It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume IPosted by jbaumgartner on November 21st, 2011
Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish on Mondays throughout the season. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball.
Five Things I Loved This Week
I LOVED….finding out answers on Opening Night. After last year, we all knew UConn’s Jeremy Lamb had the chance to be special, but weren’t sure exactly what we’d get with Kemba Walker gone and a new team in Storrs. It took all of 32 minutes and 11 seconds against Columbia for Lamb to go baseline and throw down a “Yeah-I’m-A-POY-frontrunner-and-don’t-you-forget it” posterization. I’ll be shocked if that’s still not a Top 10 play by year’s end, and take note – this is the kid to watch for the next six months.
I LOVED….that moment when you realize college basketball is back – not necessarily the first game, but the first time you jump halfway off the couch and let out a little Ohhh!!! For me it was Alabama/Maryland, when Bama’s Tony Mitchell timed a tip jam so perfectly that he had time to cock it back into a semi-tomahawk and absolutely rip the net apart. The best time of the year is here.
I LOVED….the uniqueness of the North Carolina/Michigan State Carrier Classic. Yes, it was a great matchup, great coaches, a great tribute to our veterans, etc. But more than that, for the first time I can remember the backdrop setting of the game truly overtook the importance of the matchup or the result. Organizers have tried to do that in the past by setting up courts in huge venues, but this trumped them all. Five years from now, I think far more people will remember pictures like this than the final score. OK, well, maybe they’ll remember Roy Williams in combat boots, too.
I LOVED….preseason tournaments. There are more than you can ever hope to count or see now, but the expansion of these preseason showcases is great for the college game. While a few people will lament that the former prestigious preseason tourneys lose their luster, I argue that not enough fans are switched over from college football yet to make that a necessary consideration. These events draw big-time teams with their neutral courts (yes, Coach K, we know how much you love a good ol’ neutral court) and their TV exposure. Sure, ESPN, has a monopoly on them, but I’ll take great matchups in Week Two over the alternative any day.
I LOVED….Coach K getting the wins record. OK, fine, I went to Carolina and I didn’t really love it. But I love numbers, and his are tough to beat. 904 wins to date, 12 30-win seasons, four national titles, and he’s still just 64 years old. Pretty amazing stuff.
Five Things I Hated This Week
I HATED….preseason rankings. I’ve always hated them, and I always will. Or maybe I just love watching them fall apart…who knows. This year’s specialty was the Elite Eight Arizona Wildcats going down to the mighty Falcons of Division II Seattle Pacific University in an exhibition game. They say that on any given night….but having grown up a few blocks away from SPU, let’s just say that this given night should never exist with a “ranked” team (though to be fair, the Wildcats have gotten things together a bit since then).
I HATED….having my buddy excitedly tell me the other day that a big Pac-12 football matchup was going to have Gus Johnson on the call. With that news, I realized for the first time this season that Gus will no longer be on CBS for key matchups or the tourney following his failed contract negotiations. A moment of silence, please. The Apocalypse is near.
I HATED….how awful the Pac-12 looks after just a few games. So far, teams in this conference have lost games to Seattle Pacific, Pepperdine, Boise State, Montana State, Cal Poly, Loyola Marymount, and Middle Tennessee. Yes, the mid-majors are stronger, but that’s still a rough, rough list. Plus, consider that the LMU and Middle Tennessee (by 20 points) losses were sustained by the 0-2 UCLA Bruins – the team picked by conference coaches to finish first.
I HATED….seeing Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim’s comments about the investigation into assistant Bernie Fine. You have to respect the loyalty, and no doubt the allegations are hard for him to deal with, but there are just not many good outcomes for Boeheim’s immediate defense of Fine before everything works itself out. Not to say that he shouldn’t be supportive, but as hard as it is, you’d hate to see a coach as respected as Boeheim end up in a mess if things turn out differently.
I HATED….more heartbreak in Stillwater, Oklahoma. It’s hard to imagine that out of all the thousands of universities in the country, Oklahoma State could possibly have to deal with two unthinkable tragedies during the last ten years involving plane crashes and members of their men’s and women’s basketball programs. One is more than enough for a community to deal with.