Ten years ago I would have considered my current predicament impossible. I was obsessed with college hoops, watched every game I could on TV and religiously blogged about the game even though at the time it wasn't called blogs or blogging. I set up four TVs in the same room during March to watch the NCAA Tournament (always with a capital T) and had the VCRs rolling so I would have something to watch during the long stretch between the end of the tournament and the start of Hokie football season.
I'd work the whole year and save my money to make a yearly pilgrimage to the Final Four. I went to the Final Four five consecutive years from 2002-2006 and have been to six total. It was always the highlight of my year.
Nothing made me happier than the midnight snack in the WAC or a Wednesday night game between Southern Illinois and Creighton. But 10 years later I'd rather watch two guys fish (or Jersey Shore, you know, whatever's on) than those games. I really just think college basketball is boring and I hate myself for it.
One of the commenters on this blog, Sid Bream Speed, said the same thing Saturday. I had just watched Marquette nearly come back from a 22-point deficit against Villanova and felt completely uninspired by it. SBS had the perfect answer for why we shared the same feeling about college hoops. We grew up and would now rather watch the NBA because it's a better product.
That's a hard pill for me to swallow because of how much I hated the NBA growing up. It had none of the atmosphere or tradition of college and because of that I still don't watch much of it. Instead of becoming a hardcore NBA fan like SBS I went the other way and switched to hockey, which is now my drug of choice when college football ends.
The Game's Evolved
College hoops has slowly become unwatchable for me because it's rules have turned every shot into a three or a layup. The jump-shooting contests are the main reason FanHouse's Brian Grummell doesn't like watching college hoops and prefers the athleticism of the NBA. I agree with him. There aren't many driving guards in college and parity and the NBA have made the talent pool very shallow.
The lanes are also too crowded in college basketball. Often times it looks like the court's too small and it's a jumbled mess. I've watched more NBA games this year than I did in the last 10 years and when I do, it's easy to see how fast and athletic the players are. The one thing that college does have over the NBA is that the pro players are almost too good. It's almost a surprise when someone misses a shot where in college games there's a lot of doubt when someone takes a jump shot.
The college game just hasn't evolved at the same pace as the sport itself. The shot clock is ridiculously too long at 35 seconds, which leads to fewer possessions and turns the end-game into a free-throw shooting contest much sooner than at the pro level.
Ping, Ping, Swish
The most boring, unwatchable, teeth-pulling sport in the American landscape is college baseball. And these days college basketball is starting to look more and more like college baseball.
College baseball will always be the most over-coached sport in existence with its never-ending throws to first and unnecessary conferences on the mounds. However, college basketball has moved into second and is quietly closing the gap with the plumber's convention (ping!).
First and foremost, coaches are moving farther and farther onto the court. I thought the NCAA was trying to enforce the coach's box more, but apparently the refs stopped paying attention. Basketball is the only sport where the coach can be on the playing surface during play and the college coaches are the word offenders, manually directing their half-court offenses. Then when the players start thinking for themselves and the coach feels he's losing his deathgrip on his team, he'll call a timeout when things are getting interesting.
The other main reason college basketball is like college baseball? The best players go pro when they're at college age. Sure, the NBA put in a rule that you have to spend a year in college before entering the draft, but that didn't stop Brandon Jennings from going to Europe. And the best college players are only going to be there a year before making the jump.
This kiddie-sized talent pool as made pitching and defense terrible in college baseball. Well, it's had the opposite effect in college basketball where it's most dynamic offensive stars go early to the NBA. What we're left with are three-point specialists and immobile post players. Unfortunately, this is a problem that won't be solved anytime soon in college hoops.
Still Mad About March
While I've spent most of this post hating on college basketball, there are still plenty of virtues to extol. The bands, the student section and the atmosphere of small gyms still make it special and still draw my eyes when the Hokies are on or when there's a good matchup that isn't UNC-Duke (which I refuse to watch).
College basketball also has the best postseason by far in college sports and I'll always call in sick to work the first Thursday and Friday of the NCAA Tournament. It's just now it's a little more ironic that most of the college games I watch are in NBA arenas.
But unfortunately due to all the other factors above, college basketball has gone from a 12-month sport to a one-month sport for me in the span of 10 years. Instead, college football is now my year-long passion.
Connecting to the Grid
I don't know exactly when I switched from basketball to football. It was probably a slow process, but my interest in college football now is the same as it was for basketball 10 years ago. I watch MAC games on Wednesday nights, fercryinoutloud.
College football isn't without its faults, but I think it's a better game than college hoops. Also, my attention span has shrunk over the years and one game per team per week is perfect for me. It's also easier to sit back on a weekend and watch a day of college football than it is to rush home after work and find something to eat before a weekday college basketball game.
Ten years ago I was going to Hokie football games and following the team but not paying much attention to college football in general. Now my love of the entire sport matches my love of the Hokies and college hoops is the sport competing for my time with the NHL and MLB.
When college basketball wouldn't evolve at the same speed as its sport I evolved as a sports fan and starting following football more intently. I don't know what my interest in sports will be like in another 10 years, but if it doesn't change college basketball may be even more off the radar. And that would be pretty sad because there are enough good things about college basketball that it shouldn't be slowly fading away into the ether of my sports consciousness.