When I look at college basketball, I see what it has become. But more and more, I see what it has lost.

I don't see small gyms where you can yell and be heard by a friend on the team; I see sold-out football stadiums, where blue-suited security men guard the court with walkie-talkies, chasing away anyone who isn't from CBS.

I don't see mostly students, hanging out and enjoying a college experience; I see people who have spent thousands of dollars in transportation, scalped tickets and "officially sanctioned" NCAA merchandise.

I don't see players stepping out of the locker room into the friendly circle of a few close friends. I see future millionaires being whisked via golf cart to a news conference, where they lean into microphones and recite dull, glassy-eyed sentences.

I don't see fun. I see pressure.

I see coaches with slick hair and designer suits, bucking for endorsement deals. I see men like Bobby Knight and Rick Pitino peddling themselves, coaxing millions out of universities that refuse to pay the players a dime, proving that the game is, indeed, more enriching for coaches than for kids.

I see Nike and Reebok setting up camp in every tournament location, selling millions of shoes, warm-up suits and hats, acting as if they're somehow "helping" the game, when in fact they have manipulated it.

I see freshmen with tattoos banging their chests, pointing fingers at themselves for glory, talking about "what's best for me and my family," which translates into "don't expect to see me next year, because I'm going pro."

I see betting pools, Internet sites, statistical services, "insider" talk shows. I see Dick Vitale sound-alike contests.

I see big, bigger, biggest.

I miss Carrington. I miss the Milk Duds. I miss knowing that all the freshmen, sophomores and juniors on my team actually will be back next year.

It's March. And yes, it's madness.

Are we so sure that's a good thing?

Mitch Albom is the author of the best seller "Tuesdays With Morrie."


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