Who Needs the NBA? 15 Reasons NCAA Basketball Is a Better Product Than the NBA
The NBA has finally moved beyond its labor problems and is going to have games ready just in time for the holidays.
Personally, I couldn’t care less if the NBA ever plays again. For several years, college basketball has been the superior product on the court.
I’m not referring to the talent. Lord knows the talent is there. I’m talking about the actual product presented to fans.
Whether they are sitting in the stands or watching on television, NBA fans are getting a raw deal. Maybe being a lifelong New Jersey Nets fan has made me jaded, but I just don’t feel the NBA measures up to college basketball. Here’s why.
College Games Are More Financially Accessible to Fans
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A quick check through StubHub.com, presented ticket prices starting at $3 per ticket, with an average of about $10 per ticket, nationwide. The Dukes of the world will charge much more, but on average, NCAA baskets are much easier to attend, especially with most colleges offering free student tickets.
What this means is that to go see a mediocre NBA game, it would set a family back almost $300 on average, where a college game would be in the ballpark of about $100.
While the NBA plays a longer schedule, nationwide there are many more campuses than there are NBA teams, so chances are, there is a quality college team in your vicinity.
Winning Is More Important in College
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In the NBA, a higher winning percentage will usually get a team a higher seed in the playoffs. Same goes for college, depending on the competition.
Both have an incentive to win.
In the NBA, however, pride goes out the window many times when a team is eliminated from playoff contention, and the dash to which team gets more lottery balls commences.
A college team never has an incentive to lose.
Rivalries Stay True
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The NBA has the Lakers and the Celtics. The two teams seem to dislike each other. In the ‘80s I would go as far as to say they despised each other.
But times change and depending on which team you root for, you could hate the Pacers one year, and the Heat the next.
If it’s 1980, or 2011 or 2050, Duke and North Carolina will always hate each other. It also will never matter what either team’s record is when they play; both teams will give their all because of that rivalry.
Syracuse and Georgetown will always hate each other. Heck, Rowan University and The College of New Jersey will always have that hate.
Rivalries are a good thing and even bad teams have them.
Which team is the Raptors’ biggest rival? Does it matter?
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In college, every team has an opportunity to play in a tournament at the beginning of the season. Whether it be in Hawaii, Puerto Rico or New York, tournament sites are endless and tournament pools range from four teams to up to 32.
A tournament at the start of the season gives good teams a chance to prepare for the season against teams they wouldn’t normally play.
Lesser teams can also take advantage because they can knock off higher ranked teams that they couldn’t normally schedule and in many circumstances, pre-season tournaments are the only chance some teams will ever have at hoisting a trophy. Teams can host their own tournaments or get invited to others.
Even at the end of the year teams that don’t qualify for the NCAA tournament have at least two other tournaments they can qualify for.
Nothing like that in the NBA and before anyone poo-poos that idea, a loser’s bracket during the NBA playoffs would be pretty interesting. Letting the lottery teams battle it out in a one-and-done would be pretty good, too.
Bigger Chance for Upset
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Upsets happen in the NBA. They just don’t happen after the first round of the playoffs.
Which was the last Cinderella to win the NBA title?
Make the finals?
Make the conference finals?
While you’re thinking that over, remember that college has three special kinds of upsets that the NBA can’t have.
1. Regular season upsets of high ranked teams can be just what the doctor ordered for teams on the bubble or even teams trying to get on the bubble. A key victory over a higher ranked opponent can really do wonders when selection Sunday comes along.
2. Conference tournaments can send a team that had no business making the tournament into the Promised Land. You can lose all season, but make a miracle run in your conference tournament and a 16 seed can be yours.
3. Half the appeal of the NCAA Tournament is the upsets that can and will occur throughout the tournament. That’s the beauty of it and why they play the games. Any team that makes the tournament gets the chance to prove they belong. Some of them prove a little more.
Just think of Butler over the past two years.
That could never happen in the NBA.
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Cheer, Cheer for old Notre Dame…
V for Villanova, V for Victory…
Wish that I was on ole Rocky Top…
The NBA has none of that.
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There are a few coaches who made a name for themselves with different coaching specialties. Phil Jackson has used the triangle offense (with the aid of Tex Winter) for years, with great success. Chuck Daly was a defensive guru.
There’s nary a soul who watches the NBA who can even identify when a triangle offense is running or what kind of defensive changes are going on in an NBA game other than switching defenders.
College, on the other hand, has as many coaches with distinguishable coaching styles as the NBA has players.
Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 Zone, Rick Pitino’s full-court press and Pete Carril’s Princeton offense are just a scratch of the surface of coaching styles that have shaped college basketball. They are identifiable to the lay-fan and make the games much more interesting.
No Labor Disputes
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As far as I can tee, there will never be games missed in college basketball due to a strike or a lockout. One of the reasons is probably that the students are paid so well under the radar that there’s no need.
But all kidding aside, millionaire’s fighting with billionaires over how to split up the $300 you paid for your family of four to go to a game is an insult to the ticket-buying public.
No Nights off
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Have you ever gone to an NBA game only to find out your favorite player is in street clothes for the evening? Chances are you have, because this is not an infrequent occurrence. In the NBA’s version of the Broadway stand-in, sometimes players need a rest and will be inactive for a game.
The problem is that you bought the tickets in September for this game in December and you’re not getting a dime back, even though the sole reason for you buying a ticket isn’t playing.
It’s not fair and it doesn’t happen in college basketball.
They Play for the Front of the Jersey
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The NBA seems at times to be a league full of individuals who could care less about their teams and more about their numbers. This isn’t all players, and the championship teams seem to come from the players who get this thinking right, but for the rest, it’s just a solo show.
There’s a reason why the New York Yankees don’t put names on the back of their jerseys. It’s because the only important name is on the front.
In college, being a great player and a bad teammate won’t get you nearly as far as being a very good player and a great teammate. The best players only care about the name on the front of the jersey. Of course, this does not mean all. Some players will leave early. But 99 percent will stay (those who don't flunk out, that is.)
Variety of Teams on Television
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If you are Miami Heat fan or a Los Angeles Lakers fan, you are in luck because almost all of your games will be televised. Everyone else, lots of luck. You probably won’t see your team because the NBA broadcast is so myopic that it doesn’t have any faith in its product. The school of thought is that people aren’t going to tune in to a Kings-Nets game.
They’re right. It’s a bad product.
College, on the other hand has an endless supply of games to offer. Kudos to ESPN, CBS et.al. for doing a great job of showcasing college basketball’s variety. Not like some other networks I know do with the NBA (I’m looking at you, TNT)
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I’m not one of those guys who claims to watch women’s basketball because of the pureness of the sport. It’s not as good as the men’s(although I do love watching the Tennessee Lady Vols).
That being said, the play in the NBA is a much more individual effort with isolations and one-on-one play that I’m not sure why they play five-on-five.
The force that drives the NBA is individual talents, not the teams. The NBA would probably be better served with three man teams on the court. It would open up the game of more dazzling passing and dribbling and all those role players can go play in Europe.
The talent level in college is by no means NBA quality, but the game play is definitely superior.
Always a Shot to Make the Tournamet
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Unlike college football, or any professional sport, a losing or sub-par season does not necessarily mean a team will miss the playoffs. Many a team has enters its conference tournament with nothing to lose and some out with an NCAA automatic bid.
College basketball also has a pretty clear way for a team to play its way into the tournament. It’s not infallible, but teams usually know what they need to do to qualify. And if they don’t, there’s still the conference tournament.
I don’t know if this is great for college athletics, but it sure makes it fun and a lot more interesting.
The NCAA Tournament
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The Super Bowl is a great event and the NBA, NHL and MLB playoffs all have their own merits, but for my taste, there’s no sporting event that can equal March Madness.
It starts with the conference tournaments, then Selection Sunday. Monday morning everyone is comparing their tournament pools and by Thursday, it’s full speed ahead.
There’s a whole language we speak that time of year. Bubble teams, eight-nines, Sweet Sixteen and Cinderella are all part of the lexicon that makes college basketball so entertaining. The tournament is more than the icing on the cake…it is the cake. Everything else is the meal leading up to it.
The Human Aspect
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Regardless of the conception, college basketball, at its most basic, is boys striving to become men. Their coaches act as adoptive parents and try to guide these young persons with lessons in sportsmanship, teamwork, dedication and honor.
We see them struggle as freshmen and blossom as upperclassmen. We feel for them when they make mistakes, but we know we will get the opportunity to grow because he learning doesn’t end in the classroom.
Most college players won’t make the NBA. But they will all most certainly grow older. The lessons they learn now, will carry through to the rest of their lives. Just like in the rest of us, some will fail and some will succeed. Seeing the opportunity present itself and come to fruition is just an aspect of NCAA basketball that the NBA can’t touch.