The NBA has cancelled games through Dec. 15, putting the entire season in jeopardy. College basketball, however, remains lockout-free. With the season underway, I thought it would be worthwhile to provide a college hoops guide for NBA fans. Here are some things to keep in mind as you watch:
The Players Aren’t As Good
You already knew this, but I wanted to remind you so you’re not too critical of the quality of play. Unlike pro ballers, college kids are not full-time basketball players (please no jokes about John Calipari’s players). Partly because of the talent differential, college games have less scoring. Try not to yell at your TV over missed 15-footers. And don’t get too mad at the players when they screw up. Remember, they are just college kids. The coaches are the ones making the big bucks, so if you feel the need to direct your displeasure at someone, choose a coach. Just know that such criticism may fall on deaf ears because…
…Coaches Are Kings
Phil Jackson was widely respected, often referred to as a guru/innovator/Zen Master. But Coach K is a living legend; his team plays on a court named after him. Great college coaches are seen as more than just basketball coaches—they are teachers/role models/Leaders of Young Men. Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, and Tom Izzo are household names. Meanwhile, Frank Vogel, Dwane Casey, and Tyrone Corbin are current NBA head coaches. Did you know that?
Like everything in this guide, I am not saying the college or pro way is better. I’m just telling you that while the NBA is a league built on the backs of superstar players, coaches are the stars of the college game.
It’s Not Just About March
There are several intriguing early season tournaments being played this month everywhere from Madison Square Garden to Maui. The cold winter months bring us heated conference rivalries. The league tournaments are wild and crazy. There are meaningful, interesting, exciting college basketball games throughout the season. Even if that weren’t true, college hoops would still be entertaining—March Madness is that awesome.
Just don’t think that watching more games will help you do better in your NCAA Tournament pool. You will, without fail, do worse.
Lower Your Volume
Have you ever flipped channels between an NBA and college game? The sounds are vastly different. For many pro games, fans are still filtering into the arena as the first quarter winds down. On major college campuses, the arena is rocking a half hour before tip for big games. The “de-fense” chants you’ll hear are organized by real life fans, not P.A. systems and Jumbotrons. When the ball is in play you won’t hear rap music over the loudspeakers, but during dead balls you will hear a live band. The louder crowds are largely due to raucous student sections, which, at places like Duke and Michigan, are located courtside for maximum effect.
Because this lockout didn’t exactly come as a surprise, several sure-fire lottery picks returned to school. That means there are probably more future pros playing college ball this year than in a long time, as stars like sophomores Harrison Barnes (North Carolina), Jared Sullinger (Ohio State), and Terrence Jones (Kentucky) are joined by first year players Austin Rivers (Duke), Anthony Davis (Kentucky), and Andre Drummond (Connecticut).
While a lockout is never going to be a good thing, for NBA fans looking to get their hoops fix, this season of college basketball should be ideal. So go ahead, pick a school or two—a local team or the alma mater of a friend or relative—and keep an eye on them from now through March. You can tell me how much fun you had at next year’s NBA Draft, when your opinion of your favorite team’s pick won’t have to come from someone else.