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April 8, 2019 — How far the mighty NCAA has fallen

This evening, a man in a black-and-white striped shirt will walk into the middle of a custom-built sprung maple floor and toss up a leather sphere in between two oversized men.

Time was, the oversized men and the people wearing matching uniforms were 18-to-22-year-olds playing the game of basketball for the love of it in the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament.

But now, college basketball is a multibillion-dollar business, one from which many of its athletes have been opting out for three decades.

With the original “hardship” draft, a raft of “can’t miss” high-school phenoms, and the current run of “one and done” prospects, coaches and teams are trying to build an igloo in a tropical desert.

The departure of first-year and second-year players to the NBA has produced some awesome talents, but has created a number of busts. As good as Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz played in college, they seemingly can’t hit free throws in an NBA game. Kwame Brown, Greg Oden, and Anthony Bennett were first overall picks (albeit only Brown came straight out of high school). And don’t get me started on Sebastian Telfair.

The talent drain from the NCAA to the NBA means that the so-called “blue blood” teams such as Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, and North Carolina keep having to reinvent themselves every year. An entire conference full of blue-bloods such as the PAC-12 played so poorly this year that many bracketeers predicted that only one team would make it into the Division I tournament.

Heck, last year’s top overall team, Virginia, got knocked out by this little engineering and commuter school called the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. To its credit, the Cavaliers made it to the final this evening against Texas Tech.

For me, the quality of Division I men’s college basketball has gone way, way down in the last 15 years or so, to the point where it’s become unwatchable.

Indeed, I seem to get a better overall entertainment value watching the NBA Developmental League (now known as the G-League). The league started with humble roots in the Carolinas and only about six teams.

But when the Los Angeles Lakers became the first NBA team to own a Developmental League franchise outright, and base it near its home city (the Los Angeles D-fenders), other NBA teams saw a way to develop players and offer affordable tickets to see a professional basketball product.

If you watch a G-League game, you see a lot of the speed, adept passing, and quick shooting you will find in an NBA game. Frankly, it’s better entertainment value than the 18-year-olds missing open jumpers.

 

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