Reason No. 5 Why College Basketball is better than the NBA: Rivalries
Kentucky vs. Louisville.
Georgetown vs. Syracuse.
Duke vs. North Carolina.
College basketball is full of meaningful, long-lasting rivalries—the same cannot be said about the NBA.
You can talk about Knicks-Heat, Bulls-Pistons, or Lakers-Celtics all you want. But those were time-specific rivalries. The Knicks and Heat did battle several times in the playoffs in the late '90s, Chicago and Detroit were late-'80s rivals, and Magic's Lakers took on Bird's Celtics in three NBA Finals in the '80s.
No doubt that for each of those specific periods these teams were intense rivals. But who cared about a Knicks-Heat game last season? Or a Bulls-Pistons game post-Jordan? This is where college differs from the pros, and for the better.
Not that I envision this happening any time soon, but imagine a scenario where ACC doormat North Carolina travels to Durham to take on a 2-15 Duke squad. Would the Cameron Crazies still be loud? Would ESPN still televise the game? Heck, would Dick Vitale even show up?
The answer to all those questions is a resounding "yes," and that's why it's a true rivalry. While a clash of top-ranked teams can raise the stakes, the records do not matter. Players graduate, coaches leave, and every four years the student section is filled with a whole new group of fans. None of these factors deflate a rivalry.
In the NBA, players get traded, coaches get fired, teams go from title contenders to last place, and suddenly rivalries die. In all sports, all regular season games are essentially equal as far as the standings are concerned. But winning a rivalry game counts for something more. Players and especially fans can take extra pride in taking down a rival.
ESPN has even recently aired what it calls "Rivalry Week," programming dedicated to all the many heated matchups in February. College basketball is better for having so many great rivalries, both in conference and out. Once again, the NBA is a step behind.