You shouldn’t have to pick a side in NCAA vs. NBA basketball

Hard to believe that a half a decade ago, you still couldn’t watch every NCAA Tournament game on TV, only the ones shown in your market and those that became good enough to warrant a switch over from CBS.

If you were like me over the weekend, the remote (or streaming technology) nearly couldn’t work fast enough to keep up with all the wild finishes. Some I enjoyed more (Texas A&M’s unfathomable comeback to beat Northern Iowa, coming off the miracle half-court winner in the opening round) than others (Cincinnati’s nullified dunk at the buzzer in a loss to St. Joseph’s).

Take a look below to see how your bracket fared through the first weekend. Most of you did better than me because I decided to pick way too many upsets.

Because despite all the wild finishes, including a trio of true buzzer-beating shots, the favorites mostly won out. The NCAA Tournament remains unpredictable because of the variance between Cinderella dancing late into March one year and the Goliaths stamping out the small schools the next.

Invariably, a similar discussion starts each year in the sports community.

Regardless of mundane or extraordinary results, someone approaches the topic of quality in college basketball. Does it compare to the NBA? How can you enjoy the college kids and not appreciate the superior brand of the professionals?

I don’t understand why we have to go there, especially in the Kansas City area.

Despite rumors and hints of Sprint Center helping draw in an NBA tenant, we remain mostly devoid of NBA action, save for an annual preseason game. There’s no clear favorite team to get behind in the region, although some would argue for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Add in that many of the star players are either foreign or veterans of brief college careers, there’s no real loyalty built up to the players.

I can respect that the NBA features more concentration of talent, but I miss the passion in trying to watch. I don’t know what side to be on.

That’s what makes the NCAA Tournament fun.

There’s unpredictability (like Gonzaga making the Sweet 16 as an 11-seed after recent failures as a favorite), pageantry (the bands, mascots, cheerleaders) and built-up loyalty (many of you proudly for Kansas or ashamedly for Missouri). 

Sure, the NCAA Tournament doesn’t always end up with the most deserving champion. The single-elimination format can be excessively cruel, as the Kansas and Missouri fans know alike.
But you’ll never forget a Bucknell or a Norfolk State if that’s the tiny school to oust you one year. I’m sure a few of you have harbored some angry sentiments that came out just reading those team names.

That’s the magic of the NCAA Tournament.

In the beginning, almost everyone seems to have a legitimate chance. If your team doesn’t make the Final Four, you can start analyzing the losses and incoming freshmen to assess the chances of the next year.

I just don’t feel the same connection to the NBA, and I probably never will. I’m sure I’m not alone on that. 

If the NBA is your thing because of the product’s purity, you won’t hear a complaint from me. Just don’t try to force me to understand your point of view.

That’s all I ask.

There’s no reason any of us should shame anyone else for their views on basketball. We really should try to get along and let those enthralled in this year’s NCAA Tournament have their three weeks.

One Twitter user, which I can’t find now, best put it over the weekend. You can like the NBA. You can like the NCAA Tournament. You can like both. You can like neither.

That’s up to you. 

There’s no right answer to this annual debate, and it’s time to stop having it. Enjoy the games, you guys.

Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.