It will come as no surprise to most of you to learn that Joel and I sometimes share a thought process. So, when I woke up from my nap (I work nights, I'm not just really lazy) with the idea to write about the difference between the NBA and NCAA basketball, I wasn't shocked to see he had beaten me to it by about 50 minutes.
I live in what most people from southern Ohio would consider Cleveland. Up here, the news cycle is Cavs, Cavs, the Indians warming up, a bit about the Brelo verdict, and more Cavs. I don't love the NBA, but I do love my city, so I've tried to get into it, listening to the games and even watching a couple when the opportunity arises. Despite the excitement and despite LeBron posting perhaps the greatest game in playoff history (38/18/13, who does that?) I still can't really get on board. Here's why:
The NBA is still a pound the ball league
The Atlanta Hawks were the team that was changing the way NBA basketball was played. They spread the floor, moved the ball, and found open shooters. It was open, flowing, fun to watch basketball. It played well in the regular season and then, when the games mattered, it got them destroyed by the Cavs, who were content to let LeBron start 0-10 as he shot himself into a game. The NBA is still generally predicated on one guy beating his man after a lot of dribbling. Don't let people tell you that the Warriors are different either, they aren't.
The NBA regular season doesn't matter
Up here in Cleveland the story is that LeBron flipped the switch once the playoffs started. For 82 games in the regular season, teams rest stars, stars rest themselves, and until about the last five games everyone plays just well enough to get in favorable position for the playoffs. Compare that to the NCAA when mucking about could put you up against Villanova in a conference tournament with no chance to make the "playoffs" or up against major conference team that earned a four seed and sees you as nothing but a speed bump on the way to the second round. In the NBA, you have a seven game series to finally bring your A game. In the NCAA, you have one shot, if you even get that far.
The NCAA is filled with players living the last step of a dream
This is a bit of romanticism, but there are a lot of college players who have made as far as they are going and are fine with that. Walk-ons get into seven games a year and talk about them for the rest of their lives, guys play for the teams they've watched forever, or step on the same campus courts their families have walked for years. As Joel mentioned, the NBA is a business, conducted by businessmen. The NCAA is players playing, by and large, for the love of the game. They are on the end of the spear of their dream, it's not going to get any better for them. That creates a lot more passion that guys playing for the next check.
All that said, Go Cavs!