For many people, autumn brings thoughts of bonfires, football, and Thanksgiving. To the elation of many sports fans however, shorter days and chillier nights signifies the return of college basketball. A variety of factors including season length, game duration, and tournament structure makes the college basketball season the most interesting season in American sports.
The NCAA college basketball season always starts in exciting fashion as various invitational tournaments showcase the previous season’s top contenders. This year, the Champions Classic in New York City produced an incredibly exciting game between the top ranked Duke Blue Devils and Kansas Jayhawks under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. In the final seconds of the game, Kansas guard Frank Mason III drilled a pullup jumper to cement the Jayhawks victory, setting the tone for the rest of an exciting season filled with buzzer beaters and heartbreak.
At two hours long on average, college basketball games are the perfect length. Unlike many NFL or MLB games, a 9 p.m. tip-off means viewers can watch the game and still obtain a crucial eight hours of sleep. Shorter games also create a more compact action experience, forcing eyes to stay glued on the court for the entirety of the game.
Similar to the duration of each individual game, the concise length of the season itself is another reason why college basketball is so captivating. With around 30 games in the regular season over the course of just three short months, every game means something to fans, players, and analysts. In sports leagues like the NBA where teams play 82 games in the regular season, the outcome of any one game is rarely influential for the team’s season overall. In competitive conferences like the ACC, Big Ten, and Big 12 on the other hand, teams are constantly fluctuating up and down the conference standings.
Last season, star seniors like Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine, and Carolina’s own Brice Johnson demonstrated the importance of the senior class to college basketball. This season, despite the strongest class of incoming freshmen in recent years, standout seniors like Mason III of Kansas have forced analysts to continue to devote appropriate limelight to the senior class. These players write a novel for college basketball fans to delve into over the course of their four years, rather than the short vignettes that “one and done” freshmen provide. This season, a perfect balance exists between the prominence of the freshmen and senior class, creating a diverse experience unique to college basketball fans.
In March, the NCAA college basketball tournament captivates the entire nation because every game in the tournament is so consequential. While making a tournament bracket is accessible for casual fans, it also allows serious college basketball fans to flex their knowledge of the sport. For many East students, “bracketology” dominates lunch table conversation for the entire month of March.
As residents of Chapel Hill, East students are incredibly fortunate to live in close proximity to several of the nation’s top college basketball teams. This adjacency has created some of the greatest rivalries in sports history, and East students have been given courtside seats. While Carolina, Duke, and NC State fans may have their differences, they should all agree that college basketball is the ultimate spectator sport.
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