The NBA Playoffs, College Style
The Western Conference postseason lineup and their college hoops 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 they’re college basketball equivalents.
Take a look at the Western Conference today, check back for the East soon.
1. San Antonio = Wisconsin
Gregg Popovich is the NBA’s Bo Ryan. Or Bo Ryan is the college games’ Gregg Popovich? Just like the Badgers, the Spurs win many, many games consistently with interchangeable parts. It seems every season some combination of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, and dinosaur Tim Duncan gets injured for an extended period of time, yet San Antonio remains a Western Conference contender. In Madison, Bo Ryan loses one star player after another, but all he does is continue to compete for Big Ten titles with the roster he has.
2. LA Lakers = Duke
It really drills a giant hole in my heart to have to compare my beloved Lakers to Duke, but (probably because the Lakers win so often) they are clearly their sports’ most hated teams. Also, both are steered by the premier coaches in their respective sports, Phil Jackson in the NBA, and Mike Krzyzewski in men’s college basketball.
3. Dallas = Kansas
This one was easy. Kansas, whether it’s fair or not because of their one recent title that people forget too easily, has a reputation of flaming out early in the NCAA’s and underachieving in crunch time. Dallas has wasted the prime of Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry’s careers by losing first and second round series for most of the last decade (their trip to the 2006 Finals is overshadowed by their epic collapse against the Heat).
4. Oklahoma City = Syracuse
This is a pick based on current roster makeup more than team/program history. Oklahoma City is clearly the fastest rising team in the Western Conference. No one wants to face the young Thunder because when Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, James Harden, and everyone else (oh, there are many others) are playing well, they are physically impossible to matchup with. Syracuse is annually one of the toughest matchups athletically and youngest teams in the country. Next season should be no different.
5. Denver = Texas
Texas seems like a good fit here because both teams have been known recently for their mesmerizing/mercurial young talent. Denver has never been able to fully answer the riddle that is J.R. Smith, while Rick Barnes annually struggles to maximize the potential of his young guns. Both expected more success in recent years and are usually considered disappointments.
6. Portland = Gonzaga
Alright, so geography probably played too large a role in this comparison. But hear me out.
Both are nestled quietly in the relative solitude of the great Northwest. Both are lucky to have two of the most underrated and bright young coaches in their sport (Nate McMillan
and Mark Few) and both squads can play some ball.
7. New Orleans = BYU
The Hornets are like a really good mid-major team with one star player who dominates the game. The team has a few nice complimentary role players, but not much else in fire power besides their go-to-guy. When that player is on, the team generally wins. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about Chris Paul and Jimmer Fredette. Clearly, this comparison has flaws.
They are completely different players and BYU will not be able to rely on Jimmer’s 35-foot three-pointers next season. But, if we’re talking about the just completed season’s BYU Sweet 16 team, then this comparison has some legs.
8. Memphis = Northwestern
The Grizzlies are actually way ahead of the game in terms of hoops history when stacked up with the Wildcats. Though the Vancouver/Memphis franchise is very young, it had never won a playoff game until it upset San Antonio in Game 1 of their series Sunday afternoon. Northwestern, meanwhile, has never made an NCAA tournament appearance. While both teams have struggled mightily in their respective histories, they each have been making steady progress (even if it is at a sloth-like speed) for the past few seasons.