Though they're ostensibly the same sport, college and professional basketball can be quite different from each other. From the variety of zone defenses to the generally more mechanical (and practical) movement of the ball on offense, college basketball tends to be a little slower and more methodical than the professional version of the sport, emphasizing fundamentals over flash. Sega's NCAA College Basketball 2K3 admirably attempts to mimic college basketball, and in some cases, it's successful in doing so. But the game still has a few rough spots on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball that would make any fan of the sport throw his or her controller in frustration.
You can choose from dozens of college teams.
If there's one area where NCAA College Basketball 2K3 shows absolutely no sign of weakness, it's in the number and depth of the playable modes that are available. The game features the usual season and exhibition options, in which you can play through an entire season of college basketball or just one game, respectively, but it also features a great custom tournament mode in which you can create a tournament for any of the 30 conferences or all of the NCAA, a practice mode to help you become familiar with the fundamentals, a gym rat option that is comparable to the street ball mode in NBA 2K3, and a legacy mode. NCAA Basketball 2K3 also features online multiplayer support through Xbox Live, and it works quite well. Like in NBA 2K3, you can view win-loss records for every player online and create your own game or instantly join one. We played a number of games online, and we didn't experience much lag, though the game did bog down on a few occasions.
Most college basketball fans will initially be content with the tournament mode, but the legacy mode is what will bring them back to the game long after it's been purchased. There are two different types of approaches in the legacy mode, open and career. With the open option, every team has an open coaching spot right off the bat, so any one of them is immediately selectable. However, in the career option, most of the teams are locked and you'll be forced to start at one of the lower-tier basketball programs and meet a certain requirement to consider your season successful. If you meet that goal (which can be something as simple as winning half the games that season), then you might get job offers from other schools. If you don't, you'll have to stick it out with the same school for another season. It can be an incredibly fun mode to play through, and one that would've provided substantial motivation for continually playing through the legacy mode, but much of that is taken away by the fact that you can just go ahead and select any team in the open option.
The legacy mode will give you a chance to recruit players.
In any case, at the end of a season in legacy mode, a number of players will either graduate or move on to the NBA, so those holes in your lineup have to be filled by recruiting high school players. When the recruiting screen opens up, you'll see a list of players and their overall rating, their position, and the top three schools they're interested in. You can attempt to recruit any one of these players by spending recruiting points and having either the head coach or an assistant coach give that particular player a call to find out more about his abilities and the type of school he wants to attend. If he does show signs of interest, you can follow up the phone call with an actual visit by the coach so his interest remains intact. There are quite a few things to pay attention to in the recruiting process, but one of the keys is to at least go after a player who is already somewhat interested in playing for your school.
Since the gameplay mechanics in NCAA College Basketball 2K3 are essentially sound, all these modes are quite successful in adding some depth to the game, but there are some lingering problems that will pop up over the course of a season or even a single game, particularly against a computer opponent. Perhaps the game's biggest problem on the offensive side of the ball is the speed and accuracy, or lack thereof, in the passing game. Most colleges play a variety of zone defenses, and in order to break down those defenses, you need quick passes around the perimeter, but the passing in the game can be too slow, giving the defenders far too much time to adjust their defense and send a double team out on the ball handler. The analog passing seems to alleviate this problem somewhat, but the lack of speed is still readily apparent. In addition, it's a little too easy to intercept passes by sticking a man in the passing lane, though this encourages you to avoid poor passes.