I’m picturing a die-hard NBA fan getting coerced into watching the NCAA championship game. He’s been listening to his friends trumpet the college game, the tournament, the underdogs, and then he finally gave in…and watched that. I don’t really run in basketball fan circles, but people have strong opinions about the college game vs. the NBA game. You’re aware of all the arguments. The NBA people hold the line that the talent is just so vastly superior in the NBA that watching the college game reminds them of the WNBA. No one with the name of a school on the front of their jersey can do what LeBron, Kobe, Durant, or Howard can do on a nightly basis. It’s a valid point, but that doesn’t mean the NBA can’t get ugly and monotonous. Well, on the biggest stage last night, college basketball laid the biggest possible stink bomb. I haven’t heard anything about ratings yet, but I imagine they were low…to quite low.
At halftime I was expecting most of the analysts to dance around the issue before Charles spoke up and said both teams were playing terrible. That wasn’t the case. The basketball was of such a poor brand that the boys lined up one after another to call it one of the worst halves they’ve ever seen. Even “The Jet” looked a little deflated. When you make Kenny Smith sad and a little lethargic, you’ve done something special. I started out wanting Butler to win, but eventually I just wanted the game to be over. It was embarrassing. At one point in the 2nd half, Butler was shooting 16% for the game, and they were right in it. UConn couldn’t pull away. I’d estimate there were about 50 teams in the country that could have beaten Butler last night.
And, it wasn’t just that Butler was missing shots. It was the manner in which they were doing so. They kept firing up these contested 3s, with odd spin, from all over the court. The rims took a beating. They couldn’t finish a lay-up. If they shot 30% they might have won easily, but as soon as it became a two possession game the outcome was practically decided. The Bulldogs were converting a field-goal about once every 9 possessions. They somehow scored fewer points in the 2nd half than they did in the first. It was, unquestionably, the worst basketball game I’ve ever seen outside of the 9-4 affairs that my Middle School’s girls teams used to engage in.
So, I have to think if there was one day in my life where you could convince me to convert to the NBA, today might be that day. Even if I watched 48 minutes of selfish, no-defense, one-on-one, clear out garbage…at least I’d see some good finishes. I’m sure David Stern was thrilled with what went down last night. The NBA has a lot of momentum going right now (they’ll probably blow it with a labor stoppage), and the sorry state of college basketball can only help their standing.
That is really what we saw last night. It was the culmination of an awful year of college basketball from a talent pool standpoint. I’m not going to say there weren’t some exciting games, but what I don’t think anyone realized was that we were watching the Lions and Browns play 30-27 OT thrillers for a couple of weeks there. The only problem was, once the Super Bowl rolled around, they skipped the thriller and just played a 6-3 atrocity. You can dress that up in the beauty of the college game all you want, but product like Butler/UConn will eventually wear people out. There’s a fine line between a wide-open tournament and complete crapshoot. Only one is watchable.