College basketball’s annual tournament of chaos is one of America’s most engaging events. The art of selecting a winning bracket each March is a conversation starter no matter who you’re with, whether it’s an avid hoops fan or your friend that picked matchups based on the mascots. For at least the first weekend, all eyes are on the NCAA.
But the NCAA’s adrenaline-infused tournament has a superior older sibling: the NBA Playoffs. Starting just weeks after the Madness comes to its conclusion, the professional postseason tournament puts college’s comparatively rinky-dink venture to shame. What’s the secret to the NBA’s superiority? Read on to find out.
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1. Better Players
March has the power to turn individuals into household names. The NBA has so many household names that a lot of the college stars can’t cut it.
NBA rosters are filled with players who were the centerpiece of their college teams, but many of them do little more than ride the bench. A common sentiment toward the end of this season is that multiple college teams would have beaten the Sixers head-to-head. But consider someone like Elliot Williams–former college stud who averaged 18 points per game in his final season at Memphis–getting less than 18 minutes per game for a team like Philly. Even the league’s worst have college stars to spare.
When playoff time rolls around, that effect is amplified. Teams with multiple superstars like the Heat and Clippers are aided by supporting casts with decorated backgrounds of their own. If you want to see the best players play, the playoffs are a one-stop shop.
2. The Seven-Game Series
What, you prefer the randomness of the one-and-done format?
To be fair, the single-elimination tournament used by the Madness concentrates the pressure into individual games, the ultimate fix for adrenaline junkies. But the slow build up of the series format allows for tension to build from game to game, storylines bouncing back and forth as the teams search for those elusive four wins.
Rather than pack the action into a series of random games, we get to ride the basketball roller coaster, payoff coming in the form of moments like Ray Allen’s Finals-saving three-pointer.
There’s nothing better than basketball with some bad blood. What’s better to help it build than forcing teams to play each other repeatedly until one is left standing?
In a series format, personal battles aren’t over after one game. When Paul George duels LeBron James to a near standstill and comes out on the losing end, he has extra juice going into the next game. Blake Griffin’s post battles with seemingly every player he faces result in an extended battle of wills, seeing who will be the man to submit. And these are just the individual battles.
Unlike the seeding of the NCAA tournament, which often places big rivals on opposite ends of the bracket (and thus unlikely to meet), the conference setup means we get at least three rounds of games between opponents who are quite familiar with each other. Think Spurs-Thunder and Pacers-Heat, clashes between opponents of equal caliber who know a little too much about their opponent.