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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Why I Love College Basketball

Published: November 18, 2005
Section: Sports

It is an exciting time of year to be a sports fan, and not just because Im rolling through the playoffs in my Xbox season. The last month brought us the return of both hockey and basketball, the hot stove league is warming up, and were half way through the football season and heading towards the playoffs. The BCS debates are beginning their annual take over of the sports page as the college football regular season has only a few more weeks before it gives way to bowl season. If the mainstream sports arent your thing, last weekend saw the Los Angeles Galaxy win the MLS Cup and the NASCAR Chase for the Cup is in full swing. All of this is good, but the reason it is great to be a sports fan? The greatest of all sports, college basketball, is about to begin.

Well, I have a confession to make. College basketball has already begun. But either way, were still talking about the best sport around. College basketball combines the best aspects of all other sports into one fantastic sports amalgam.

Lets start with the length of the season. The football season, both college and professional, is a nice length, but fans only get to see games two days a week for most of the season. That means nearly 72% of the week is spent on days where the sport will not be watched, other wise known as days not quite worth getting out of bed for. Basketball and hockey both have seasons of a nice length, but even the most diehard fans can admit the playoffs can get painful. Whoever had the brilliant idea of making the first round of the basketball playoffs best of seven should be drawn and quartered, tarred and feathered, and you should get the point because Im all out of dual-termed punishments.

While were on the topic of the playoffs, is there any greater competition than the NCAA Basketball Tournament? If there is, I dont want to know about it. Youve got 64 (or 65 teams if you call the play-in game by its technical name, the first round) of the best teams battling in a single loss elimination tournament. The first couple of rounds of the tournament are the stage for small schools to get a change to make names for themselves. In what other sport would Gonzaga get the chance to be considered a legitimate title contender? Who would have thought Bucknell could beat a team like Kansas? No one, which is why it is all the more exciting when it happens, as it did in the first round of last seasons tournament. The rest of the tournament, from the Sweet 16 on, we get to see every team leave it all on the court because one bad game means youre done. The best team might not always win the tournament, but youd be hard-pressed to make an argument that the winner didnt deserve it. You know what else is great? At the end of the season, excluding teams playing in the Ivy League, only two teams won their last game the winner of the NIT and the NCAA Champion.

While professional sports teams dont get to make their own schedules, college basketball certainly gets a nod over college football in this department. The early season in college football is mostly dull. We see the best teams in the country beat up on schools that no one has ever heard off, and youre lucky to get one game a week between nationally ranked schools who are not conference rivals. College basketball, on the other hand, offers stocked preseason tournaments such as the Maui Invitation and the NIT Season Tip-Off as well as made-for-TV match-ups like the Big 10/ACC Challenge. Fans get to see amazing games before conference play begins, and then youre only treated to such gems as Duke-North Carolina, UConn-Syracuse, and Oklahoma-Texas.

Ill take college over professional any day. There is something wonderful about players putting it all on the line for the love of the game, representing their school, leaving it all on the court. College athletes dont get to go home to a paycheck, or at least they shouldnt be going home to a paycheck. You dont see players like Terrell Owens running their mouths and being detrimental to the team because what matters to them are personal achievements and zeros at the end of their salary.

To be perfectly honest, I could go on forever as to why college basketball is the best sport around (like how NCAA Tournament Brackets are the best sports gambling opportunity, not that I participate in or condone such actions). I am going to end the column, however, for two important reasons: Firstly, an infinitely long column would probably get old quickly, and secondly, the NIT Season Tip-Off starts on ESPN 2 in a couple of minutes and I need to prepare a comfortable seat in front of my TV. Youll know where to find me until April 3, 2006.