1. The Cathedrals.
Most college basketball teams don’t play in arenas named after airlines, banks and cell phone companies. They play places like Cameron Indoor, Assembly Hall, Phog Allen Fieldhouse and Pauley Pavilion — courts so filled with history and tradition it’s like playing a game in a national monument. The fans aren’t corporate season ticket owners and celebrities. The seats and bleachers — yes, bleachers — are filled with students, alumni and locals who support the hometown team. These gyms are basketball meccas. Places fans dream of visiting before they die. No one says that about the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
2. The Rivalries.
Rivalries in the NBA are fleeting. They seem to change every couple years with fluctuation of the free agent market. In the NBA it doesn’t matter what jersey you wear or city you play for because the rivalry is between the players (e.g. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett’s rivalry with the Miami Heat). College rivalries are fueled by history, hate, competition and proximity. Fans would sell the naming rights to their first-born child for tickets to see Duke versus North Carolina or Louisville versus Kentucky.
3. The Villains.
Who is the biggest villain in the NBA? LeBron James? Dwight Howard? Metta World Peace? Honestly, who cares? World Peace fought an entire arena and no one cares anymore. All seven diehard Cleveland Cavalier fans have moved on from whole LeBron ordeal. Howard is a whiny nuisance, not a villain. Meanwhile in college, one of the best players in the country has served jail time, been caught with cocaine, and parties with fans after games. The head coach of one of the most historic programs in the country leaves recruiting violations everywhere he goes and may actually go into selling snake oil as a second career.
4. The Stressed-Out Fans.
When do you see fans react like this during a regular season NBA game? Critics like to say the regular season doesn’t matter in college basketball because of the unpredictability of the NCAA tournament — tell that to this kid.
6. The Old Fans.
I see your fairweather fans like Spike Lee and raise you an old turtleneck-clad alumni rocking an vintage polyester warm up while protesting a bad call.
7. Gus Johnson.
He could make a trip to the dry cleaner sound the greatest achievement of your life.
8. Bill Raftery.
Gus Johnson’s new partner at Fox Sports 1 is already a legend. Together they will be the most exciting — or excitable — announcing team in sports.
9. The Coaches.
Unlike the NBA where coaches are ego-managers who are discarded like egg shells whenever a temperamental player is unhappy with the offense, college coaches are king. People like Tom Izzo and Jim Boeheim build programs, recruit teams and build chemistry. Most importantly, they actually coach — which could only be said for about a handful of guys in the NBA.
13. The Heartbreak.
I know most people made full of Adam Morrison for crying on the court following Gonzaga’s loss to UCLA in the NCAA tournament, but you’ll never see emotion like this in the NBA. The most emotion you’ll see is MAYBE a player refuses to shake hands at the end of a playoff series.
15. The Madness.
Just watch the video.