So, the NBA playoffs have started, and I should probably be interested. But I’m not.
I just find it too hard to enjoy the NBA immediately after the NCAA Tournament. The Tourney has a level of drama and energy with which the NBA cannot compete.
There are a couple of advantages the NBA playoffs have over the NCAA tournament. First, NBA players are better, even on the Cavs and Nuggets. Second, from the purist’s standpoint, the NBA playoffs are a better vehicle for selecting the most deserving champion. I’ll admit that I love the dramatic upsets that happen in the NCAA Tournament. From a fan’s perspective, it is great to look back on the championship runs of North Carolina State in 1983, Villanova in 1985, Kansas in 1988, Arizona in 1997, or maybe even Syracuse this year. But, none of these teams were really the best. In the NBA, flukes are unlikely because of the seven-game series format.
Meanwhile, top teams in college hoops can be ousted by one bad game. Arizona and Kentucky were the two best teams throughout this season, but neither reached the Final Four. In fact, since the NCAA tournament expanded to a field of 64 in 1985, only three teams (’92 Duke, ’95 UCLA, ’01 Duke) have finished the regular season ranked No. 1 and then won the tourney.
Having better players and picking a more deserving champion are reasons that would seem to make the playoffs superior to the tournament. However, I find the NCAA tourney more enjoyable for the following reasons.
Maybe it’s a product of the one-game elimination format, but the NCAAs have so much more intensity. There is always that sense of desperation, especially down the stretch. Guys on the bench are always jumping around throughout the game.
In the NBA, there is a lot of lackadaisical play. Players walk up and down the court and stand around a little too frequently for my taste.
Style of play
The NBA has its basis in one-on-one match-ups. If you’re lucky, maybe there is a little two-man game. When there isn’t one-on-one on the perimeter, there is the pound the ball into the post game. In theory, a dominant center being double-teamed in the post should free up shooters. However, this style is slow and repetitive, occasionally begging the question: Why are the other eight guys on the floor? It doesn’t work for me.
The post is not as much of a factor in the college game because most teams do not have true centers. A college center can be 6 feet 8 inches and end up as a power forward in the pros (Elton Brand and soon Nick Collison). Therefore, the guards tend to control the game. I would much rather watch three-point shooting and drives than see big guys back each other down while everyone else stands around.
This is just a criticism of the NBA at this moment. Ever since Michael Jordan’s second retirement, the Eastern Conference has become far inferior to the West. This year, the Eastern playoff teams are a combined 105-119 against the Western Conference. In contrast, the Western playoff teams went an incredible 164-76 against the East.
The problem with the playoffs is that half of the games do not matter at all because no Eastern Conference team has a shot at winning the championship. The NBA Finals will be over in four or five games and not have the drama of Syracuse’s 81-78 victory of Kansas in this year’s NCAA title game.
Granted, NCAA championship games are not always great, i.e. Maryland’s 64-52 win over Indiana in a sloppy game last year, but at least we have some hope. Do any Eastern Conference teams? Nope.
Right now, it is just too soon to start watching something that cannot hold my interest for too long. Maybe I will pick up the playoffs later on when the Lakers play the Kings for the NBA championship/Western Conference title.