Basketball fans will tell you some of the best pro players would play for free.
Names like Willis Reed, Jerry West, Dwayne Wade and Tim Duncan all are selfless players who honed their talents from an early age.
Like the other great players the NBA has seen, those guys used to play their hearts out in high school and college while completing their studies.
Some reckon watching college basketball is akin to seeing the growth of a Michael Jordan. It is like seeing the stars of tomorrow create their legacy today.
Whether you would watch that brand of basketball to spot future NBA greats or just to see some of the hardest working players bar none, now is a great time of year to tune in.
Why? Arguably the most unpredictable, chaotic sports tournament in the world is upon us in the form of the NCAA Tournament.
Starting today across various sites around the US, the tournament is played out in a little under a month. Sixty-four teams slug it out for the right to make the Final Four in San Antonio on 7 April.
The beauty of the tournament is that anyone can get in and anyone can make a run. Every year, the tournament sees at least one major upset.
Last year saw heavyweight Duke knocked out in the first round by little-known Virginia Commonwealth. The year before George Mason was the epitome of a ‘Cinderella team’ making it to the Final Four past big names like Connecticut.
The other big draw, of course, is the bracket-filling and betting that goes along with it. Legitimately or not, the tournament can see a lot of money come and go.
It’s no surprise to hear websites and companies offering thousands of dollars to people who can correctly predict the outcome of the most games.
Most major sporting events have storylines that exist outside of play. The football and cricket World Cups have the politics of the countries involved. The NCAA tournament has its coaches and team histories.
This year, expect to hear a lot about Bruce Pearl and the turnaround he’s done at Tennessee. Don’t be shocked if there’s much talk about Memphis and their inability of late to reach the Final Four. Consider it normal to come across media attention on a former assistant coach (like Miami’s Frank Haith) possibly facing his old boss (i.e. Texas’ Rick Barnes).
Unlike most years, this season’s competition is expected to be dominated by the big names. Most experts feel almost all the top seeded schools will reach the title game.
It’s easy to agree. North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA and Memphis are all strong teams. With their firepower, tight play and athleticism, it’s a popular choice to pencil those teams into the Final Four.
Even I’m not immune from following suit. The truth is I just don’t see any schools seeded lower than fifth taking one of their spots. It’s possible and it’s been done before but I don’t see it this year.
Ultimately, you don’t have to be fanatic to enjoy the tournament. As long you’re interested in seeing future NBA greats grind it out for the love of the game then you have the right spirit for March Madness.
Look for Tyler Hansborough and UNC to make a long run Photo: AP