I used to love watching the NBA, but my love over the years has slowly eroded. Once a team-first game, the league has been mainly transformed into a place for self-promoting players who either are jacking up shots or trying to break the rims dunking the ball.
Watching NBA games in person is worse than ever with its carnival-like atmosphere with barking in-arena hosts, non-stop noise disguised as music, and fans cheering for opponents to miss consecutive free throws so that they can get a free chicken sandwich.
Former NBA champion Rasheed Wallace in a recent podcast said one of the reasons why the NBA is no longer watchable is because of AAU. “It’s a gimmick game now,” the retired college and pro star pointed out, adding that too many kids today can show one skill and are deficient in others.
Only the WNBA and college basketball for the most part still play the game the way it is supposed to be played—five players moving the ball in sync. My suggestion is to check out the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC).
Once considered basically a White-bread league, the Division III league now has plenty of hoopsters of both genders.
On one of the first frigid weekends of the new year, we braved the cold and watched Augsburg host Macalester in a Saturday afternoon doubleheader. The hosts won both exciting contests, a three-point victory by the Auggies women followed by a one-point overtime win by the men.
“I think [the action] surprises you,” Augsburg senior forward Anja Smith said. The 5-11 player had 14 points and five rebounds in the win over Macalester on January 13.
“It’s really cool to watch different players coming together and the chemistry,” added 5-7 freshman guard Christine D’Epagnier.
A transfer from Division II Grand Valley State, Smith was the 2021-22 MIAC Sixth Player of the Year and all-MIAC honors. She now starts and leads her team in scoring. “I didn’t think the Division III was this intense… It’s pretty aggressive, fun, intense,” she noted.
Robert Grace III, who played at Augsburg 1994-98, said MIAC basketball from when he played to today’s game is remarkably different. “[In] the late ‘90s I see a double screen, staggered screen for one shooter to shoot,” he recalled. “I’m seeing more athletic things like full court press, man-to-man. Every team got a high flier.”
His son Robert Grace IV is a junior guard at Macalester. “He definitely wanted a school that could challenge him academically. Didn’t visit Augsburg, but Macalester was a better fit.”
The crowd that day at Augsburg was sparse, most likely due to the cold weather. But despite the good basketball, you don’t see a lot of Blacks at MIAC games.
Why? “That is a great question,” responded Grace. “To be honest, I don’t have the answer for that question. My wife likes to go to games. We go when we can. I don’t know what’s the excuse of not coming to watch good basketball.”
The MIAC is becoming more diverse than when we first started covering the league a couple decades ago. The hoops, both men’s and women’s, are great to watch and never boring.
“Support Augsburg women’s basketball, come to see games, see what’s about,” Smith recommended. “Sometimes it’s much better with a crowded gym than it is when it’s quiet.”
“Come watch us play. A lot of fun,” said D’Epagnier.