March is upon us, folks.
Brackets are being busted and bragging rights in the office are beginning to fuel. Excitement raged from Thursday through Sunday in the hopes that remarkable upset you picked and your boss did not comes true.
From the argument over whether one bracket, or a hundred brackets is the correct policy or if gambling is moral: This is March Madness.
But is it better than the NBA playoffs?
The NBA boasts incredible talent, much more so than college basketball, obviously, but does good basketball simply revolve around strictly talent?
What about rivalries, atmosphere, fans, passion, the works?
The NBA rarely has that "Cinderella" story that intrigues viewers so much. The best teams with the best players typically will face each other in the finals.
Don't believe me? There's a reason the Lakers and Celtics combine to have over half the total championships in the NBA.
Of course, there are perennial powerhouses in college too. Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Kentucky, among others, typically throw their hat in the championship ring, but very often at least one of these teams are upset in the early going of the tournament.
This year, No. 1 seed Pittsburgh hit the wall first. Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina are thanking their lucky stars, all surviving early struggles to reach the Sweet Sixteen.
Joining them in the Sweet Sixteen is the Richmond Spiders—wait, who?
Yeah, the Richmond Spiders, who knocked off Vanderbilt in the round of 64 to advance to play Morehead State, who also had their own upset against Louisville.
Not only did this create one of the most frustrating areas of the bracket for most NCAA fans, but also one of the best moments in the tournament so far, when Morehead State hit an incredible step back three to send the Cardinals home early.
What happened on Day 1 of the NBA Playoffs last year? Well, a few teams were set back, but had to play again the next day. Nothing insurmountable occurred.
Win or go home doesn't exist in the NBA, at least not for both teams until Game 7.
Don't get me wrong, I love the NBA. The talent is supreme and nothing compares to watching Kobe hitting a dagger with a man in his face, or LeBron dunking on a seven-footer or even Derrick Rose miraculously banking a shot after driving the lane and putting himself on the free throw line.
College players don't do that. They typically can't do that.
That's why the NBA is professional. They're rolling in the dough because of the amazing talent they possess. Money sometimes can negate passion, though.
That is what March Madness has over the NBA: That shock value of seeing that team you just heard about dog pile on the floor after winning their teams first ever NCAA tournament game.
To see the star shooting guard who overcame an injury to even be there hugging his parents in the crowd, all in tears.
To imagine the feeling of cutting down those nets, knowing everyone back home is looking at you, proud of you, wanting to be in your shoes.
That brings us to the atmosphere, the crowd, the noise. Would you rather shoot a free throw in the Garden against the Knicks to put the Magic into the next round of the playoffs or down in Chapel Hill, trying to clinch the No. 1 seed in the ACC tournament for Duke?
Even I cannot answer this one.
Both crowds are remarkable. Fans are insanely flailing behind the hoop, shouting insults, making unrepeatable and unheard of noises and doing essentially anything possible in order to ensure that ball does not make it into the hoop.
See speedo guy at Duke.
These famous crowds, events and stadiums create legends. Both the NBA and NCAA have their fair share of spectacular venues.
Fans will always back up their teams for the price of a ticket. Unless, of course, you're one of those schools or NBA teams that couldn't care less about basketball and you're just waiting until football season.
What about the fame that sports bring to a players life? Would you rather go down in the NBA or the NCAA Hall of Fame?
This one is quite simple: Think of Michael Jordan—what team did he play for? The Chicago Bulls or the North Carolina Tarheels?
The majority of people think of the Bulls first. That's where he became the legend he is today. Not to take anything from his fantastic UNC career, but Jordan is a Bull and he always will be.
No, he is not a Wizard. Don't be that person.
Of course, there are those players who made it in college, but not the NBA. Players who made miraculous NCAA tournament runs for their respective teams, but never quite panned out the same way on the professional side of things.
Their jersey may be retired at their alma mater, but their name will never make it into any NBA record books.
Nonetheless, great players are made in college. Legends are made in the pros.
As I begun this, I was somewhat impartial to either side, but as I have gone on, I have convinced myself that watching March Madness is a much better spectacle than to watch the NBA playoffs.
The win-or-go-home mindset that every game brings, the careers of many players being on the line due to graduation and the terrific finishes and atmosphere just put the NCAA tournament on top, despite the excessive talent and historic teams that the NBA can boast.
There's a reason it's called March Madness and there's no nickname for June's NBA Finals.
Jubilant June just doesn't fit, but the NCAA tournament will always stand along with the traditions that come with it: The "immoral gambling," the bragging rights at work, the abnormal amount of $5 bills that either come to or leave your wallet, the love of the game, the memorable moments—the madness.
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