Basketball’s great, but which league entertains us best?

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The NBA and College Basketball Seasons are about to begin and there is no better time to revisit the debate on which league is more entertaining and deserving of your attention.  NCAA fan Rebecca Babcock and NBA advocate John Willcock duke it out.

NBA

Coaching/Game play

The quality of coaching and game play in the NBA is the best in the world. There are undoubtedly great coaches and players in college, but they are spread thinly among schools that prioritize sports. The talent in the NBA is deeper than in college basketball. The most significant differences between the NCAA and NBA’s gameplay are the foul-out rules, game time, threepoint line, and shot clock. The NCAA is said to have more emphasis on tactics and defensive execution. As a spectator I don’t care about who can run the best 2-3 zone defense; I want to see the fast-paced and high-quality game play of the NBA.

Competitiveness

The NBA, quite simply, has the best talent. Many critics have argued that NBA players are overpaid and  complacent once they’ve signed a significant contract. How then would one explain Dwyane Wade’s memorable 2006 finals performance with the Heat, or Kobe Bryant’s relentless pursuit of his fifth Championship this past season after signing an $87 million, three-year extension? In both instances, players met the expectations placed before them. True competitors prevail in the end, and the players who are financial drains do not last. NBA players are paid proportionally to the entertainment they generate.

Professional vs. Amateur

In 2006, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association agreed upon a collective agreement prohibiting players from going directly from high school to the NBA, or prep-to-pro. The agreement is indicative of a changing trend  The NCAA has typically acted as a farm system for the NBA. However the system is quickly evolving, with many elite players demonstrating their inclination to find their way into the spotlight of the NBA as quickly as possible. In the 2010 NBA draft, seven of the top 10 draft picks were collegiate freshmen opting out of college. In 2008, Brandon Jennings, a highly touted high school player, chose to play in Italy for a year as opposed to playing college ball. Both trends indicate that college basketball is becoming transitory.

– John Willcock

NCAA

Coaching/Game play

Coaching in the NCAA is much more tactical than coaching in the NBA. NBA offences are repetitive because teams use isolation plays for their star players over and over. How many times in an average game does Steve Nash drive to the basket and dish to one of his centers? How many isolations will the Lakers run for Kobe?  The teams in the NCAA have more varied offences. Duke, for instance, has a 3 out 2 in offence, 4 out offence, and a zone offence. The coach can strategically change offences, which creates variation in the game.

Competitiveness

Two words: March Madness. This tournament is the essence of competition. Players play urgently in the hopes of pursuing basketball professionally. In contrast to the NBA’s best-of-seven playoff format, this tournament is single-elimination, which raises the stakes and creates upsets that the NBA playoffs cannot offer. With a closer three-point line, any team can make a huge comeback if they catch fire from three-point land. Just last March, ninth seeded Northern Iowa beat the top-ranked, defending champion Kansas. This is common in the NCAA tournament. Also, the vast array of teams in the NCAA adds to the excitement. Who doesn’t like “discovering” a mid-major?

Professional vs. Amateur

The NBA is a business, so many of the decisions are made for financial, not competitive reasons. Because of salary cap restrictions, every year there are uneven trades that will unevenly stack certain teams while other teams become less competitive to save money. In the NCAA, without the aspect of money, you see passion, which is sometimes lost in the midst of business. After his final year at Gonzaga, Adam Morrison cried. The players of the NCAA play with a passion that is often absent in the NBA.  For example, this past season the Boston Celtics coasted through the regular season. In a shorter NCAA season ever game matters. On Selection Sunday every year deserving teams are left out of the tournament because of one or two bad losses.

– Rebecca Babcock

Winner:

NBA