NBA players leave college ball, NCAA Tourney behind

NBA players leave college ball, NCAA Tourney behind
April 8, 2013, 2:30 am
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Regardless of its seemingly endless run of misfired shots or lack of recognizable on-court star power, college basketball and specifically this year's NCAA Tournament still commands attention.

Just not necessarily from those NBA players that actually played and starred on the stepping-stone level.

"If it's not UNC, I really don't watch it," said Tyler Hansbrough, who won a national title during his senior season at North Carolina. "I really haven't watched the tournament since UNC lost. Maybe I watched Florida Gulf Coast in their last game before they got knocked out."

Hansbrough, now a fourth-year forward for the Pacers, was other engaged Saturday night when the National Semifinals took place. At the same time, Indiana played on the road against the Wizards.

The Pacers are off Monday night. Does that mean the leading scorer on North Carolina's 2009 National Championship team will take time to see which team joins the net-cutting fraternity?

"I watch [college basketball] because I care about the team and the only team I care about is Carolina," Hansbrough said. "I might watch the National Championship game if I'm not doing anything."

Hansbrough's whatever take regarding watching college hoops not involving his former team is hardly unique among NBA players.

"If it's on and Georgetown is playing I'll watch," Pacers center and former Hoyas star Roy Hibbert said. "For the most part I haven't really kept up with college basketball. I don't even do brackets anymore."

Wizards guard Garrett Temple played in two NCAA Tournaments for LSU, reaching the Final Four as a freshman in 2006.

"I keep up with [college basketball] through the newspaper and the media," Temple explained, "but in terms of sitting down and watching an entire game, I can't say I've done that this year."

Hibbert put much of his non-interest into the category of "life is busy." We're in a different city every other night. I have other things to stay focused on. I stay in touch with the guys from Georgetown, but times are changing."

When the current Hoyas were in the midst of losing to FGCU, one of the leaders of the 2007 Final Four team asked courtside reporters for updates during breaks of Indiana's home game against Milwaukee.

Simply getting away from the day job is also a consideration.

"I'm always playing basketball I like to get away from it," said Ben Hansbrough, Tyler's younger brother, a fellow Pacer and a star on last year's Notre Dame squad. "I don't always want to be consumed in it or watching it.

"But I watch Notre Dame play."

Others connect with the idea that fewer if any known commodities in the college game make it harder for fans to connect. Among that faction, the player who was arguably as visible and polarizing a presence over his career as any in recent memory. Tyler Hansbrough's collegiate resume includes being selected as the 2008 John Wooden Player of the Year recipient and finishing as the ACC's All-Time leading scorer. 

"Any time a player that is quality - and really good - stays for four years, you get a fan base built up and people gravitate to watch that guy especially when he's on a marquee team," Hansbrough said. "Honestly, I don't feel like there was a guy like that this year."

There were more of those guys in the college game last year because several notable players stayed in school for fear of an NBA lockout. After the season, that sizable contingent entered the NBA Draft.

"Maybe that attributed to some of the drop off," said Pacers rookie Miles Plumlee, a member of Duke's 2010 title team. "There was never really a standout team [this season]."

Louisville or Michigan fans might argue such a notion should their team triumph Monday night in Atlanta.

John Wall is one NBA player who might actually watch Monday night's proceedings, though his hardwood tastes are not exactly discerning.

"I watch any type of basketball. Girls basketball, high school basketball, elementary school kids, it doesn't matter,' Wall said.

During his only season in college, Wall led Kentucky to the Elite Eight in 2010.

"I watch the Final Four. It brings back a lot of memories of when you played...Everybody tunes in."

Though he believes "March Madness is great," Wall's next comment proves that seemingly everybody is also a critic of college basketball's current form.

"I think it's totally different. I think after my year it really went down," the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft said. "I just think [2012-13] wasn't a strong year, but it doesn't matter if you win the championship. You can brag for the whole year about winning the national championship."

Many zealous fans would concur, especially those that balk with the idea that the college game is an inferior product in general or when compared to the corporate feeling NBA.

"The average fan seems to like college more because they seem more passionate about it, seems more intense because they're diving on the floor it seems like every possession," Temple noted. "It's definitely a different game...When people get to the NBA, their skill sets have evolved. Guys play skill wise more in the NBA than in college.

"You cannot deny the passion. Most of us went through it and it's nothing like playing a college basketball game."

Watching it is apparently another story.