By Tom Ballato
Dear College Basketball,
It’s been quite some time, eight months and 13 days, to be exact. You left us unexpectedly at the halftime of a game played between St. John’s and Creighton.
There was no March Madness, a cinderella team capturing the hearts of the nation, a buzzer-beater to send a team to the Final Four, or the crowning of a National Champion. And before college basketball ends like it always does, there was no One Shining Moment video; a beloved song played on the jumbotron as confetti falls onto the court.
While all those things didn’t happen during a pandemic shortened season, individual One Shining Moment videos played on teams’ social media pages across the country. Student-athletes transferred, high school athletes committed, and seniors that we cheered for the past four years graduated virtually from their respective universities.
We went from cheering on our favorite team to cheering on essential workers all over the country. Basketball will celebrate these workers at center court before a game or halftime, and they will get a standing ovation in due time.
It’s been some time, we look forward to your return, even if it will look a little different. Although there will be no fans in most college arenas, friends and family will still gather for games. They will even cheer when their team goes on a run, followed by the opposing team calling a timeout. They will boo the referees when a suspect foul is called too. We’ll go from yelling at games to yelling at our televisions, and that’s okay.
We will still look forward to playing the anthem, and once it ends, players and coaches meeting at center court for a handshake or something abbreviated that shows a sign of sportsmanship. After teams return to their benches, 40 minutes of basketball will be played by student-athletes with similar goals in mind. Coaches will continue to yell from the sidelines, pacing back and forth, occasionally earning a tech from the referee for a call they challenged. Once the final horn sounds, teams will line up and shake hands as a sign of sportsmanship, which might be abbreviated.
We look forward to the grind of a season where games come down to the wire, rivalry games, and cheering on some of our favorite athletes as they improve their draft stock. We look forward to celebrating all the hard work on and off the court of our seniors, student managers, and families during senior night. We look forward to teams cutting down the nets in conference tournaments as teams punch their tickets to the bid dance. Lastly, we look forward to the Madness in March with a champion crowned in April.
To the student-athletes across the country, men and women’s teams, Division I through III and Junior Colleges, make history.
This season might be crazy; we might even see you play games in a bubble. Games will be canceled and pushed back to a later date. We are rooting for you and your safety during these uncertain times.
As the great Jon Rothstein says, “We sleep in May.”
We’ve missed you College Basketball,
The Next Prospect