NBA Playoffs, College Style, Pt. 2
The East’s post-season lineup and their college equivalents.
by Jon Jaques / @JJaques25
NBA. NCAA. Everybody knows someone (or maybe you are one of these individuals) who feel they must choose one or the other. As a college hoops lover/sympathizer I’ll choose a South Alabama-Western Kentucky over a Bobcats-Pistons contest any day, but it’s during this time of year that folks need to realize it is OK to enjoy both varieties of roundball.
They are different in many ways, but that doesn’t make one much less enjoyable than the other. With that in mind, and with the college basketball season sadly in our rearview mirror, I’ve come up a list of this season’s 16 NBA Playoff teams and their college basketball equivalents.
We took a look at the Western Conference earlier this week. Let’s check out the East today.
1. Chicago Bulls = UCLA
Forget John Wooden’s absurd run at UCLA in the mid ‘70s for a second. UCLA reached an impressive three consecutive Final Fours in 2006-08. So for comparisons sake, this more recent stretch of success is akin (for purposes of this blog… it really isn’t) to MJ, Scottie and Phil’s Bulls dynasty of the early/mid ’90s. After floundering for a while, the Bulls are finally resurrected by the athletic prowess of Derrick Rose. UCLA didn’t have to wait as long for their revival, and the Bruins have much further to go, but dominant big man Josh Smith and a few other nice pieces have things trending upward in Westwood.
2. Miami Heat = Kentucky
If Duke/Lakers are the most hated teams in their respective sports, then Miami/Kentucky are close seconds. No rules have been broken (yet), and no championships have been won (not recently anyway), but the Heat and the Wildcats have found innovative and at times controversial means of recruiting. Each team has amassed an unprecedented amount of star power and talent. Kentucky reached the Final Four this season… how far can LeBron, DWade and Bosh carry the Heat this spring?
3. Boston Celtics = North Carolina
Since I chose Duke as the Lakers’ college counterpart, UNC seems to be an obvious choice for the Celtics. While Duke won a national title last season and was considered a heavy favorite for another before Kyrie Irving’s toe injury, North Carolina missed the Dance one season and was a strangely quiet 2-seed the next (even though they advanced to the Elite Eight). The Celtics will always get more than enough attention, but like the Tar Heels, they have been overshadowed by their rivals’ recent success.
4. Orlando Magic = Ohio State
Dwight Howard is the NBA’s most dominant inside player but has yet to lead the Magic to an NBA title. Before him, Shaq came close but was unable to dethrone the Rockets’ mini dynasty. Similarly, after pushing people around on the low-block all season, Jared Sullinger saw his season end in disappointment after a Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky. If you go back even further at Ohio State, Greg Oden came within one game of bringing an NCAA Championship to Columbus in 2007. In other words, elite bigs don’t win titles any more… guards do.
5. Atlanta Hawks = Tennessee
Take a look at this hodgepodge list of talented players: Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Scottie Hopson, Tyler Smith, Wayne Chism, Tobias Harris. All really quality players. But in both the NBA and the NCAA, there is a difference between star-quality that wins Playoff series/Tournament games and quality that wins regular-season contests. With the possible exception of Joe Johnson, the Hawks and the Vols have mostly had players who aren’t meant to be elite go-to guys.
6. New York Knicks = North Carolina State
Both of these teams are victims of their own success. The Knicks and Wolfpack fan bases have inflated and seriously unrealistic expectations for their teams because of past championship glory. NY fans at least have some excuse… the ’70s produced some pretty awesome Knickerbocker teams. NC State on the other hand is still clinging on to the legend of Jim Valvano, Dereck Whittenberg, Sidney Lowe, and their miracle 1983 title run. The sooner Wolfpack fans realize NC State is not Duke/UNC, the happier their life will be. Knicks fans will probably never be happy.
7. Philadelphia 76ers = Vanderbilt
Both have been solid, dependable regular-season teams. Philly might be lottery bound once in a while, but most years the Sixers find themselves as a 7th or 8th seed in the East. Vanderbilt’s regular-season prowess is underrated. The Commodores have been one of the SEC’s toughest teams for almost a decade. Both struggle in the Playoffs though. The Sixers haven’t made it out of the first round since 2003 while Vandy’s first-round woes have become legendary.
8. Indiana Pacers = TCU
This is the “we’re honestly just happy to be here” comparison. Indiana waddled into the Playoffs with a 37-45 regular-season record. Though they have been more than competitive in their first two losses to the heavy favorite Chicago Bulls, the Pacers don’t a shot in this series. Indiana will take what it can get though because the team hasn’t been relevant since 2004 when Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson famously bludgeoned a few Detroit Piston fans at The Palace. TCU basketball is happy that the school has such a randomly awesome football team and was invited to join the Big East because of it. TCU escapes the Mountain West conference, where it held no recruiting advantages and was destined for mediocrity for a long time, for a conference where the state of Texas is an untapped recruiting gold mine.
Jon Jaques is a former starter for the Cornell Big Red and current forward for Israel’s Ironi Ashkelon club.