Louisville–Michigan State: The Reason NCAA Basketball Blows Away the NBA

John McLeanContributor IMarch 29, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 29:  Terrence Jennings #23 of the Louisville Cardinals positions himself for a rebound against Goran Suton #14 of the Michigan State Spartans during the fourth round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Lucas Oil Stadium on March 29, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The Michigan State Spartans just eliminated the Louisville Cardinals from the 2009 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, and the game reminded me of why March Madness appeals to so many hoop fans in the United States: it’s because high energy and team basketball are far more common in college games than they are in the NBA.

Don’t get me wrong: I love NBA basketball. Every team—even the bottom-dwellers like this year’s Sacramento Kings—has highly talented players. But an 82-game regular season, obscene player salaries, and the ho-hum feel of so many games make the NBA bland on many levels.

I usually don’t get too cranked-up about the NBA until the playoffs begin—and I have a suspicion I’m not alone with that feeling.

Until the last six minutes or so of the second half, the Louisville–Michigan State game was as good a game as I’ve watched in a long time. Every player on the court wanted that game badly.

Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo were the same; each coach paced the sidelines furiously, shouting constantly, correcting players when necessary (something almost unheard of in the NBA!). But the things I loved most about today’s Elite eight matchup?

The players.

Their intensity while rebounding and chasing loose balls; their tight defense; and their willingness to pass the ball to get the best possible shot on each offensive possession. The NBA doesn’t offer those things on a consistent basis.

Both the Spartans and the Cardinals played fantastic basketball today. Michigan State was superior, and I’m happy for every one of their players and coaches because they deserve to face Connecticut in the Final Four.

Congratulations, MSU! An unbelievable performance against an outstanding Louisville team.

The NBA is a great league. But NCAA basketball, especially at this time of year, has far more to offer basketball fans than the NBA—at least in my opinion. The players are hungrier.

They put forth effort that you just don’t see in many NBA games. And even though most of them will never play professional basketball, they entertain fans in ways that the pros don’t.

Keep it up, fellas. I can’t wait till next weekend.