NORMAN — Tommy Mason-Griffin has left the building, and I don’t blame him. The Sooner point guard played basketball like he was working the salt mines. He played without joy. Spending eight or nine months in Oklahoma seemed to be boot camp for TMG. Virtually punching a time clock. Life’s short. No reason to spend any of it being miserable. Not that the future’s going to brighten up anytime soon. If Mason-Griffin thinks he’s headed for the NBA, he hasn’t paid attention to the caliber of the league’s point guards. TMG couldn’t defend Iowa State’s Diante Garrett; how’s he going to guard Deron Williams? Keeping up with Fred Gulley is not like keeping up with Rajon Rondo. But that’s college basketball as we enter the second decade of the 21st century. The sport has become a halfway house for its best players, and while some embrace it and enjoy it, others treat it like a Roman slave ship. Compare the demeanor of Mason-Griffin with his female counterpart at OU. Danielle Robinson plays point guard like she’s just been turned loose in an empty amusement park. Running here, running there, trying to experience it all, hoping closing time never comes. "Just being able to represent the university and the state, it’s huge,” said Robinson, who is from the distinctly non-Oklahoma city of San Jose, Calif. "You’re doing something you love to do. Something you can’t take for granted.” Meanwhile, Mason-Griffin played like he had one eye on the basket and one eye on the calendar. I thought maybe it was just his personality, but now we know why. He couldn’t wait to get the heck out of Dodge. This is the problem with a system that demands a pound of flesh — a year in college — for guys who have no business walking around a college campus. That’s why some fans migrate to the women’s game. The men run faster and jump higher. They shoot straighter and have fewer turnovers than your average Arby’s. But while most men play with passion and effort, they not all play with joy. Joy is attractive. Joy is contagious. Some fans say the women’s game of today is like the men’s game of 30 years ago. Athletically, that’s not so. Spiritually, it be so. Some men still play like they have pride in their old alma mater. But all women seem to play that way. I chatted with Andrea Riley less than 30 minutes after her career ended Monday night in Oklahoma State’s NCAA Tournament loss to Georgia. Everyone can admit that Riley had her ups and downs as a Cowgirl, but here’s what she said about her OSU career: "All the years I’ve been here, it was so fun. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” Men’s basketball has painted itself into a corner. It has willingly become a warehouse for the NBA and players, rightly or wrongly, who believe they will be pros. College is not for everyone. If Tommy Mason-Griffin didn’t want to be there, no one should blame him for leaving. The shame is that he was there in the first place. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080; Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.
No. 3 OU vs. No. 2 Notre Dame→When: 6:30 p.m. Sunday →Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City, Mo. →TV: ESPN2 (Cox 28) →Radio: KOKC-AM 1520