Today is one of celebration for college basketball, but this also is a moment of concern for many who love the game.
As the NCAA Tournament opens in earnest, the expanded 68-team field highlights the talent drain that has damaged the quality of play.
No less than Jay Bilas, who as an ESPN analyst exudes unquestioned passion for college basketball, worries about its future.
On that network’s “Pardon the Interruption,” Bilas said, “The quality of play is not what it has been. We’ve still got outstanding players; we don’t have the tremendous superstars that are older that we used to have.”
That talent is in the NBA, which is having its best season in many years. Five or six teams are capable of winning the championship.
But Bilas pointed out college basketball’s problem also affects the NBA. Older college-tested rookies often make for more polished professionals.
The league needs to nix the one-year college requirement and find other incentives to keep players in school.
College basketball was at its best when fans got to follow star players for three or four seasons. Florida returned its team intact from the 2006 national championship, and fans nationwide developed a love or, usually, a hate for the Gators. Plus, the formula worked from a team standpoint, with Florida winning the 2007 title.
It was a throwback to the Patrick Ewing Georgetown teams in the 1980s and Christian Laettner Duke squads in the 1990s that became national villains, won titles and elevated the game.
College basketball, with the NBA’s help, can return to that time and prove it’s more than a three-week event.
■ STILL SHOOTING — NBA veteran Grant Hill might be close to retirement, but he still has a good shot.
He didn’t hesitate firing back at Jalen Rose, who was executive producer of the “The Fab Five” documentary on ESPN. Rose was seen in the show calling black players “Uncle Toms” who played at Duke.
Rose was a star player for the famed Michigan quintet who lost the 1992 championship to Hill’s Duke team.
Hill stated in an editorial in The New York Times that “to hint that those who grew up in a household with a mother and father are somehow less black than those who did not is beyond ridiculous.”
But the big shot came at the end. “I am proud of my Duke championships and all my Duke teammates,” Hill wrote. “And, I am proud I never lost a game against the Fab Five.”
■ REBEL INSIDER – UNLV’s athletic department is launching its own channel called RebelTV, and it’s a shame it wasn’t available a couple of years ago when Mike Sanford was the football coach.
He could’ve taken viewers inside the nation’s worst locker room and provided the secrets to getting a delay of game out of a timeout.
RebelTV is on pay-per-view Cox Channel 636. Rumor has it Jerry Tarkanian asked Cox to consider assigning Channel 666 to the NCAA.
Every UNLV sport will be featured on its channel, so maybe fans can get the answer to why Quintrell Thomas leads the basketball team’s big men in points, rebounds and minutes on the bench.
COMPILED BY MARK ANDERSON LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL