Tonight's National Championship Game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Kansas Jayhawks promises to be a real barn burner—a historic matchup of two college basketball royalties set in the most historic of cities, New Orleans.
But don't get too excited just yet. Even if you are convinced that tonight's game will have you riveted to your couch like a thirteen-year-old girl during the season finale of Teen Mom 2, don't expect the same next year.
Consider the "watchability" of the NCAA Men's Championship Game the past couple years. Last year's championship game was an absolute abomination and utterly not entertaining, not because of a lack of intrigue (Could Kemba Walker take the Huskies all the way? What about Butler? Could they take advantage of a second chance?), but because the basketball was just so bad. The Bulldogs shot just 18 percent from the field in a game that had basketball purists and casual fans alike squirming in their seats.
Keep going. The 2010 Championship Game featured Butler and Duke, and while it came down to the wire, the game itself was low-scoring and sloppy (Butler shot below 35 percent from the floor as a team...I promise I'm not picking on the Bulldogs). 2009 displayed another disparity in talent, with Michigan State trailing North Carolina by 19 at half in a game that was never in doubt.
College basketball has become a farce thanks to the NBA's "one and done" rule, and no matter how hard I tried to get excited about Saturday's Final Four, I just couldn't. I couldn't invest time and emotion into a spectacle that felt so much like an anomaly. Half these players will be riding the pine in the NBA D-League next year (Anthony Davis is the next Hasheem Thabeet, mark my words. Think about it, long, lanky, not particularly strong, regularly dunks over 6'5" opposing forwards...won't be that easy in the NBA).
College basketball as a whole has seen a marked, traceable decline in the quality of play. I was talking with a similar-minded friend the other day, and he raised an interesting point—"Why make kids go to college?"
He couldn't be more right. Why make them? They clearly don't want to be there, likely won't attend any of their classes after the spring tournaments are over and will sign an agent as soon as they can.
What if I told you (no, that's not the start of an ESPN Films presentation) that you could have $5 million next year, but you had to attend a year of university first? Don't worry, your performance at said university will have no standing on whether you get the money or not, just make sure you showcase your physical talents enough to get drafted.
Perhaps it's an overly sentimental perspective on things, but I'd rather watch student athletes playing with heart, developing their games and learning the sport with respect than robots shuffling their way to a paycheck.
Back to the issue of quality of play. If you have guys leaving for the draft as freshman, they are deprived of developing their basketball skills. They can coast by on sheer athleticism in a more diluted pool of talent, but the guys who play in the NBA are the strongest, fastest basketball players in the world and some of them are among the world's best athletes (if LeBron James ever wanted to patch things up with the city of Cleveland, he'd return in the twilight of his career and try out for the Browns. The guy is a physical freak who I'm convinced could excel at any level of competition. This wouldn't happen for two reasons—LeBron isn't that much of a competitor and 2) the gods of sport hate the city of Cleveland).
Enjoy tonight's game, it promises to be a real show. Just don't fool yourself into thinking this is the norm or that marquee matchups between top-flight squads are here to stay.