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NCAA Basketball vs NBA: Teamwork and March Madness Gives College the Edge

In a previous edition of The Monthly Score, I explained what made college football superior to the professional version of the sport. Similarly, in basketball, the college game provides a much higher quality of the game and viewing experience than the National Basketball Association does.

With March Madness, the annual 68-team college basketball tournament, in full swing, basketball fans everywhere will be glued to their televisions, hoping for their brackets to be correct so they can win their pool. This obsession with college hoops will only last for a short while because after the tournament is over, most fans will return to watching the NBA.

While superstars such as Stephen Curry can be fun to watch, teamwork and fundamental college basketball is a more satisfying viewing experience. (Photo courtesy of Keith Allison)

While superstars such as Stephen Curry can be fun to watch, teamwork and fundamental college basketball is a more satisfying viewing experience. (Photo courtesy of Keith Allison)

According to a Harris Poll conducted in 2014, 100 percent more people listed professional basketball as their favorite sport to watch, rather than college basketball. Just like with the football situation, these statistics are misleading, as pro basketball is not even on the same level as the college game.

While the NBA has superstars, such as Lebron James and Stephen Curry, that light up the court every night, college basketball’s lack of star power is what makes it so beautiful. In a tournament like March Madness, the underdog can shine and defeat the giants with teamwork and unselfishness.

Even the biggest and best teams in the country, such as Virginia and Villanova, do not need a stud player in order to win. These teams rely on good team basketball and play the game it was meant to be played.

“I feel that in the NBA, they don’t work well as a team. They just basically have the one good player,” said junior Josh Lee. “College is all different. The coaching matters and how the team works well together [matters].”

The NBA’s constant man defense and isolation plays become repetitive and take away from the game. Yes, it can be fun to watch James go one on one against Kevin Durant a few times up and down the court, but there are other players on the floor.

A team like the 2014 Miami Heat had basically one game plan: get the ball to Lebron and hope he was hitting his shots that night. Luckily for them, James is one of the greatest players of all time and he could normally carry his team to victory. Other teams caught on to this game plan quickly and shut down James, preventing the Heat from capturing their third straight championship.

NBA teams are starting to realize that team basketball wins games; the Atlanta Hawks is just one example. However, it is still not even close to the level of college basketball. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)’s low individual scoring and unselfish plays provide a higher quality of the game than the NBA.

Another reason college basketball is superior to the NBA is the incredible stories and the emotion from the players. In pro basketball, the only storylines to follow throughout the season are about the MVP race or a team that is unexpectedly dominating the league. The players are also mostly concerned with the size of their paycheck rather than the size of the ring that they’re chasing after.

College basketball, on the other hand, provides a spectacle unlike anything else. There are endless storylines to follow, with each program having something worth following going on. For example, this year provided many topics worth talking about, including Kentucky’s pursuit of perfection, Virginia’s decline with two straight losses to enter the tournament and the rise of Notre Dame; the list goes on and on.

While superstars such as Stephen Curry can be fun to watch, teamwork and fundamental college basketball is a more satisfying viewing experience. (Photo courtesy of Ben Stanfield)

While superstars such as Stephen Curry can be fun to watch, teamwork and fundamental college basketball is a more satisfying viewing experience. (Photo courtesy of Ben Stanfield)

The players also contribute to the superiority of college hoops. In the NBA, the players base their decisions about where to play on the amount of money they will receive. For example, Carmelo Anthony had the option to sign with the Chicago Bulls this past off season, but decided to stay with the lowly Knicks so he could cash a multimillion dollar contract.

College basketball players do not have to worry about their salaries dictating their choices. For the vast majority of these athletes, these four years in college will be the last time they play competitive basketball.

The players have spent the majority of their lives working towards the goal of playing Division 1 basketball, which is a big enough accomplishment on its own. Now, with the opportunity to win a national championship on the line, the same drive that got them to that level of play kicks in again and they are essentially playing for their basketball lives. Losing could mean the end of their sporting career.

This accentuated drive to win is demonstrated by the upsets that occur in the tournament. For example, the University of Alabama at Birmingham defeated Iowa State in the Round of 64 this year. The Cyclones took their higher seed for granted and underestimated UAB, causing the early exit of a team that many thought had the potential to reach the Final Four.

The emotion and fire that the college athletes play with is what makes sports great. They play for the love of the game rather than a paycheck. While the NBA remains more popular than college basketball throughout the year, it is the amateurs who provide the better version of the game through teamwork and love of the game.

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