There are a few March Madness traditions every college basketball fan knows well. The 12-5 upset. “One Shining Moment.” Some senior sobbing uncontrollably after a loss. And Charles Barkley not knowing what he’s talking about.
Barkley works full-time as an NBA analyst but covers the NCAA Tournament in March, and it sometimes feels like he hasn’t watched a college basketball game all season.
Over the years, Barkley has insisted that he watches and studies college basketball, without ever claiming he watches or studies a lot of college basketball.
Here’s what he said on the subject Wednesday, according to Newsday:
“They send up stats every week,” he said on Tuesday at an event in Manhattan to promote the coverage. “I mean, I’ve got notes on probably every conference. We get a notebook every week.
“It is a little different having to do your own homework. It’s not like college [at Auburn] where I had somebody doing it for me. It’s a lot of work.”
Asked about criticism of his college hoops knowledge, Barkley said “You know that it’s basketball, right?”
“I’m not trying to do heart surgery. I’m pretty sure nobody wants me operating on them.
“I don’t understand. It’s probably easier for me to watch college basketball than it is the pro game. These players aren’t as good as pros. So it’s a bad rap. It’s basketball, man. I don’t want to do ankle surgery. It’s not like I was working at urgent care and I’m trying to go do brain surgery. I was watching basketball.
“I watch Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, SMU, Oregon. I’ve watched all the teams play. It doesn’t mean I’m going to get most of my stuff right. Man, the criticism, hey, if they don’t like it they can talk to my boss and I can sit at home for two weeks. I can deal with golf and fishing for two weeks. It won’t hurt my feelings.”
Notice he didn’t deny that he’s relatively uninformed, only that he’s unqualified.
Barkley also said he had suggested to the higher-ups at Turner Sports that there be two studio teams during the opening weekend of the tournament so that he doesn’t have to work long days, but that didn’t go anywhere.
“They didn’t like my suggestion, which would have been a great suggestion,” he said. “I still think it would be a great suggestion to have two crews, because it’s hard to keep your energy level up for 12 straight hours. I mean, I love doing the tournament and I want these kids, and whoever watches, to know this is a big deal, because it is a big deal.”
How much it bothers you that Barkley doesn’t know much about college basketball probably depends on your much you know or care about college basketball. If you’re a diehard fan, you’re probably peeved the guy is on TV winging it. If you’re a casual fan, you’re more likely to enjoy Barkley’s humor and charm.
Even in his day job as an NBA talking head, Barkley isn’t exactly known for his analysis. So whether or not he can name two players on Wichita State isn’t really the point.