Giving Thanks in College Basketball

Posted by Henry Bushnell on November 27th, 2014

It’s Turkey Day! For many, that’s just an excuse to gather with family, eat good food and watch football. But it’s also a time to give thanks. So what are we thankful for in college basketball?


Happy Turkey Day Everyone!

The short answer is “a lot.” But here are some specifics:

  • Variety – Why do we love college basketball? Rush the Court counted down the ways in the buildup to the 2014-15 season. But if there’s one word that’s not ‘excitement’ or ‘passion,’ it might be variety. Those 30 reasons conveyed that. Every team has its own identity. There are so many different offensive systems, so many unorthodox players, so many different coaching philosophies, so many distinct home court advantages… I could go on and on. But the point is, you can go to any game between any two of 351 teams, and the experience will be unique. And for that we are thankful.
  • The unexpected – In the NBA, despite it being a mere month into the season, you can all but rule out 20-25 teams from legitimately competing for a championship. You know who is going to be there in the end. On the other hand, the college game is defined by the unexpected. We are thankful for every single upset, whether it’s the Davidson-like NCAA tournament run, the double-digit seed winning its conference tournament, or even just the Eastern Washingtons beating the Indianas.
  • Legendary coaches – Naturally, there is a lot of year-to-year turnover in college basketball. But it’s the everlasting coaches that provide some necessary consistency. Guys like Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Bo Ryan and Tom Izzo give you a single entity to which to attach yourself as a fan. And for them we are thankful.

  • John Calipari – Has Calipari reached legend status yet? Maybe, maybe not. But he brings so much to the sport. And it’s not just that he assembles teams of 19-year-old superstars year after year; it’s that he’s able develop them into a collective unit. Yes, he can recruit, but he’s also just a fantastic basketball coach. He’s also a somewhat controversial figure whom many fans love to hate. But every sport needs that. So we are thankful for Coach Cal.
  • Freshmen – They represent the beginning of college basketball’s cycles, and every year give the game new life. Players like Jahlil Okafor, Stanley Johnson and Cliff Alexander give as something new and refreshing, but also something unknown to look forward to every season.
  • Seniors – The freshmen are the hype-machines, but it’s often the four year players that dedicate themselves to a coach and a program who give us the feel-good stories we crave. Sometimes they’re not the most talented, but we are thankful for them because they remain the heart and soul of college hoops.
  • Rivalries – They’re the dates you mark on your calendar. They’re the ones you camp out for. They’re the ones that are great to watch just for the passion and intensity, even if you couldn’t care less who wins. We are thankful for rivalries like Duke-North Carolina, Cincinnati-Xavier and Gonzaga-Saint Mary’s because for two hours, they just amplify everything we love about basketball.
  • Traditions – Camping out for games… cutting down nets… fight songs, alma maters, crazy mascots… don’t underestimate the value of traditions. Almost every school has their own, which affirms the identity of the program and its fans. Everybody is thankful for their team’s tradition(s).
  • Rick Pitino press conferencesEnough said.
  • Holiday tournaments – The non-conference season can get a little bland at times, but the holiday tournaments like Maui give us a landmark; they give us something to look forward to that can satisfy our appetites until conference play begins. So for them, we are thankful.
  • Dick Vitale – I know a lot of people find his act tiresome, but I can’t think of a broadcaster with more genuine passion for the game than Dickie V. This picture of Vitale in the airport after the postponement of last year’s Duke-UNC game is amazing, and is so emblematic of that passion. He is absolutely devastated. This man loves the game more than anybody. As Vitale gets up there in age, we are thankful for every last game he calls.
  • The innocence of college kids – One of the criticisms of both college basketball and the NBA is that the regular season doesn’t mean anything – that in the grand scheme of things, the games are bereft of meaning until the tournament/playoffs. But the difference in college is that the players, for the most part, are too innocent to realize that. They don’t know any better. They fight tooth and nail for every point on every possession, and that makes for incredible passion and drama. So we are thankful for that innocence.
  • Television – The plethora of sports-specific TV channels nowadays means that now, more than ever before, you con find anything. This allows you to experience that aforementioned variety, and it makes every winter Saturday an opportunity to curl up on the couch and do absolutely nothing but watch college hoops. Plus, the coverage is as good as it’s ever been. ESPN and CBS in particular do an outstanding job of bringing the game to us. So we are thankful for them and all the other TV stations that allow us to indulge in the game we adore.
  • The NCAA Tournament – It’s only the best three weeks of the year…
  • You the fans – Whenever I think about why I enjoy some sports over others, I always come back to game atmospheres and the fans. They’re why I can’t get enough of soccer. They’re why college and pro football engross me. And they’re why college basketball will, in my mind, always be No. 1. The experience of attending a college basketball game is unrivaled in American sports. It’s the chants. It’s the bands. It’s the old alumni who live and die by their team. It’s the intoxicated students who make a game two hours of hysteria. So for you the fans – for each other – we are all thankful.
Henry Bushnell (39 Posts)

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