Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

February 5, 2014

Schedules may get longer, but basketball season seems shorter

How odd that the same weekend that featured the Super Blowout also offered the best the college basketball season has offered so far. Just as Sunday's Super Bowl turned into a dud between Seattle and Denver, collegians were giving fans one pulse-raising finish after another.

None was bigger than the Atlantic Coach Conference punch fest that had Syracuse defeating Duke 91-89 in overtime. “We’ve had a lot of games in here that have been great,” said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim on TV afterwards. “But there’s never been a game as good as this one. I can’t say enough about the quality of this game."

Syracuse's win before nearly 36,000 fans came the same Saturday night that California knocked No. 1 Arizona from the unbeaten ranks, 60-58, on Justin Cobbs’ basket with less than a second left to play. Those two games were a fitting finish to a thrilling week that saw 13 teams in The Associated Press' Top 25 lose at least one game.

With football now packed away until next summer, it's time to enjoy what's become an all-too-brief college basketball season.

The long hoops schedule seems to get compressed - in terms of interest and relevance, if not the number of games themselves - for several reasons. One is that college basketball takes second-class status because it offers an unappealing list of early-season games. Then there's an ebb in importance in the conference tournaments and championships at the season's end because everyone is fixated on the drama-filled NCAA tournament.

All of this is a shame because college basketball players are some of the most gifted athletes around. Success requires power, grace, stamina, agility - and, finally, blending individual talents into a team.

Strangely, these ingredients that work so well for players can work against the best interest of the sport. Also limiting the luster of college basketball is the siphoning of its best rising stars. Multi-million dollar offers lure select freshmen and sophomores to the National Basketball Association and the chance to play against the world's best.

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