Saturday, March 26, 2011

NCAA Basketball, Where Talent and Flash are Losing Horses

When I watch college basketball games, I notice that the defenders seem to exert more energy and they are more effective. Even in last night's Ohio State vs. Kentucky game, featuring at least a handful of future NBAers, I saw players frequently pick up their dribble, flummoxed, when double-teamed or challenged by a feisty face-up man. Offensive sets feature (i) a lot of perimeter passing, (ii) a complicated "weave" look, or else (iii) a total breakdown ending in an errant pass or a slapped-free ball. In the NBA, your typical player (who formerly was the very best of the best in the college circuit) has the speed, agility, and handle to dribble around a good defender; your average college man cannot. Is this because of the apparently tougher effort given by college defenders? Not exactly; the usual college player has less athletic ability than even an NBA schlub; the undergraduate needs to exert himself harder to cover a given ground in a given time.

So to recap, dribble-driving is relatively poor in the university game, and so is defense. But in the NCAA ranks, decent defense can usually trump a dribbler; in the NBA, the reverse prevails. Even future studs of pro ball-handling are usually not at their highest powers while still in college.

Consider the following talent-laden NCAA showdowns. In the NBA, this just wouldn't happen, even in one game. Yes, "anything can happen" on one night, but with the championship on the line, the best players generally raise their level of play commensurately.

  • In 2008, Kansas, featuring Mario Chalmers and Darrell Arthur, beat future all-world point guard Derrick Rose in the championship game.

  • Duke featured five future NBA players on its championship 2001 squad, but none of them had the explosiveness off the dribble possessed by Gilbert Arenas. No matter; Arenas was stymied by the defense of Shane Battier and Chris Duhon, and Duke beat Arizona. (Arizona avenged this loss ten years later, in its March 24th, 2011 victory over the Blue Devils.)

  • How did North Carolina State bottle up a point-maker like Clyde Drexler?
  • 1 comment:

    H.O.S.S. said...

    I disagree with this post. Basketball is a team game at both the NCAA and pro levels. So yes, a team like Duke in 2001, which was stacked with top talent and which played a disciplined team game, prevailed over an Arizona squad that relied excessively on a single player.

    Yes, the talent is superior in the NBA. That is the ultimate truism. I didn't need a blog post to tell me that.

    Yes, there is more one-one-one isolation in the NBA, which is partly a function of more athletic players. Also a truism.

    And there is more team defense played in College.