It's difficult to draw positives from the NBA lockout, especially when you consider all those negatively impacted by it. But rather than abandoning the sport completely, NBA fans should use the work stoppage as an opportunity to soak up all that college basketball has to offer.
A lot of NBA fans probably follow the college game already, and understandbly so, as it features those who will soon take the league by storm. But for the more casual fans, and those whose focus is solely on the professional level, why not give the NCAA a chance to prove itself?
After all, the college game is often times a superior product. Admittedly, the NBA features the best players in the world. But once you get past the surplus of relatively unknown names, college basketball is typically far more entertaining on a nightly basis.
Regular season games inherently matter more at the college level because there's less of them. But given the tournament selection process, throwaway games simply don't exist.
In other words, should the Lakers or another elite NBA team be upset by a dismal opponent, the implications are most times minimal, as each club's status when it comes to the playoff picture often remains unchanged. But at the college level, even a game that seems relatively unimportant at the time holds major significance since the quality of wins and losses is taken into account when it comes time to determine which teams will enter into the big tournament in March.
Now, that notion probably isn't news to anyone. But it's worthy of a reminder for those looking to fill the void left by the NBA. Not every night's slate of college action is going to be sexy, but realizing the importance of each game over the course of a season can only heighten the viewing experience.
And watching these kids hit the hardwood should also serve as a reminder of why they're doing so. Obviously, the dream of most is to perform well, win games and eventually move on to the NBA, where they'll seek to do the same while also playing for a lucrative contract. But, above all, the kids are playing ball because they want to play ball.
This isn't to say that most NBA players lose their edge upon entering the league, but in college basketball, you know you're truly getting a maximum effort every night because a player failing to put forth such faces much harsher consequences. That's true from a team standpoint, as college basketball is arguably more team-oriented than the NBA, and from a personal standpoint, since a lack of effort reflects poorly on a player who is essentially auditioning for a future job.
Throughout much of the NBA lockout, we've heard players say they want to get back on the court. And while it's probably true for a majority of the players that make such statements, it's still difficult to get past the notion that the players are still partly responsible for the ongoing labor issues — even if it's just by physically refusing to play until the problem is resolved.
The NBA will be back at some point, whether it's this year or next. And when it does come back, many players currently representing their schools will be ready to make the leap to the big time. Now, with college basketball likely to see an increase in coverage, our awareness can also experience the same jump.
Rather than learning about players either just before they enter the NBA or after they're drafted, we, as fans, have more of an opportunity to get to know the nation's college players than ever before. Instead of knowing only of college's elite, we can use the extra time to learn more about players and their schools, which could also make tournament time that much more intriguing if we develop more of a vested interest.
College basketball is truly unique. And while it's special regardless of the NBA's status, our ability to fall back on the NCAA to keep our basketball interest in tact is something we shouldn't take for granted. In fact, college sports in general have always offered a nice alternative to professional action.
So as we spend this Thanksgiving minus the NBA, let's use it as an opportunity to be thankful for college basketball and college athletes everywhere, as they keep us entertained no matter what.