College BasketballPublished: | Updated:
College basketball is a beloved sport in the United States with a rich history and a passionate following. Back to the late 19th century, basketball was first played in nationwide gymnasiums and quickly grew in popularity. Today, college basketball is a significant part of American culture, with millions of fans tuning in each year to watch the top teams compete for championships.
History of College Basketball
The history of college basketball consists of legendary players and coaches. John Wooden, the head coach of the UCLA Bruins from 1948 to 1975, is widely regarded as the greatest collegiate coach of all time. Wooden led the Bruins to 10 NCAA championships, including seven in a row from 1967 to 1973. His teams featured legendary talents such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor), Bill Walton and Gail Goodrich.
Bill Russell, who played for the University of San Francisco in the 1950s, is another legendary figure in college basketball. Russell went on to win 11 NBA championships with the Boston Celtics and is widely considered one of the greatest basketball players ever.
While college basketball has a rich history, it has also faced several challenges over the years. In recent years, there has been significant debate over whether or not college athletes should be paid for their contributions to their respective universities. This debate effectively concluded in June of 2021 with the passing of the Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) policy. This policy allows all NCAA student-athletes to be compensated for their NIL, regardless of whether or nor their state has an NIL law in place.
Additionally, recruiting violations and academic fraud scandals have plagued the sport for years. From recruiting violations like hiring hookers to sway players to committing academic fraud, teams have always sought unique ways to put their program ahead of others.
That said, you might be surprised at what constitutes as an NCAA violation. Kelvin Sampson, formerly the head coach at Indiana University, got in trouble for “illegal phone calls and text messages with recruits.” At the time of his hiring, it was still against NCAA rules to have text conversations with high school prospects.
One of the most exciting aspects of college basketball is the players. Many of the top basketball players in the world got their start playing college basketball. This includes Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kevin Durant. Today, players like Zion Williamson and Cade Cunningham are household names, and fans expect to follow their successful careers in the NBA.
If you want to look back at the past 10 years or so, it’s easy to pick out some of the most famous college basketball stars.
- Anthony Davis starred at Kentucky for one season, leading the Wildcats to a 38-2 record. He won the National Player of the Year award and was eventually drafted first overall.
- Jalen Brunson was a three year starter at Villanova, winning two national championships and a Wooden Award.
- Kemba Walker was the principal on-court architect behind one of the most iconic NCAA tournament runs of all-time. He led a largely underdog UConn squad to wins over teams like San Diego State (featuring Kawhi Leonard) and Butler (featuring Gordon Hayward).
- Buddy Hield was the most exciting player in college basketball as a senior. He was a walking bucket, capable of scoring at will from anywhere on the court. He led the Oklahoma Sooners to a Final Four.
- Evan Turner had a largely average NBA career, but he was unmatched at the collegiate level. Averaging 20ppg, 9rpg and 6 apg as a junior, no player has ever matched those single season numbers since.
- Jimmer Fredette had Steph Curry range. Capable of hitting long range threes from impossible spots, he put up four games of 40+ points in his final 20 games as a senior. Each year he was on the team, he led BYU to the NCAA tournament, including the program’s first Sweet 16 since 1981.
- Kyle Guy may not have done anything at the NBA level, but his heroics in the 2019 NCAA tournament are legendary. Guy iced Auburn with three free throws and 0.6 seconds on the clock, then scored 24 points to lead Virginia over Texas Tech in the National Championship game.
NCAA March Madness
The annual NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, called March Madness, is the pinnacle of college basketball. The tournament features 68 teams nationwide, each fighting to become the national champion. The game is a single-elimination bracket, with upsets and buzzer-beaters often creating unforgettable moments.
In addition to March Madness, there are several other important events in college basketball. Conference tournaments take place in the weeks leading up to March Madness. Teams from each conference compete for an automatic bid to the tournament. The National Invitation Tournament (NIT) is another postseason tournament that features 32 teams who did not make the NCAA Tournament.