At this time of year, when March Madness has come and gone and a new offseason is on the horizon, we talk about all that is bad about college basketball and what needs to be done to fix it.
We cry out about the one-and-done rule and propose ways to change it. We shake our heads in disgust when schools accused of wrongdoing impose sanctions to avoid worse punishment from the NCAA, like Louisville did this week. We groan about college officiating and how inconsistently the game is called, sometimes from half to half.
All of these are, in fact, things that hurt college basketball. But they're also things that aren't going to change, no matter how much we whine about them.
It's easy to get caught up in what's bad about college basketball. Negative news sells, and if you only paid attention to the headlines, you'd be destined to wonder if there's anything good about the game loved by so many.
On Thursday, I was reminded that plenty of good remains in the college game when Indiana announced that Thomas Bryant would return to school for his sophomore season. In a year in which players can test the NBA Draft waters without penalty, Bryant declined, choosing instead to put all of his focus on the school and the team he has grown to love.
Bryant embodies all that is good about college basketball. His decision to return to school and not even test the NBA waters proves that he cares much more about his team's success than he does his own. The NBA is about individual stars. College basketball has always been about the schools and the programs. It's easy to forget that sometimes.
Bryant plays with the kind of unadulterated passion that can only exist at the amateur level when you're playing for something much greater than yourself. In college basketball, you're playing for all the players that came before you. You're playing for every person that ever attended your school and every young fan that hopes to attend the university in the future. You're playing for the students, the professors, the janitors, the security guards.
This is why we love college basketball, because of the purity and the passion, the pride and camaraderie. Every year, it becomes less pure and more diluted. Every year, there's more bad and less good. But good still exists, and there are some players that have managed to remain pure despite the impurity all around them.
Thomas Bryant is one of those players (as are many of his teammates). On Thursday, he reminded me that there's still a lot of good in college basketball.