Going Mad for March Madness

The first games of the annual NCAA men’s basketball Championship Tournament start on Thursday, and although I’m the first to admit I don’t really know anything about the teams competing, I can’t help but get excited for the month-long festivities.

Over the past few years I’ve slowly started drifting away from the NBA, to the point where I rarely watch professional basketball games anymore. That’s not to say I’ve completely forgotten about the sport. I still love to play a game of pick-up on a sunny day, and I still love to watch highly-skilled players play the game they love, but for one reason or another, the NBA just doesn’t do it for me anymore.

With that said, there are a couple things the NBA could learn from college hoops to help bring it back to its glory days of Magic vs. Bird. The talent pool in the NBA may be at an all-time high, so it definitely isn’t a lack of talent that keeps the sporting from being as exciting as its collegiate equivalent.

Firstly, college basketball emphasizes defence to a much higher degree than the NBA. College players sacrifice their bodies on any given play to prevent the opposition from putting up just two more points. NBA players would rather give up a sure layup and try to make the points back then prevent them in the first place.

Additionally, the referees actually allowing some contact in the college game keeps the playing going for longer and builds excitement. In the NBA a ref blows his whistle as soon as he sees a ball carrier make contact with a defensive player. In the NCAA, refs let the players play, ignoring a lot of incidental contact. Sure, it may result in a missed call or two, but the increased intensity makes the game more exciting.

Like almost every major pro league, fans love to complain about the refs. They seem to have the biggest egos of all professional sport officials. If they could learn to swallow their pride and their whistle, the game would become way more appealing to a broader audience.

However, there will always be an inherent problem in basketball that isn’t found in other sports and really quite simply can’t be fixed. All it takes is one star player on a basketball team to make them championship contenders. Year after year, the same teams finish the season at the top of the standings, because year after year the same star players dominate the hard wood.

The fluctuation of talent at the college level not only keeps the game interesting by constantly introducing new faces, but also levels the playing field so almost any team can make a run for the championship.

So maybe the NBA’s problem can’t be fixed with a few simple rule changes, but the fact that the game has gone stagnant means the league isn’t even looking to progress and make the game more appealing to fans like me. So for now I’ll impatiently wait for March to arrive each year, when I can arbitrarily pick a team to cheer for based on the silliness of their team’s mascot.

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