Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

February 14, 2013

Parity is the name of the game in college basketball

BLUEFIELD — Parity is as much a part of college basketball this season as brackets, the Final Four and Dick Vitale.

Who really knows who the best team is? That is what makes college basketball so much fun. It doesn’t matter who is ranked number one. It will be played out on the court.

That is a good thing since No. 1 can’t seem to stay No. 1, although Indiana is still No. 1 after losing last week. That is what happens when previous No. 1’s like Duke and Michigan continue to lose as well.  

College basketball isn’t what it once was. The lure of the NBA and its dollars are just too tempting so the best players rarely hang around long enough to establish a great team.

That is why such teams as George Mason, Butler and Virginia Commonwealth have been able to make an impact in recent seasons. They have experienced players who have played together for several years.

Eventually one of those teams are going to win the championship, and this could be the year.

A school like Kentucky, which brought in a ridiculously talented freshman class last season, won the championship, and most of those players bolted for the NBA. That is now just a part of college basketball.

Most of those athletes will never be heard from again, but at least they’re getting paid better than you or definitely me. Of the six Kentucky players drafted in June, two have made an impact.

Top pick Anthony Davis (12.3 ppg, 7.4 reb) is contributing with the Hornets — soon to be Pelicans — and second pick, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (9.2 ppg, 5.8 reb) has shown promise for the Bobcats, who need all the help they can get.

As for the rest, I am not sure how many avid NBA fans we have in the area, but can you name the other four and where are they playing now?

Believe it or not, there are other players in The Association besides LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony. The NBA has become a league of individuals who just happen to be part of teams.

The player, not the team, is what gets the attention now. Are you suffering from LeBron burnout yet? I am, and we still have four-plus months to go.

As for those other Wildcats who are in the NBA, Terrance Jones (18th, Rockets) has averaged 1.1 points in 11 games, while spending time in the NBA Developmental League. He is, however, probably happy with the money, pulling in $1,485,000 million this season, and has four more years on that hefty contract.

 Marquis Teague (29th, Bulls) has scored 1.8 points in 30 games, while earning $857,000. Doron Lamb (42nd, Bucks), who once played an exhibition game with Oak Hill Academy at Bluefield College, is tallying 3.4 points in 23 games, while bringing in $650,000.

As for Darius Miller (46th, Hornets), he will net $473,604 this season for the 1.9 points he has provided so far in 29 games.

Being an avid college fan who has lost interest in the NBA — largely because of the me-not-team attitude that exists — I like to check out the careers of some of these guys who leave college early for the next level.

Then compare it to seniors who hung in for four seasons.

How about Hassan Whiteside? He spent one season as a very raw prospect at Marshall, and wound up being a second round pick based purely on potential — which is what the NBA now must do since few of these players are truly ready to play at the highest level of the sport.

All Whiteside did in two years for the Sacramento Kings, who made him the 33rd pick of the 2010 draft, was provide 29 points and 39 rebounds in 19 games. That is $51,724 per point for the nearly $1.5 million he made before being waived last July by the Kings.

Whiteside, who did require knee surgery is now a NBDL journeyman, having played for three teams in the NBA’s minor leagues. Still, that $1.5 million must have been nice.

It almost doesn’t pay off for players to stay four years and then try to get into the NBA. It almost like they’re ‘washed up’ already, but a couple of standouts of regional graduates are contributing in the NBA.

Kevin Jones, who was outstanding in four seasons at West Virginia, didn’t get drafted, but was signed as a free agent by Cleveland, and has split his season with the NBDL and the Cavaliers, providing 2.0 points and 1.9 rebounds a contest in 23 games.

Virginia’s Mike Scott, a second round pick by the Atlanta Hawks, is contributing 3.1 points in 22 games.

As for college basketball, February Frenzy leads to March Madness as the  focus is now on finishing strong and getting lined up for NCAA tournament consideration.

The news is not good for three of the four regional teams in the Daily Telegraph cover area. West Virginia (12-11, 7th in Big 12), Virginia Tech (11-13, 12th in ACC) and Marshall (11-14, 9th in Conference USA) will have to win conference tournaments to get to the NCAAs, or get above .500 and hope for a bid to one of the other numerous postseason events.

If Virginia (18-6, 3rd in ACC) can avoid a collapse, the Cavaliers will be dancing.

College basketball has had to share the spotlight with football, but now its on its own, at least until the first pitch is thrown.

Try to avoid LeBron mania and enjoy the the weeks ahead. What this season has proven is that anyone can beat anybody on any night in college basketball.

Perhaps this is the year that a ‘Cinderella’ can actually win it all.

—Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He can be contacted at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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