I have a confession to make. For the past 5 or 6 years I haven't cared about college basketball at all. This wasn't always the case, in the late 80's early 90's I watched every Seton Hall game I could. P.J. Carlesimo was the coach and Luther Wright, Andrew Gaze, Danny Hurley, John Morton, and Terry "Don't Mess With" Dehere were household names. Every year I'd fill out my bracket and adjust my schedule to catch as many games as possible (Of course, they always showed Duke, God I hated Duke). My freshman year at UVA our team went to the Elite 8 in the NCAA tournament. I can still remember beating Kansas in the Sweet 16.
So what happened? Well, college basketball became a complete joke. The most talented players skipped college altogether. The borderline superstar talents went to campus for one year, then jumped ship. Coaches and coaching became irrelevant at the powerhouse schools and the balance of power shifted to schools like Gonzaga, where coaches had a huge advantage because their "less talented" players would stick around for 4 years and learn a system. The NCAA basically became a prep school for guys who merely wanted to move their stock up in the first round. Guys who were already projected that high skipped it altogether.
I made the decision to stop caring about college hoops a couple of years ago, and haven't really thought twice about it until a couple of weeks ago. I've found myself tuning in whenever Oden or Durant are playing on ESPN (which seems to be every night). I've been reading stories about college hoops online again. I became interested. This interest bloomed into something more tonight when I saw a DirecTV commercial for their NCAA package. $69 for every game in the NCAA tournament. I saw the commercial, and I actually thought about buying it, and I'm still thinking about it.
The NBA enacted a rule last year stating that players had to wait at least 1 year after graduating high school before becoming eligible for the draft. This meant that Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, among others, had no choice but to pick a school. In my mind, this ruling has brought college basketball back from the dead. Think about it, we've got a Bird vs. Magic situation brewing, and I'm think I might be willing to pay $69 to watch it unfold.
After watching the Texas/Texas A&M double overtime thriller in which Kevin Durant had 30 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks and Acie Law IV had 33 I'm now completely sold. Sign me up DirecTV, I want to see how big this kid can play in the tourney. I want to see if Greg Oden will assert himself on offense, or if he'll play the Bill Russell role as Ohio State marches through the early rounds. I want to watch Florida sleepwalk into an early upset. The superstars are back in college hoops, and there's nothing better than to see one exceptional player put a team on his back for a couple of weeks. The NCAA's used to be the proving ground for NBA-level talent. If you can do it there (like Jordan, Kareem, Walton, etc. did it) you've got a shot in the big leagues. If you can't (err...I'm looking at you Webber) then maybe you'll never win a ring. Who knows?
I'm just glad I've got a reason to watch college hoops again, and it's ironic that we've got David Stern to thank for that.