NCAA game lacks talent, true appeal of the pros

By Mike Rodriguez

If you haven’t quite noticed it yet because you’re one of the thousands of fans wrapped up in Bears Super Bowl fever, the college basketball season is well underway. Almost as elusive as the NHL, college basketball has been about as appealing as dorm food. I’m not even going to try to bring up all the problems with Illinois basketball – I don’t have that much time.

Well, actually, I do. But it just hurts to see how far not only the quality of basketball being played here in Champaign has fallen, but throughout the rest of the country as well. The NBA labor agreement forcing kids to be at least one year removed from their high school graduation was supposed to put more talent into the college game, but it sure doesn’t seem like that is happening.

I hate to say it, but without all the hype surrounding March Madness, college basketball is nothing. The excitement that surrounds a month of basketball and paralyzes offices around the country is solely due to the single-elimination format and stunning buzzer beating upsets. This tournament style isn’t geared to show who the best team is over a season; it’s the best team over a span of seven consecutive games that gets crowned the “National Champion.”

I don’t know if I’m just realizing this now because I can’t get excited to watch Illinois games anymore or because I finally see the lack of talent in the college game, but I believe that the entertainment level of NCAA basketball pales in comparison to the NBA. I’ll take high-flying dunks and 120-115 games any day. The scores in college basketball, especially this year, struggle to combine for 100 points night after night. Watching turnover after turnover during Illinois’ 57-50 victory over Michigan State on Tuesday left me counting down the minutes until I could watch an NBA game. The best that Arkansas could muster against Kansas in the first half of Monday’s match-up against Kansas was 13 points. Michigan State managed to put up 17 measly points against Illinois in the first half on Tuesday. Who actually wants to watch such horrible basketball?

Now I realize that there are far more college teams than NBA teams, allowing for more fans and allegiances to students’ respective alma maters. While this is all fine and dandy for people from the Idahos and Nevadas of the country, I am not talking about the quality of the fans. I am talking about the quality of basketball being played on a nightly basis.

The NBA is experiencing a renaissance and those who fail to realize that are missing out on a great era of the game. The league not only features numerous athletic prodigies who fill the highlight reels game after game, but there is increasing parity throughout the league. Besides the ridiculously dominant records of the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns, the playoff races in both conferences will be exciting up until the last deciding game is played.

College basketball supporters will say that the environment in college games is more than worth the price of admission. I’ve been to countless Illinois games, when they were in their prime, and have been going to Bulls games since the Jordan era and I would take a seat in the United Center over the run down Assembly Hall any day. I’ll say it again: the basketball being played is simply better in the NBA. If you like celebrity coaches that are overpaid and over-hyped, then by all means enjoy college basketball. If you like watching teams combine for more turnovers in a game than assists, and field goal percentages that look like President Bush’s approval rating, enjoy college basketball. If you like paying to sit in 100-degree arenas to watch sub-par performances night after night, buy Illinois season tickets. I’d take the cost of going to a college basketball game and buy four issues of NBA Magazine to read while I sit in a sauna. At least my sweating will be productive.

Mike Rodriguez is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected]