Sports are in a mess right now. The most popular stories on ESPN have more to do with off-the-court or off-the-field drama than actual game day scores. The NBA isn’t even going to have a season. Conference realignment in college sports has been entirely dictated by money without any regard to tradition. Rivalries are dying. Recruitment rules are becoming so numerous and strict that its no longer a question of if a school violated them but instead if they actually knew they were doing it. Sports as a whole seem to be going through somewhat of a slump, but then last week, the start of the college basketball season brought new hope to sports fans across the country.
This basketball season promises to be one of the best in recent history. The NBA’s loss was the NCAA’s gain. With the NBA lockout predicted long ago, there is a temporary reprieve from the “one-and-done” cycle of college basketball. Stars that normally would have jumped to the NBA, like Jared Sullinger of Ohio State or Harrison Barnes of UNC, opted to stay in college. The result of the lockout was a talent influx in college basketball as this year’s field of teams is among the best in recent memory. For the first time in a long time, last year’s performances will actually be relevant to this season as many of the powerhouses have rebounded from their down years. The polls are filled with classic basketball teams and coaches, giving the game a sense of reinvigorated tradition.
So it seems fitting that at the top of this mountain for college basketball we find Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. With Duke’s 74-69 win over Michigan State on Nov. 15, Coach K won his 903rd game, passing Bob Knight to become the winningest coach in Division I Men’s basketball history. While Paterno’s fall from grace has caused the world to doubt the infallibility standard placed on most winning coaches, it is hard to criticize a man who has never even come near a scandal and has also helped win our country an Olympic gold medal. Coach K certainly has his faults, and college basketball faces many of the same issues and obstacles as college football does, but at least for now the coach and the game seem to be reassuring sports fans that no matter what, the game will go on.