NBA's March Madness Good Enough For Me

I usually find myself sitting alone this time of year. I know most fans are caught up in the NCAA Tournament, but I'm not in any pool and I haven't filled out a bracket in almost 10 years. I know somewhere, somebody is already balling up their bracket and preparing to throw it at the television because of some upset or some upset that wasn't. Me, I don't even pay much mind to March Madness.

I think it's mostly because in my six years covering the league, I've become a real NBA snob. I watched the college game with a pair of Jerry West logo-covered glasses. I check to see which players have pro potential, the ones whose games will translate at the next level. I really don't get too excited with the outcomes or the buzzer beaters anymore, which might explain why the only first round game I really care anything about is the one that pits two of the top prospects - Kansas State (Michael Beasley) vs. USC (O.J. Mayo).

I never won 22 in a row at Georgetown! (Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)

I think the other problem I have is with the NCAA. I'm really upset that the representative from my college conference - the MEAC - is always in that stupid play-in game on the Tuesday before the round of 64 begins. It's so crooked; some small school wins its conference tournament but doesn't have an automatic bid to the Thursday and Friday games because the NCAA wants to give an at-large bid to some big conference school and generate more money. What a joke. But I digress.

Fortunately, this season in the NBA provides so much excitement that it rivals the action of the NCAA Tournament this month, especially out West, where every loss for the playoff contenders has an apocalyptic feel to it.

There are some great games on tap this weekend. Tonight, the Boston Celtics will attempt to become the first team since November 2001 to sweep the Texas Triangle against the suddenly fueding Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers are in Utah, where Derek Fisher gets no love after helping the Jazz reach the conference finals. Tomorrow, Houston is in Golden State and Philadelphia is in Orlando in a possible playoff preview (if the Wizards don't hold on or move up). On Saturday, Boston is at New Orleans and Houston plays Phoenix. Then, on Sunday, the Spurs are in Dallas and the Warriors play the Lakers. Good stuff.

You want buzzer-beaters, I got buzzer-beaters! (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

I was in Philadelphia last night for Allen Iverson's return and it was one of the most exciting regular season games that I've ever watched in person - and that was because there was so much emotion in that game, from the fans, from Iverson and Iverson's current and former teammates.

The Denver Nuggets are in the ninth spot out West because they continue to struggle on the defensive end, letting their opponents get quick baskets so they can get the ball back and score right back. Philadelphia shot 60.3 percent from the floor last night. The night before, Detroit shot 60.4 percent. I know the Nuggets scored a season-high 168 points against Seattle on Sunday, but in their past three games, they have allowed 367 points (an average of 122.3). I know that the pace of the game has a lot to do with it, and their games have a lot of possessions, but my goodness.

You want drama, I got drama! (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

I found it really odd that the Nuggets had Marcus Camby guarding Andre Miller for a good portion down the stretch. Are they that lacking in perimeter defense that they have to use a 6-11 center? It's really hard for me to come down hard on the Nuggets when they are 12 games over .500 and would be the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.

Watching that game, though, it got me to thinking that it would be awesome if the Nuggets could just swap rosters with the Knicks or the Bulls, so that the East could be a bit more exciting and unpredictable this postseason.

Anyway, one of the biggest surprises out West has been the struggles of the San Antonio Spurs. The defending champions are in seventh - yes, seventh - and have lost four in a row and six of seven overall. This is an uncharacteristic late season lull for the Spurs, who are historically pretty awesome in March.

Last season, they went 13-2 in March, and they haven't lost more than five games in March since the B.D. (Before Duncan) Era in 1997. That year, the Spurs were in full shutdown mode and sat David Robinson in an effort to get more ping-pong balls.

But this recent slide is odd, and a bit disconcerting. I watched them in Philadelphia on Saturday and I couldn't believe how composed and steely the 76ers were, while the Spurs never made a serious run. (That has a lot to do with how good the Sixers have become. I've seen them play live three times in the past two months, and I still cannot believe that this team is getting it done, but they are. The Wizards have to keep winning).

You want dejection, I got that, too. At least right now. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

After the loss, I asked Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich how he felt about his team: "You'd rather win than lose, but I'm not too concerned about that," he said. "I'm more concerned about playing consistently and competing, no matter what the situation is, learning getting smarter and I think we've done that every game. I'm really proud of what they've done, even though the record doesn't show it. We just move on from there. There is a lot of time before the playoffs, and you just want to get better."

Popovich was then asked if he was worried. "Worry isn't something that you do," he said. "You just go out and play. You try to improve. You don't have time to worry."

I talked to a Western Conference scout after the game and he told me, "The Spurs look old." I know that folks have been saying that about the Spurs for years, and they keep finding a way to get it done. But during a time when they usually make their run, the Spurs look like they are moving with the assistance of a walker. How often does San Antonio blow a 22-point lead at home, like it did on Monday against Boston? I'm not ready to write off the Spurs, because that would be foolish. They can get rolling again, beginning tonight against in Chicago.

They finish the month with games against Sacramento, Dallas, Orlando, the Clippers, Minnesota and Houston, so the Spurs can right the ship before the end of the month. But they'll need to get it together with a rough April that includes two games against Utah and more against Golden State, Phoenix, the Lakers.

This should be fun, folks. March Madness, NBA style.

By Michael Lee |  March 20, 2008; 3:16 PM ET
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Posted by: Billy Packer and Jim Nance | March 20, 2008 4:01 PM


Scrubs throwing things at the TV during the first round for games featuring teams they don't have some personal connection to is just lame.


Posted by: aa | March 20, 2008 4:12 PM

I totally agree with you Michael. No offense to the young guys, I just don't like the short 3 point line and the long shot clock of college basketball. The USC/K ST game was the only one I was interested in today too.

Posted by: Dude | March 20, 2008 4:17 PM

I agree with this message...

Posted by: Fenty | March 20, 2008 4:23 PM

I'm not Ivan Carter but "I approve this message"

Posted by: NotIvan | March 20, 2008 4:47 PM

It's good to hear I'm not the only basketball junkie not completely wrapped up in the tourney. But, since all the Wiz games I miss are wins, I may have to stop watching all together.

Posted by: Jim | March 20, 2008 6:10 PM

Just too hard trying to follow College Basketball. Too many teams. To many conferences. Too many players.

Like you Mike, the only reason I watch College ball anymore is to get a feel for the next generation coming into the NBA.

The best athletes in the world play in the NBA.

Posted by: Rook | March 20, 2008 7:49 PM

Thanks Jim for taking one for the team ;)

Posted by: B.A.M. | March 20, 2008 7:52 PM

I prefer the NBA over college hoops also, but I just had to cut away from the Celtics-Mavs to watch gutsy little Belmont come within a hair of upsetting Duke. That was an absolutely great game.

Posted by: John Brisker | March 20, 2008 11:13 PM

Considering that a typical NBA game consists of a bunch of overpaid prima donnas running the same three plays over and over again (if they can be bothered to learn three plays), I can see why the NBA is so unpopular except among a constantly shrinking group of die-hards.

Posted by: Bob | March 21, 2008 2:56 AM

Thanks for this post, I was so worried that all I'd be able to read today would be NCAA coverage. It kills me to watch kids throw away basketball games with terrible turnovers and missed free-throws. Its an inferior product of basketball. The only thing I can relate it to would be people who prefer MLS Soccer to European soccer. I don't get it. Thanks for the post, keep it up, some of us will be reading during the NCAA's.

Posted by: C-Ritch | March 21, 2008 8:53 AM

You have it right C-Ritch... The NBA is to basketball what the major European leagues (England, Italy, Spain, Germany) are to real Football... I do think that US College Hoops are unique though... the better comparison is US MLS to European Champions League basketball.

Posted by: khrabb | March 21, 2008 10:22 AM

If you like basketball, you should like basketball. Tell me about a good high school game, and I'm there.

Plus, March Madness isn't just about basketball, it's about the little guy taking on the big guy. It's more than basketball. You don't get that with the NBA, which is just well-paid professional athletes playing each other before going out together to Caron's ritzy birthday party.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 21, 2008 11:05 AM

Yeah, I like golf too but Are you going to watch Tiger Woods or a bunch of duffers? And Bob, if you'd bother watching teams like Houston, Detroit, Boston, Utah, Phoenix, San Antonio, New Orleans, you'd know that NBA has plenty of dedicated team basketball, motion offenses, and dedicated defenses at a level that college kids can't touch. You can watch kids or you can watch men, but don't try to pretend that the kids play the game better. And at least these men are getting paid a fair share of all the revenues they generate. The college game is full of so much hypocrisy and exploitation it's hard to watch.

Posted by: Prazak | March 21, 2008 11:14 AM

"Plus, March Madness isn't just about basketball, it's about the little guy taking on the big guy."

But is that really true anymore? Because with the rise of the so-called mid-majors and the flood of the best players leaving for the NBA after their mandatory 1-year service in college, the days of dominating college basketball dynasties seem to be at an end. Parity seems to be the current status quo across the board.

Posted by: kalorama | March 21, 2008 12:16 PM

Yeah, I'm good on college hoops. Certainly the atmosphere and energy (from the crowd) is greater than the average NBA game, but I'll take the skill and athleticism of the NBA over college hoops anyday. See, I'm the same as Mr. Lee in that whenever I do find myself watching a college game, I'm only looking to see which players games will translate to the next level... That said, let's go Hoyas!

Posted by: Essex | March 21, 2008 1:01 PM

"Parity seems to be the current status quo across the board.

Posted by: kalorama | March 21, 2008 12:16 PM"

Tell that to Miss. Valley State.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 21, 2008 1:36 PM

I like the NBA and college, but have you ever switched channels to the Wizards after having watch a college hoops game? The change in the pace, the lack of movement and passing, the less dramatic 3-pointer are all reasons to enjoy the Madness. Plus you get to see lots of defenses you dont see in the pros.

Kalorama - the David and Goliath matchups are still there. Belmont beating Duke would have been huge. George Mason beating a UConn team that had 3-5 NBA caliber players was huge. None of Mason's players were NBA good.

Posted by: Devil's Advocate | March 21, 2008 4:53 PM

Bob, please don't make me laugh. Do you even watch the NBA? No you don't and you are just stereotyping it. Watch teams like Detroit, San Antonio, Houston, Boston, Utah, Portland, New Orleans and many others..those teams play great basketball, great defense, teamwork..take the Rockets, for's a joy watching them playing. I love how they play team basketball and you can see how much they love playing, what you posted is just plain FALSE and RIDICULOUS. Watch the NBA and then speak instead of unfairly trashing this FANTASTIC league..

and this season is great. The NBA's western conference is the best thing going on in sports. There are just 5-6 games between the #1 seed and the #8 seed and everything can happen. A 5-game losing streak and the #1 seed could even miss the playoffs. Not to mention that I keep seeing great games everynight in the NBA. So, you shouldn't really talk trash about the NBA if you dont even follow it. Like I said, watch and then speak. And if overpaid players stop you from watching a basketball game, from watching the best bball players in the world playing in the best bball league in the world, then I doubt you are much of a basketball fan to begin with.

And as far as the NBA being unpopular, do you realize that NBA articles are among the most popular/read articles on many sports sites? I post on several sports forums and the NBA is among the most popular section everytime.

And tv ratings are huge this year and the NBA is having dramatic ratings increases compared to last season. Merchandise sales are through the roof and the NBA revenues hit a new record last season. Unpopular? HAHAHAHAHAHA please Bob, don't make me laugh.

Seriously, I can't stand NBA haters. They are so annoying and all they do in their pitiful lives is bashing the NBA. That's their #1 passion they have. Trashing the NBA and stereotyping it. NBA haters are some of the most annoying people in the world. I'd never be friend with them.

Posted by: nba rocks | March 21, 2008 8:51 PM

btw, Bob no offense but why did you even read this article and posted in the "wizards insider" section?

Another proof that NBA haters are some of the most annoying people in the world. They hate the NBA, yet they waste their time reading the NBA section and the articles NBA columnists post. Just embarrassing

and if you don't like this NBA season, then you are not a basketball fan PERIOD. You are missing some great basketball and I feel sorry for you, NBA haters.

Posted by: nbarocks | March 21, 2008 8:58 PM

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