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Monaco: Basketball in NBA is inferior to college game (April 2)

Mike Monaco | Sunday, April 1, 2012

Forget the brackets, betting and buzzer-beaters. Forget the office pools and unheard-of schools. March Madness certainly has all that and more. But there’s another reason why these 67 games, and the college basketball season as a whole, are the best hoops in the world.

Yes, I have heard of the NBA and I am aware (although Charles Barkley is not) of the skill discrepancy between a top collegiate team and a cellar-dwelling professional squad. If anyone tells you Sunday’s NBA games were the best basketball of the weekend, just wait for the punch line, because yesterday was April Fool’s Day, after all. I don’t care that the NBA has deadeye shooters, rim-rattling dunkers and tree-like shot blockers littered throughout the league – I’ll take the college game any day.

No, I am not crazy. I’d rather watch players such as Kentucky forward Anthony Davis try on both ends of the floor. I’d rather see him come up with a blocked shot on defense, sprint down the floor and throw down an alley-oop to get his team back in the game. As a matter of fact, I don’t even need such “SportsCenter” Top Ten caliber plays to see the passion.

Give me a benchwarmer taking a charge or a walk-on diving

for a loose ball. In Saturday’s matchup with Louisville, Davis routinely found himself in press row or behind the cheerleaders after chasing down loose balls. Forget about Amar’e Stoudemire, I want to watch the players who play with passion and intensity.

Yes, I do know there are players in the NBA who don’t fit the slacker stereotype (see Faried, Kenneth.) But the league is chock-full of guys who do fit the bill. In the words of “SportsCenter” anchor Steve Levy, “In the NBA, everyone makes a run.” How can this happen? There’s no reason why clearly inferior teams should be able to sneak their way back into a game against a juggernaut. And it is inexcusable for an Eastern Conference contender like the Orlando Magic, with trade-waffling megastar Dwight Howard, to lose by 16 points to the 7-42 Charlotte Bobcats as they did in early March.

No, I do not blame it on parity, sheer luck or the rigorous nature of an 82-game season. The problem with the NBA is effort. If Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony played with even half the effort of Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft, he would be a no-doubt MVP candidate and the Knicks would not be mired in mediocrity. Guys in the NBA just don’t bring the requisite effort level every single night.

Yes, I do want a team full of Aaron Crafts. He is the type of player who makes the NCAA better than the NBA. For example, take Saturday’s Final Four showdown between Kansas and Craft’s Buckeyes. Craft led the team with his pestilential defense, which can be directly attributed to level of effort. And while we’re at it, I want my basketball players to have Craft’s leadership.

No, I do not want players who play to fulfill their stat quotas. Too many players in the NBA are worried about their points-per-game average when they should be solely focused on if their team has more points than the opposition. To employ an oft-used cliché, college players compete for the name on the front of the jersey. I’m not convinced some NBA players care about the team for which they play.

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.