- Tom Haberstroh, ESPN Staff Writer
What's it like to watch a full day of college basketball through the lens of an NBA analyst?
That was the question that popped into my mind this week. I used to be a die-hard fan of college hoops. Growing up, the North Carolina Tar Heels were my team and Shammond Williams was my guy. I remember going to the 2003 Final Four in New Orleans and seeing Marquette's Travis Diener walking down Bourbon Street in an authentic Allen Iverson jersey and thinking he was the coolest dude in the world. Ed Cota's autograph is scribbled on a T-shirt in my bedroom in my parents' house back in Connecticut.
Now, the NBA is my livelihood and my eyes are a bit more discerning when it comes to the game. March Madness is like an old friend that visits every year. In recent years, I've casually tuned into the games to keep up with my bracket and make sure that my dog doesn't beat me again, as he did in 2011 when the Butler Bulldogs faced the UConn Huskies in the championship.
So this time I took the day off from the NBA and took notes on the college games. How has my taste changed? What's specifically different about the NCAA game? Why does it make it so hard for NBA observers to make the switch?
I got lucky. Thursday was the NCAA tournament at its best. The only thing better than a Game 7 is a Game 7 that goes into overtime and we got four of those Thursday, and a handful of others went down to the final minute.
But even with all the desperation and excitement, it became clear that the beauty of the NCAA t ournament can't be found in the play, but in the construct of the do-or-die playoff. As much as I wanted to fall back in love with the spirit of the college ranks, I found myself longing for the NBA game. It was the tournament setup that made the day thrilling, not the actual quality of basketball.
Here are four thoughts after I hung out with an old pal.
20hMatt Walks, ESPN.com