Whelan & Dealin’

Whelan & Dealin

Whelan & Dealin’

Ben Whelan

This college basketball season is guaranteed to be the best in a long, long time and it all boils down to one simple factor that differentiates this season from those in recent history: The best college players are actually playing…and this one’s a big step…in college. The implementation of the NBA’s new age limit combined with quite possibly the best, deepest, and largest pool of talent ever assembled in one freshman class (and a bunch of guys from Florida who are just having too much fun at school) create a perfect storm of talented teams, must-watch players and match-ups for the ages.

It will make for a happy distraction from the ridiculousness that is the NBA; Up is down, war is peace, the Celtics are in first place…I’m sorry, I meant last place, they were in first place last week. The disparity in talent between the best and worst teams is huge and the level of competition is for the most part pathetic. Other than the Heat, the Eastern conference is the weak little brother of the mighty Western conference and is dismissed quickly in order for the big boys to play. The Eastern conference teams are left to squabble amongst themselves for who can make the playoffs with the farthest sub-five hundred record, slacking off in the middle and turning out some absolutely awful basketball while coasting to a seven or eight seed. Once the teams stumble into the post season anything can happen…if by “anything” you mean the Heat or Cavs beating everyone’s brains in and most of the teams not having a chance but happy to have been there. It’s always the same jumble of teams in the final five seeds to make the playoffs in the East while the other franchises are perennial losers and for the most part waste the lottery draft picks that they get as a result (Andrea Bargnani, Andrew Bogut, Marvin Williams, Josh Childress, Rafael Araujo, Luke Jackson). The combination of the lack of parity and urgency to compete, and the inability of teams to improve themselves through the draft leads to the situation that the NBA is now in where it is very difficult to change the status quo. Needless to say, no one wants to watch this brand of basketball, as it is more predictable than professional wrestling and not half as entertaining.

The other major plus to this class of up-and-comers is that it looks like it could be a solution to the NBA’s problems by infusing the league with more young talent than has been seen in quite some time. There are a lot of players in this class who could have been lottery picks had the age requirement not been installed and after a year of collegiate competition they will be ready to make an immediate impact when they enter the league. Being the centerpiece of a college team that competes in the pressure of March Madness is an experience that can not be attained by jumping straight to the pros. Playing an entire college season, where they can build their skills, confidence, experience and leadership, will leave them seasoned and battle tested enough to change the face of whatever team they land on. Players like Greg Oden at Ohio State, Joakim Noah at Florida, Kevin Durant at Texas, Spencer Hawes at Washington and Hasheem Thabeet at UConn will be the next wave of superstars to enter the league. They will follow in the wake of the DWade-Lebron-Melo class to usher in a golden age of competition in the NBA where there will finally be enough superstars to go around.

Oh yeah, and as a bonus, if you love college basketball, you get the extra reward of having some of the next great pros showcasing their material on a big stage. College basketball becomes a coming out party for prep stars as they compete against one another, surrounded by a core of players varying in quality who will be the ones to make a difference between winning and losing. It’s not perfect, but thanks to the new age requirement, the system is closer to being what we want it to be than it has been in a long time.

So as you are sitting back and watching the battle of the future-all-stars that is college basketball this season, save a little space in your prayers to the basketball gods for David Stern who made this all possible by checking IDs at the door to his league. Only the little man from Chelsea (NY), who is conquering China as we speak and has sights set on Europe could save both the pro and college games in one fell swoop.