This concept doesn’t need a lot of introduction since it basically explains itself. There are a lot of ridiculous forms of idiocy that exist in college basketball. What’s interesting is that a lot of college basketball’s deficiencies are perfect metaphors for the college system as a whole. Let’s explore them together, shall we?
1. The rules don’t make any damn sense.
Can anyone explain why the 35 second shot clock exists? The shorter three point line? The over-generous bonus system? If you can, I’ll pay you the billion dollars Warren Buffett definitely won’t have to shell out this year after that Duke collapse. Can you tell me why universities have attendance rules? If I can ace your class without showing up, that means one of two things: either you’re a shitty teacher, or I don’t need to take your fucking class. It’s pretty simple. Test from your lectures instead of the book, and then kids will actually have to show up. Also, why ban alcohol from dorms? Yeah, I get that freshmen aren’t old enough to legally drink, but your job isn’t to uphold the law, it’s to keep your students safe. Wouldn’t you rather a bunch of dumbass kids get shitfaced in their rooms rather than at some sketchy apartment complex across town and then drive back drunk? Your move, ethics committee.
2. It barely prepares anyone for the next level.
Everyone knows the one-and-done system is fucked. Everyone. It’s so dumb that it’s common knowledge for people who don’t even like basketball. But we always seem to forget that college teams don’t care if their players are prepared for the NBA. Sure, it’s helpful as a recruiting tool for Syracuse to remind prospects that Melo balled out for them back in the day, but those dudes aren’t going to make any school decisions based on a guy who played there 10 years ago. Coaches care about one thing only: winning. You can’t really blame them, because that’s the only thing they’re incentivized to do. Some of the good ones will try to impart some life discipline while they can, but the effectiveness of that is minimized when the most developed athletes leave after one year.
Similarly, how many classes can you point to that have really helped you out in your postgrad life? Or how useful was your school’s career center? I get that there is an argument in favor of education for education’s sake, but if you’re going to present college as a necessity for a career, maybe you should focus more on the job-gettin’ part rather than the book-learnin’ part.
3. Sometimes your skills just don’t translate.
Look, I’m not going to blame everything on the institution even though it’s fun to do so. Sometimes people are just more cut out for school than they are for life. How many people with 4.0 GPAs do you know who are now thriving in their careers? A few, I’m sure. But I think you’ll also find that those who are best at academics aren’t great at practicing what they learn out in the real world. The real world isn’t about knowledge–it’s about application, charisma, and luck. This is why you’ll often find that the best students go to graduate school and become professors.
Many of the best college players never panned out in the NBA. It wasn’t because their coaches failed them, but because their game was tailored for the college style of play. College basketball rewards physically dominant big men, whether they have actual post moves or not. It also rewards undersized, lights out shooters, who can handle the ball at least moderately well. The last guy to fit the latter mold and actually become a star in the league is Steph Curry. Other than him, it’s hard to find another example of that kind of player in the last 20 years (and no, J.J. Redick is not a star, you goons). Often, you’ll find that the best college players go to work in the athletic department and become coaches.
4. It’s made better by gambling.
I don’t inherently care about any college team in the tournament. My alma mater hasn’t made the tournament in years. So how do I keep it interesting? By putting some skin in the game. I throw in on a bracket pool, and then I also bet on individual games. I’ve got all kinds of bets going right now. Some involve money, some involve favors, and some involve things I’d rather not mention publicly–let’s all just pray I don’t lose.
College itself is also made better by gambling. It’s a fun way to spend some extra student loan money, and hey, if you win, you can slightly lessen your debt. I know this is a little bit of a stretch since you could argue that life in general is made better by gambling. But college is a part of life, so I think I can still count it.
Ultimately college and NCAA basketball are flawed systems that are probably too large to be completely fixed. But there are a few small things that we can do to at least make them more interesting. Decision makers, if you read this, cut a deal with the NBA to make the professional eligibility rules more like baseball, extend the three point line so players can spread the floor, and for God’s sake, get rid of the damn shot clock. University administrators, I have nothing for you. Enjoy the student loan wealth while you can.