College hoops can’t match up to NBA games

By Tony Pizza, Sports Editor

At first I thought it was just me.

I usually get pumped up for March Madness the way a kid (or Steve Young) does before a trip to Disneyland.

I print out several brackets and make a friendly yet healthy competition between family and friends. I go so far as to build a Web site with up-to-date standings and projections based on current results.

However, this year hasn’t been the same for me.

Initially, I chalked this up to the fact that the tournament was starting during Spring Break. It would be hard to track down co-workers and friends8212;at least enough to make things interesting. Still, I went to Las Vegas for opening weekend and stood in line for an hour just to place a few parlay bets for the tournament. I even watched pregame shows and got angry when everyone predicted Utah as the lock No. 5 seed to bow out of the tournament early. Almost equally disturbing was that everyone said No. 9 seed BYU could be the first team to knock off a No. 1 seed.

Even though I was in Vegas with a youngster, which meant that my time wasn’t primarily occupied by free drinks and overpriced $15-$20 tables, watching the tournament wasn’t at the top of my agenda list. In fact, I spent more time on Spring Break catching up on homework than watching the tournament.

The last-ditch effort to explain my apathy was when I tried to watch the Utah-Arizona game, but kept getting live look-ins on Louisville throttling Morehead State. I even filled out a bracket and was doing fairly well, but couldn’t figure out why I didn’t care. Maybe I was sick.

Watching the North Carolina-Oklahoma game, I finally figured out what my problem was.

I’ve been watching a lot of NBA basketball this season. I went to just about every Jazz home game up until a week ago when the company I worked for went out of business. I’ve tried to catch just about every Jazz road game and have even managed to watch a lot of the TNT-ESPN matchups this year, which have actually been quite entertaining.

Plain and simply, the NBA’s stock has gone up, while college basketball has gone down.

In both the Eastern and Western conferences, there’s a tight race for playoff spots and seeding. The league has reached such a phenomenal balance that even first-round playoff matchups are more exciting than your average college basketball game. Setting aside the rare Pittsburgh-Villanova finish this season, the drama and the fact that Cinderella has spent more time at the after-party than at the ball has made college basketball like your neighborhood Applebee’s8212;kind of bland.

The NBA has LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Kobe, Deron Williams and about 90 other athletes who are much more exciting to watch than some 20-year-old who throws up a steady diet of head-scratchers and ill-advised shots with the hope of one of those prayers going in. With the ability to play zone and clog up the lane without restriction, college basketball is no longer the NBA’s equal8212;younger brother, maybe. College basketball is to the NBA as high school basketball is to the college game. I’m more interested to see if the UConn women can run the table than if their supposedly superior male counterparts can win a championship.

Like the economy, college basketball is having a down year. Watching the NBA is like putting your money on the Don’t Pass Bar line on a cold craps table. Not much comparison.

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