College Basketball v The NBA: Why I Will Watch College Hoops Because Of The Lockout…But Won’t Enjoy It

I love basketball – but I hate the college game.

Ok, maybe hate is a strong word. I should probably just say that I find it incredibly boring and hard to watch.

The Positives of College Hoops

Don’t get me wrong…there are things about college basketball that are awesome. As far as atmosphere goes, the sport is unmatched. Even the most ardent Duke-haters can smile at the Cameron Crazies going nuts on the sidelines.

cameron-craziesImage credit: Gerry Broome via USA Today

The court is so small and the fans are right on top of everything. They are also some of the most creative fans in sports. When it comes to creating an exciting atmosphere, college basketball is unmatched.

Beyond that, college basketball absolutely features the greatest event in all of sports – March Madness. While you could argue (quite easily in fact) that March Madness doesn’t always crown the best BEST team as its champion, it’s still, without a doubt, the most EXCITING event in sports.

There are reasons why people stay home…every single year…to watch 2 seeds play 15 seeds. Just think about that.

March Madness is untouchable.

All of that said (yes, I will pound home cliche after cliche today), the game still bores me. The problem is, the basketball just isn’t that good. At least it’s not anymore.

Where College Hoops Cannot Measure Up To The NBA

In the 80s when Jordan and Ewing and Mullin and Bias and Sampson and Hakeem and everyone was staying in school for a good amount of time, you could definitely say that the level of play in college basketball was outstanding. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case.

Every college fan I talk to regurgitates the same three weak points in defense of their game.

  • The atmosphere of a college game is unmatched.
  • The college game is a TEAM game.
  • The NBA players are thugs.

Seriously. I have yet to talk with an intelligent fan of college basketball who wanted to argue something different.

The first point is absolutely true. And to be honest, since sports are first and foremost supposed to be entertaining, it’s a fair point. If you like basketball, and you want to be entertained, it’s easy to get into college basketball.

The last two points are completely disingenuous to the NBA though…and oftentimes reek of racism.

I always give college fans “The Mute Challenge.” Watch a college game on mute, and JUST watch the basketball being played. Then tell me it’s better than the NBA. Nobody has ever been able to do that.

The problem is that people haven’t REALLY been watching the NBA lately. Anyone that watched last year’s NBA season closely could tell you how beautifully it was played. Say what you want about LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and their friends…they have brought passing back to the game of basketball.

Whenever someone says, “I love the college game because it is a purer form of basketball,” I always ask them if they watch women’s basketball too.

Of course they don’t.

Women HAVE to pass the ball more because they have less amazing individual athletes. Women can’t dunk. Women can’t rely on athleticism. Doesn’t that make their game more pure than NCAA?

Not really. Plus, it’s boring. Women, simply, can’t play basketball in the same way that men can. They can’t make the same 80 foot passes…they can’t play above the rim…they are much slower…it’s just not fun to watch.

(Really, they should just lower the baskets. Someone please give me one reason – besides the fact that it would cost an unbelievable amount of money for schools/parks/playgrounds across the nation to do so – arguing that women’s basketball goals should not be shorter. In volleyball, the women’s net is lower than a men’s net because it enables them to play the same way that men can. You ever watched women’s volleyball? It’s AWESOME!)

And in my mind, the jump from College Basketball to the NBA is just as severe.

You see four guys dive on the floor in a college game and think, “Wow! What amazing hustle!”

I see the same thing and wonder, “Why did that idiot dribble the ball off of his foot?”

Now you say, “Sure…the NBA players are BETTER…but they are selfish and they hog the ball. They don’t play as a team.”

Let’s examine this a little more closely.

Isolation Basketball IS Team Basketball

Forget about the fact that people all over the nation went gaga over Jimmer Fredette for the past two years (Part of me wants to play the race card and scream “IF HIS NAME WAS JABAAL-ABDUL SIMMONS, YOU WOULD HAVE HATED HIM!!!!” But I won’t.). Let’s just look at WINNING basketball.

Who did UConn give the ball to with the game on the line? Whose hands was the ball in when Duke needed a basket? If Arizona needed a basket, what play were they running?

The fact is, every single team across the nation (with the exception of Butler…they played REAL team ball…and had Shawn Vanzant dishing to Ryan Smith to win games) gives it to their best player with the game on the line.

If Kemba Walker DIDN’T touch the ball on the final possession against Pitt last year in the Big East Tournament, people would have criticized Jim Calhoun. Same with Duke and Arizona if Nolan Smith and Derrick Williams didn’t have the ball in their hands.

Every team/fan/player acknowledges this fact: When the game is close, we need to MAKE SURE we get a bucket. The best way to do that is to give it to our best player and let him create.

You know what, forget it. I can’t skip over the race issue any longer.  How many college fans watched Dallas take it to Miami in the NBA Finals and concluded that “team basketball always beats selfish individuals.” How ironic is it that the only two Dallas players that shot the ball down the stretch were Dirk and Jason Terry…as Dwyane Wade and LeBron were CRITICIZED for not taking more shots?


The team led by the tall German supposedly played team ball…even though they ran it through him for isolation after isolation down the stretch of EVERY single game. But the selfish Heat got what they deserved – a loss…even though LeBron kept running pick and rolls and dishing the ball to wide open teammates who were incompetent. WATCH THE GAMES, PEOPLE!!! DON’T DRAW UP CONCLUSIONS UNTIL YOU ACTUALLY WATCH THE GAMES!!!

Let’s just get this straight. Everyone acknowledges that the BEST WAY to score is to give it to your best player and let him create something. So then, why do these same people criticize the NBA so harshly for running so many plays that are isolation-based?

Couldn’t you (rather easily I think) make a convincing argument that NBA teams/players/coaches are just playing SMARTER basketball? If that’s really the BEST WAY to score, shouldn’t we do that EVERY SINGLE time?

That leads us to the conclusion that just crushes point #2 for college fans: isolation-basketball does NOT equal a lack of team play. It’s simply the BEST way for teams to score.

NBA Players Are Not Thugs

Their final point is just ridiculous. There are so many things wrong with an argument that is completely void of facts that I won’t waste much time on it. However, I will simply pose this question: Did you think that Kevin Durant was a thug when he was a freshman at Texas? How about Derrick Rose at Memphis? What about Dwyane Wade at Marquette?

(All of the Jimmer Fredette, JJ Redick, and Adam Morrison fans are screaming, “YES!!! I THOUGHT THEY WERE THUGS!!!! THEY HAVE ALWAYS BEEN THUGS!!!” Whatever…I’m not talking to you.)

What has changed with these players from the time they went from college to the pros? The only thing that has changed is that they started making millions of dollars. And sure, that could affect their life off of the court, but you will have a hard (impossible) time convincing me that this changed them as BASKETBALL players.

Take “The Mute Challenge” tonight. Watch Duke and Michigan State without the Cameron Crazies and without Dick Vitale. Just watch the game that is being played.

You will be taken aback…and not just by Austin Rivers’ incredibly punchable face (shout out to Mark Titus for that one).

College fans, I don’t hate you. I have several great friends, including the creator of this site and an editor on this site that LOVE the college game. I’m not trying to get you to stop watching college basketball. In fact, with the NBA Lockout, I will be watching a good amount of college ball as well.

All I ask of you is this: admit that you like college basketball for what it is – the most EXCITING game that features the greatest event in sports.

Stop trying to convince yourself that you like the sport because it’s a BETTER GAME than the NBA.

You are just making yourself look foolish.

About Jon Washburn

Jon Washburn grew up in Indianapolis, IN and as such, is a diehard Pacers, Colts, and Cubs fans. When it comes to college, he cheers for Notre Dame football fan and Purdue basketball. Yes, this sounds shady, but since he grew up without cable, he learned to love Notre Dame - the only team on TV. Glenn "The Big Dog" Robinson was at Purdue when Jon was in his formative years, so he latched onto them as well. Did that make him a fair-weather fan at the time? Sure. Give him a break...he was 8...and he has stayed with those teams ever since. Currently, he lives in Charleston, SC with his wife who grew up in Cleveland. Although he is no longer physically in the Midwest, his heart will always be there. Jon goes by the name "Twitch" because he has Tourette's Syndrome. Hit him up on his twitter @jwtwitch.


  1. Nicholas Gerlach says:

    Oh My God…It happened…I agreed with Jonathan Washburn on something.

    I pretty much echo every sentiment you made in this article.

  2. keithmullett says:

    Spot on, Jonathan Washburn. Now let me get back to slamming my face into my wall while thinking about not having NBA basketball this season and Tim Duncan's last legitimate chance at a title being wasted because guys like Brendan Haywood and Travis Outlaw think they deserve $7M-$10M a year.

  3. Scottie Mac says:

    I had three things I was going to say about your article, but on the way to comment there was a picture of Brooklyn Decker on the SI cover, and now … now, uh, I have a Rick Perry moment.

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