As CBS college basketball announcer Gus Johnson was having one conniption after another Thursday night while calling the game of the NCAA Tournament so far — Kansas State's double-overtime victory against Xavier — I found something peculiar happening. I kept switching over, even during the second overtime, to an NBA game on TNT. It was just a run-of-the-mill NBA game — Dallas at Portland. Yet I found that game more entertaining than the Kansas State-Xavier game. Blasphemy, you say. It's March Madness, for crying out loud, the greatest thing in hoops since James Naismith nailed a peach basket to a tree. Is March Madness fun? You bet. Is it dramatic? Absolutely. Is college basketball better than the NBA? Not in my book. I fully expect my e-mail in-box to be flooded with angry e-mails calling me an idiot. (Well, more than normal.) I don't necessarily expect to convert anyone. But I still believe that, pound for pound, the NBA is way better than college basketball. Here are 10 reasons why.
The NBA has way more talent
This is obvious, right? The NBA is made up of professionals, and college is made up of amateurs, most of whom will need to buy a ticket to ever sniff an NBA game. The two best basketball players on the planet, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, didn't even play college basketball. Now think of names such as Steve Alford, Christian Laettner, Tyler Hansbrough, Bobby Hurley, J.J. Redick, Joe Smith, Sean May and Joakim Noah. Those are some of the best college basketball players of the past 25 years or so, and they have had little or no impact in the NBA. The worst players in the NBA still have more skill than 98 percent of college players. The point is, the more talented the players, the higher level of the game.
NBA coaches are better
Kentucky's John Calipari, top, and Louisville's Rick Pitino are two of the top college coaches in the country, and neither could hack it in the NBA. Take the case of the well-traveled Larry Brown, below. He coached seven years in college, made the NCAA Tournament every year, reached the Final Four three times, the final twice and won a national title and 77 percent of his games. Piece of cake. But in 24 years as an NBA coach, Brown has coached one NBA champion, made the Finals only one other time and won only 55 percent of his games. When an NBA team has a coaching opening, it almost never goes after a college coach. What does that tell you?
The NBA has more offense
The Kansas State-Xavier NCAA game Thursday was incredible, one of the better tournament games in recent memory. It was a double-overtime thriller with lead changes, spectacular plays and huge shots down the stretch. The final was 101-96. Heck, lead changes, spectacular plays and huge shots down the stretch with a 101-96 final sounds like a typical NBA game.
The NBA plays better defense
If you're one of those people who says nobody plays defense in the NBA, then you really need to stop saying that. You're making a fool of yourself and only proving you don't watch the NBA. You're merely spouting off a worn-out cliche you heard some other idiot say. (Same goes for the pinheads out there who claim NBA players travel on every possession. Seriously, you sound ignorant when you say that.) Look at the stats. LeBron James is a beast, leads the NBA in scoring and still averages fewer than 30 points in a 48-minute game. Entering Saturday, only 18 players in the NBA averaged at least 20 points, and 13 of those shot less than 50 percent from the field. College basketball has more teams but still had 60 players this season average at least 20 points in a 40-minute game. And 39 of those shot better than 50 percent from the field. Most of those 60 players will never play in the NBA, and they're playing against defenders who won't play in the NBA.
The end of an NBA game is no worse than the end of a college game
Yes, the end of basketball games can be frustrating when they turn into a free-throw shooting contest, but that's not something exclusive to NBA games. In fact, NBA players are so good at shooting free throws that teams would rather play defense and go for a stop or steal than commit a foul. Committing fouls and sending a team to the free-throw line is more of a college strategy than an NBA one. In the NBA, it's usually a last resort, saved for the final 20 seconds or so. In college ball, the free-throw shooting starts much sooner.
The NBA is more fair, Part I
No NBA team has an advantage because of its schedule. You play the same teams everyone else does. If you make the playoffs, you did it on the court because you were better than other teams while playing the exact same schedule. College basketball is divided into conferences, and the nonconference schedules are left up to the whim of the schools. Making the NCAA Tournament might come down to a room full of guys who are only guessing that your 10 losses in the Big East were more impressive than the ACC team that lost eight conference games. Does that seem fair?
The NBA is more fair, Part II
Maybe you like the one-loss-and-out aspect of the NCAA Tournament, but it really doesn't reward the better team. It rewards the better team that day. A season's worth of work in college can go down the tubes simply because your 3-point shooter had a cold or your big man got into foul trouble. Not to take anything away from teams such as Northern Iowa and Saint Mary's, but there's a lucky, right-place-right-time aspect to their victories. In a seven-game NBA series, the team that wins truly deserves to win. Luck and, perhaps, one really good 10-minute stretch of basketball or poor officiating has nothing to do with it.
The NBA has Marv Albert
YESSS! The best basketball announcer is Marv "And It Counts" Albert. He is the best there is, the best there was and the best there will ever be. And the only place to hear him is on NBA games.
The final argument
The best thing about college basketball is all of the other stuff besides the actual game. It's the fans and the bands and the legendary gyms. It's filling out a bracket, which is half the fun of March Madness. Unlike the NBA, college basketball isn't about the players. It's about the coaches — from top, Coach K, Tom Izzo and Roy Williams — and so forth. They are the stars in college. But when you're talking about the actual game between the lines, here's a question. Say there were two basketball courts, each a mile from your house but in two different directions. One court had a game between Kobe Bryant's Lakers and LeBron James' Cavaliers, the other between Duke and Kentucky. There were no fans, no tickets, just two games. Be honest, which one would you go watch?
The NBA is more competitive
Don't be suckered by the NCAA Tournament, which leads you to believe college basketball is a thrill a minute. March Madness is only a fraction of the college basketball season. Most of the college basketball season is unbalanced and predictable. This was supposedly a down year, yet 44 teams entered the tournament with single digits in losses, including 10 with five or fewer. Spread that over an NBA season, and you would have a slew of teams going 72-10, which, by the way, is the NBA record for best season. Even some of the greatest teams in NBA history (Larry Bird's Celtics, Magic Johnson's Lakers, for example) lost at least 15 games. The best team in the NBA this season, the Cavaliers, already has lost 16 games, and the season isn't even over yet.