleaner and more pure game that’s not controlled by the refs, but by the players.
8. Teams play D. Those low scoring games? This is due to kids playing the way their coaches want them to. If an NBA coach told his players they’d be employing heavy pressing and pressure every minute of every game, what happens? He would lose his team of super stars in a month. They’re stars and in a nut shell lazy. One of the reasons Rick Pitino failed in the NBA was because he didn’t anticipate how players would know the right way to play, but wouldn’t care enough to do it. I love hoop, and watching Kevin Love’s UCLA teams break the backs of offensive juggernauts to me was just as entertaining as watching Memphis get to the title game with Derrick Rose.
|Gus Johnson Is The Embodiment Of March|
9. Better talent is not always a good thing. If a team is up 5 or 6 points with a minute left, that game is as good as over in the NBA. They will close them out, hit all their free throws, and it’s done. Get on the plane. Next game. In the madness it happens, and happen often. There’s always a shot.
With talent spread out it’s just harder to put your boot on the throat of the other team. Someone could choke their free throws or turn the ball over to let them back in it. You get more close games and furious come backs. Every year so many massively epic games are won on buzzer beater shots and plays.In the NBA it’s just not the same. In the last 10 seconds of a march game it’s not uncommon for the lead to change 3 times and then the game be won at the buzzer with everyone freaking out like maniacs. It’s hard for me to even picture NBA guys jumping up and down like that.
10. Simply, the Madness. When you watch March, you don’t watch one game at a time. It’s about the format. In the first weekend there are 40 or 50 games played alone. They’re all overlapping each other. When that’s combined with point 9 above following all the drama just gets insane.
You start jumping back and foruth between 4 games at once that all have leads of a basket or two at most cuz there are 8 games going on. There’s no point in watching something that’s not close. Then the finishes start to roll in and you watch one finish after another. It’s nothing in March to watch 4 games finish in the span of 20 or 30 minutes, see 2 buzzer beaters, one buzzer beater attempt that fails, and another game go to OT in the final seconds by some underdog team no one ever gave a chance. After the first good game you say “wow, how can that be topped?” and then you see it get topped 4 or 5 times later that night. It’s incredible.
Bonus point 11. Gambling. Filling out a bracket and rooting for all the teams you picked to upset the teams they shouldn’t be beating just takes everything to another level. When the above happens and a team hits crazy shots to win you money and more importantly the traction to talk smack to your friend you just took money from, life is good.
|Stephen Curry Was INCREDIBLE In College|
Bonus point 12. I started watching March seriously in the 90’s after years of thinking it sucked and was over rated. I got into the fab five thing and loved Grant Hill at Duke but I didn’t ‘really’ start watching the whole thing till later. The first year I filled out a bracket was when Wade went deep in the toruny at Marquette and blew my mind with his play.
Every year for I dunno, 6 years?, I said “there’s no way it can be better then last year” and every year I was convinced that’s exactly what happened. The only time I didn’t feel that way was the year after George Mason made the final four from the 11 seed. Understandable because that was one of the best runs in hoops history. Then the year after that Curry took over and it started again. There’s just few things I’ve ever been into that delivers more then the Madness.
And that’s what March is really all about. It’s what the Louvre is to art, or what Jazz is to music. Just basketball in it’s purest form. There is really no way to be a real basketball fan and not love March. It’s what separates fans of basketball stars from fans of the game. If you are a real fan and disagree, don’t worry, you’ll eventually fall in love with it like the rest of us.
Lets sum this all up in a single sentence. March: the only way sex could be better then March Madness is if you were having sex while watching March Madness. QED.
Post Script: Just one more note. March Madness has Gus Johnson. I would watch him calling paint dry. “And here we go, rise and fire from the sun. Latex is drying hardening it’s colourful compound.” Gus once made me look up excitedly by calling the ball boys wiping sweat off the floor. I laughed at myself then. Just watch Gus Johnson describe the first game he called in the tourny.
|His First Game Ever, And More Amazing Gus Johnson|