CHAUTAUQUA COUNTY, NY — It wasn’t just another Monday for me this past week. Well, the Bills no-show didn’t help, but the best sport on the planet, college basketball, finally tipped off.
The buzz has been extraordinaire for college hoops this offseason. Many of the top players from last season — notably North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes and Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger — elected to stay for another year, causing what many basketball analysts believe to be the most talented pool of player college basketball has seen in a decade.
Then, this Saturday night, top-ranked North Carolina and Michigan State will play outside on the U.S.S. Carl Vinson. Next week Tuesday, Nov. 15, ESPN will bring back it’s “24 hours of college basketball” with live games on every single hour of the day.
Needless to say, if you’re a college basketball fan like me, Christmas has finally arrived.
Of course, though, one of the most anticipated seasons of the sport is being fueled by the downfall of their professional counterparts.
For the record, I’ve never really cared for the NBA. Perhaps unfairly too, because if you really like — and know — basketball, you would understand just how much better the NBA is than college basketball. I’ll settle in for the playoffs because I love the sport, but besides that, I just see a drawn-out season that lacks the intensity of the college game.
But, perhaps by the end of the week, or even by the time you’re reading this, the NBA might just seize to exist this year.
Does it matter?
Well to most of you reading this, it probably doesn’t. Most people in Western New York generally just don’t have basketball very high on their sports totem poll. Not having a team — or a major college team — hurts. Having the Bills threaten for the playoffs hampered it. Having the Sabres season coincide completely with basketball kills it.
But, I’m not here to tell you to care about the NBA. With it’s current state, the NBA is the proverbially tree that fell in the woods around these parts. Has anybody heard about the lockout?
While the rest of the rest of the country will forget about the NBA — at least for now — and focus their attention on the college game, it’d be really great if this area gave a little more attention this year, too.
And why not? Just in the greater western New York area, there are two players listed on CBSsports.com’s Top 100 players list in the entire country. That’s right, not in a conference, or regionally.
St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson, a senior from Mississauga, Ont., is rated No. 51 on that list, surprisingly low to some analysts. He’s one of 50 players selected to the preseason Wooden Award list, given to the game’s most outstanding player at the end of the season. (It’s basically the equivalent to the Heisman Award in college football.)
He’s also one of 21 players selected to the Lute Olson Award preseason list, which is annually given the best non-freshman in the country.
In addition to getting much publicity from major media outlets such as ESPN, Yahoo!, CBSsports.com and even the Wall Street Journal, Nicholson is considered by many to be selected in next year’s NBA Draft. He’s one of the most talented players to ever play in this area and if you haven’t had a chance to see him play yet, you’re really missing out.
Also, the University at Buffalo’s Javon McCrea, a sophomore from Newark, N.Y., was rated No. 91 on the list. McCrea was even honored as the preseason Mid-American Conference Player of the Year by CBS, all without ever starting a game for the Bulls.
McCrea was the MAC Freshman of the Year last year and was the final player cut from the United States Under 19 national team this past summer. He is also tabbed by a few analysts to be a potential NBA Draft pick in the near future.
But, it’s not just about the players. St. Bonaventure is widely thought to have one of the program’s best teams in the last decade. Some — myself included — even think they have a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament in March.
I understand this area is all about hockey and football. It’s how it is always going to be and I’m not trying to change that. All I’m saying is we don’t have it all that bad here locally with college basketball and it’s still going unnoticed.
Give it a try Friday with St. Bonaventure’s home opener or give it a look Saturday when a couple of teams play on United States Aircraft Carrier.
Besides, it’s not like you’ll have the NBA to occupy your time.