For as long as I can remember, even when I was a small child, I noticed a vast difference between professional basketball and college basketball. The mindset of the whole atmosphere is different. In the NBA, there seems to be a lack of energy and overall care for the game.
As soon as I realized this, my care for professional basketball truly subsided.
However, as my love for NCAA basketball grew and grew, I began to realize that this difference also existed in the NCAA.
Now. don't get me wrong here. The problem is not nearly as large as it is in the NBA, but it still exists.
All of the glory and the spotlight (well most of it) of the NCAA basketball scene falls upon the major teams and conferences. The Duke's and North Carolina's of the world seem to make people forget that there are over 300 other teams out there working day- in and day-out for much less recognition.
The so-called "high major" college basketball programs are becoming more and more like the next level. Their star players often receive celebrity treatment, they are on national television for nearly every game, and a good majority of these players have aspirations that are fully about paychecks.
Now, with that being said, there isn't anything wrong with wanting to make a living playing sports. (However, I would have to point out that a large number of "Star" athletes are only playing at a university simply because its now required to play a year in college before entering the NBA Draft.)
If you want to live and feel the true college basketball experience, I suggest you attend a game that isn't on national television—a game that doesn't include BCS schools. Then you will have felt what I've felt for several years now.
These teams play just as such—as a team.
They are in it for the common goal of the team, not just for themselves.
Now, the term mid-major might seem belittling to some, but there is no lack of talent at this level. My personal favorite example of a little guy taking down the big guys has to be the 2005-06 George Mason Patriots run to the Final Four. A group of no-name players emerged on a questionable at-large bid to show that they belonged in the same league as the BCS schools.
My experience of being an avid fan of arguably one of the most successful mid-major programs in the country, Utah State University, has given me the rare opportunity to fully experience college basketball in its finest form.
These mid-major schools truly embody what college basketball is all about. To this day, I have never seen or felt anything like it.
From the students who show up several hours before the game, to the four-year seniors who not only helped their team succeed, but they also earned themselves a degree, there is absolutely nothing that even compares.
I challenge you to stray from the beaten path and take a look at a team you may never have thought of before. They play for the love of the game. You may be greatly surprised of the thrills that they can bring you as a fan.