Monday, March 21, 2011

College Basketball Hits the Sweet Spot

The tournament, has once again, been awesome.

The format is pretty much undefeated, since expanding in 1985.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, however. Think of it. With 32 games on Thursday and Friday, and another 16 before Monday comes, of course we’ll have more than just a handful of exciting games and moments to talk about when we return to the water cooler.

What are the chances, that out of 48 games, all of them would suck?


That said, there’s an even more simple explanation as to why the tournament tickles our sports fan sweet spot.

The players really care, and they play hard.

That’s all we ever ask as fans, really. Play hard. Give a crap.

The rest takes care of itself, no matter what the sport.

Once athletes get to the professional ranks, the “caring” and “playing hard” elements start to get worn down pretty quick. Part of it, is the millions which pour into bank accounts on a monthly  basis. The other big part is the interminable pro sports regular seasons which are needed to generate all that money for players and owners.

Play hard. Give a crap.

This is not to say that pro sports are without these two key elements. You just have to wait all year for them to arrive in some leagues. Or, you have to separate out guys who truly just love being rich playing a game, versus athletes who simply cannot stand to lose.

In this event, the tournament, players cry, coaches cry. Cheerleaders cry. Little kids in their daddy’s arms cry.
Coaches get mad at media people who “make” players cry with leading questions. (Memo to Frank Martin: I get it, you were protecting your player, but you essentially stole his moment. So what if he’s crying? Let him cry. Shut up. We think MORE of Jacob Pullen because of that response, not less.)

Everybody cares. A lot.

And while you are sometimes stunned at the momentary stupidity of some plays (see the final 2.2 seconds of Butler v. Pitt) you at least appreciate how hard teams claw and fight.

One last note about how enjoyable the NCAA game is to watch and absorb. It currently “scales” properly to the court dimensions and height of the rim.

This is not a knock at the NBA, per se, it’s just that the league has grown like an overfed goldfish left in a tank that is increasingly too small.

Think about it.

The NBA sized basketball court has remained stagnant for what, 50 plus years? More? The height of the rim has not been raised. The size of the goal has not been reduced to make it more challenging.

Yet if you were to line up the NBA’s players from 50 years ago and measure them against today’s players, I am 1000% certain you would find, among other pieces of evolutionary evidence…

-          Average height and weight has increased
-          Average vertical leap has increased
-          Average % of body fat has decreased
-          Average measurable strength has increased
-          There are more “moves” that didn’t exist 50 years ago.

In other words, NBA players are freaks. They are so big, so fast, so skilled, they have outgrown the logical dimensions of the game. The sport at the NBA level is impossible to officiate fairly, because it’s like judging a dance contest in an elevator.

The college game of today scales just right to the dimensions of the court. The games are very athletic, even with so-called “mid-major” teams in play. Even modest sized white kids in the 6-3 range can dribble drive dunk in traffic.

The college game has really hit the sweet spot, minus of course, the ever growing scourge of armfuls of mindless tattoos.

Should the NBA make the court bigger or the rim higher? I doubt it. Besides, like I said, there’s too many guys making $6 million a year on teams that are hopelessly awful to infuse the pros with college fever anytime before late May.

Let’s just enjoy this delicious treat, while it fresh and “in season.”


  1. Great point about the dimensions of the court in relating to the increase in player size. However, the league will never change the size of the court or the height of the rim.

    On the other hand, you can make the same points about the NFL with regard to field size in relation to player size, and those guys still play hard and give a crap. And the quality of play has gotten better.

    One final point. I think the quality of basketball in the NBA has gotten worse in proportion to the increase in the players athleticism and size. Today's players are infinitely better athletes, not better basketball players.

  2. I was scanning the radio dial this morning and I happened to hear the familiar sound of a man singing the words to the CBS basketball music. I realized that Czaban was back on the air in Harrisburg for the first time in over a year. 1350 AM. Great to have you back.

  3. @sal m.... Agreed. And add in "allowing" 3-steps in the paint.