It's amazing how a rivalry between two small schools can remind you of the good things about college basketball.
Last night, I attended my very first "Battle of the Boulevard" at Lipscomb University. It was the 125th meeting between Lipscomb and Belmont University. The game itself was forgettable, but the experience will stick with me for a long time.
Lipscomb won 64-53 in one of the worst combined shooting performances I have ever seen. The teams combined to shoot 6-for-48 from behind the arc. That's a staggering 13 percent. In all, the teams shot roughly 35 percent from the field.
Miss after miss.
So why in the world am I glad that I went?
I remembered that college basketball isn't always about ESPN, CBS, the NCAA Tournament, and Bracketology. Out of the 300+ schools in Division I basketball, only 65 will be playing in the Big Dance.
Sometimes I get so caught up in power conferences I forget about the joy of watching basketball just for the fun of it.
Students and older fans alike were living and dying with each shot. The building was ready to explode on each Lipscomb attempt. People were so excited to be there.
Here's an example of what I mean.
A father and son sat in front of us last night. They both had Lipscomb gear on. It didn't matter they were cheering for a mediocre 7-7 club. What mattered was that the two of them were bonding over their love of basketball. It didn't matter that the game had no real post-season implications.
Those are the kind of moments that kid will remember the rest of his life.
I remember my mom taking me to see NAIA games as a young child. I probably had more fun watching Berea College take on Campbellsville in 1994 than I do watching games now.
I remember how excited I would get when we walked into that small packed gym. It was about the experience, not who was playing. It doesn't matter that I can't name a single player from any Berea College team. I remember laughing and cheering with my mom.
I got that same feeling last night at Lipscomb.
The point is: the national media wants to dictate to us what games should be important. We get so caught up in rankings and RPI that I'm afraid we miss out on the neat experiences that smaller colleges and universities can provide.
Sure, I'm going to watch the Florida-Kentucky game tonight. I'm still going to follow Vanderbilt as religiously as ever.
But I can promise you that I'll be at Belmont when the Battle of the Boulevard is held there later this season.