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VALDEZ: Competition of NCAA is more thrilling than NBA

Opinion Column: The Power of An Open Mind

If you follow sports in any capacity, then you are aware of Zion Williamson and the Duke Blue Devils. The combination of a legendary men’s basketball program with one of the most hyped NBA draft prospects in recent memory is enough to be in the news constantly. It felt like ESPN was posting about them on Instagram every 10 minutes. So much so, in fact, that people in the comments section started saying things like, “What did Zion eat for breakfast?” and “What time did he brush his teeth this morning?” 

Duke was the talk of the town. It had the best team, with the best player in the country. So it obviously was going to win March Madness, right?

Wrong. Instead, it lost to Michigan State in the Final Four. Then, this past Monday night, the University of Virginia went on to win its first-ever National Championship. As I watched the team celebrate among the confetti and screaming fans, I thought to myself, “Wow, good for them. That must be cool.” As the night went on, though, I realized something. This result is a perfect example of why college basketball is more fun to watch than the NBA right now.

If you think I am exaggerating, hear me out. Of course, the professional players are better, and always will be. The stars in the league, such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden, are capable of ridiculously good performances day-in and day-out. Of course, it is fun to watch Antetokounmpo ferociously dunk on someone and Harden scoring 50 points at will. But at the end of the day, we still know who is going to prevail in the end. 

As long as the Golden State Warriors maintain their current all-star starting lineup, they are going to keep winning championships. Ever since they signed Kevin Durant in 2016, the NBA has become very predictable. They have won the title three times out of the past four seasons, with the only exception being a Game Seven loss to LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the 2016 Finals. They will most likely win this year, too. As a result of their dominance, I have not watched the NBA nearly as much as I used to in recent years. 

The good news is that they might break up next year. There are rumors that Durant, in particular, will leave in free agency. If this happens, this will finally level the playing field, making the league interesting again. It would be nice to not know who is going to win the finals before the season starts. I have almost forgotten what it feels like.

Here is the thing, though – in today’s NBA, there is always the potential of a few stars teaming up and forming a near-unstoppable super team. Before the Warriors, it was the Miami Heat in the beginning of the decade. Who is to say another team will not start dominating the league? Maybe James will recruit someone to the Lakers. Or Durant could start another super team somewhere else. Who knows?

In the NCAA tournament, though, there is no chance of that happening. There are no free agency or trades. No big-money contracts. Just a bunch of highly motivated players giving it their all, every game. Some teams are more talented than others, but there are always upsets. For example, did anyone predict that Virginia was going to win this year? Most of the predictions I saw were Duke or North Carolina winning. 

Furthermore, most of the games come down to the last minute. Duke’s loss to Michigan was a thriller. I remember my roomates and I were in shock when RJ Barrett missed a crucial free throw in the final seconds. We were saying things like, “They really lost after all that hype?” and Oh my god, they are actually going to lose!” 

We could not believe it, but at the same time we could. This is exactly the type of thing that happens all the time in March Madness.

Sure, someone could upset the Warriors this year. But it is unlikely, and I bet the playoffs and finals will be nowhere near as entertaining as that Duke game. You know why? Because even though the Blue Devils were the favorite, it was not guaranteed that they would win. The Warriors winning the finals this year is as close to a guarantee as we will ever see in sports. Where is the fun in that? All we can hope for is that one day, the super team trend in the NBA slows down. Then, and only then, will it can become an epic, edge-of-your-seat event like March Madness.

Josh Valdez is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and media studies and minoring in creative writing. His column, “The Power of an Open Mind,” runs on alternate Thursdays.


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