It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume IVPosted by jbaumgartner on December 12th, 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… Tom Crean taking a giant step forward with his Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday. Having taken over a disastrous situation in Bloomington, no one deserved that finish more than Crean against the Kentucky Wildcats. Christian Watford’s rainbow swish as the buzzer sounded is one giant recruiting tool for the future, and the only thing better would have been Gus Johnson’s voice on the call. What a game, and what a relief for Crean after several years of frustration.
I LOVED… seeing Madison Square Garden for the first time. I made it to MSG for Saturday’s Washington/Duke matchup, and there is a different type of atmosphere in that historic arena that takes hold the moment you get your ticket scanned and step inside. Players on both teams were bouncing up and down as soon as they stepped on the floor, which isn’t something you always see at a neutral location. The crowd is basketball-savvy, and you can’t help getting caught up looking at the retired Knicks greats in the rafters. As Coach K said after the game: “I love playing at Cameron, but outside of Cameron, Madison Square Garden is the place.” Very cool.
I LOVED…UCLA coach Ben Howland making a gutsy call by getting rid of Reeves Nelson. It’s a tough situation when one player is setting a terrible example, but your team is still probably better off with him on the floor. We talked about Nelson a couple weeks ago and I questioned whether Howland was going too easy on him, but this is a decision that obviously places principles ahead of short-term benefits. It could be a rough year in LA for Howland, but the Bruin program will be better off in the long run.
I LOVED… trying to decide about Washington freshman guard Tony Wroten. I actually got to watch Wroten play in high school because he went to my alma mater in Seattle, and he’s been a top-5 prospect in his class since about age 14 (he likely would have been top-3 without a football knee injury as a junior, but he seems to have fully recovered). Anyone who caught Washington/Duke saw what I’m talking about – Wroten is usually too showy, at times the best scorer on the floor, at times the best passer on the floor, at times the most selfish on the floor, often times the most unmotivated on the floor, the most exciting, the most excited, and almost always a turnover waiting to happen.
It can be mesmerizing to watch though (when it’s not infuriatingly aggravating), and it will be interesting to see how Lorenzo Romar will develop this uber-talented frosh. If he refines his game and focus, he could be up there with the best in the nation.
I LOVED… a coaching change not making a big difference. I wondered how Mike Anderson’s departure would affect the Tigers (9-0, No. 10 in the rankings), but it’s great to see that Frank Haith has hit the ground running. Haith was in a ho-hum situation in Miami that probably never would have progressed very far, and so far he looks like the right choice in Columbia. It doesn’t hurt to inherit some serious talent, but given that Anderson had such a distinctive up-and-down style, Haith’s early success is definitely impressive.
Five Things I Hated This Week
I HATED… the lost art of free-throw shooting. It seems like teams get worse and worse every year, and I saw some terrible marksmanship at MSG with both teams going a combined 40-for-67. Then Kentucky (with coach John Calipari, whose teams have historically been terrible from the line) lost on a three at the buzzer against Indiana after missing one of two freebies on the previous possession. More and more it seems like free throws are the worst part of the game for many incoming freshmen, and I’d love to see the stats over the last ten years. What I really don’t get is that these kids have to notice that their favorite NBA players -– Kobe, LeBron, etc –- are anywhere from good to great at the line. You just can’t leave free points on the board.
I HATED… inconsistency on stopping play for injuries. In one game Saturday, I saw a player fall down after scoring a basket and play was whistled dead. But on another play, the same thing happened and play continued – leading to a made three on the other end with the 4-on-5 situation. And then later in the game, a player fell to the floor and didn’t get up – acting injured – and when the whistle wasn’t blown, eventually got up and scored a cherry-picking basket seconds later (leading you to believe that.. oh… maybe he wasn’t that hurt after all).
The point is, you have to decide one way or the other. What about this – if you need to fall to the floor injured, play stops. Period. BUT, you have to go to the bench for at least one play until the next dead ball. It seems like that would both establish consistency and make sure that players aren’t getting drama practice.
I HATED… John Calipari again feeling the need to make everything about him by stating that he doesn’t see being in Lexington longer than 10 years. That’s just so helpful for your current players, your recruits, your school administration, etc. Most coaches would keep that observation to themselves and say they’re happy to be coaching one of the country’s most historic programs. But that’s asking a little too much for Cal.
I HATED… this mess again. We barely made it into December before this ugly on-court fight caused Cincinnati/Xavier to be called off with nine seconds left. Obviously there is always lots of emotion in a regional rivalry, but it’s disappointing to see that the senior stars – Tu Holloway from Xavier and Yancy Gates of Cincinnati – were two of the bigger players in this brawl.
I HATED… Michigan State’s apparent insistence on driving me crazy for another year. Last season their ability to flounder despite great talent made me go nuts (and made for poor bracket predictions). This year they looked remarkably average against North Carolina and Duke, but then have won eight straight – including a really impressive road win in Spokane against a ranked Gonzaga team. Maybe it’s time to admit that the Spartans and I just weren’t meant to be.