It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume I

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 5th, 2012

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish each week throughout the season. In this 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 getting his due. After stepping into a situation that fits right into a Halloween house of horrors, Crean should rightfully take a full, oh, 20 minutes and bask in the satisfaction of planting Hoosierville right back on top of the college basketball world. Seriously, this is pretty remarkable. It’s not like Indiana had just been down for a few years before he stepped onto the scene – other than the freak run to the NCAA finals in 2002, this program hadn’t made the Sweet Sixteen since 1994. And to deal with sanctions and penalties on top of everything else…. soak it up Tommy, because they’re coming for you now.

Tom Crean Has the Nation’s #1 Team in the Preseason Polls (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images).

I LOVED…. finding about this awesome tradition at John Brown University, as the fans pelt the court with toilet paper following the team’s first home basket of the year. For all hype that fan bases at the big schools get, this might top them all in the originality column.

I LOVED…. how John Calipari continues to make us learn at least five new names every year. His latest freshmen class looked fine in its debut, and I’m excited for another season to see how sustainable his one-and-done championship model really is. Maybe he’s figured it out and will see more vindication this season. Or maybe we’ll be left wondering again how realistic it is to build chemistry and tourney success in six months. Chalk me up as one guy hoping for the latter.

I LOVED…. trying to decide how the University of California-Chapel Hill will do this season, by which of course, I mean the mighty UCLA Bruins. With the Wear twins and Larry Drew II, Ben Howland’s squad will have three key pieces that opted to transfer from UNC and Roy Williams – including Drew, who fled the team in the middle of a turnaround season after getting knocked out of the starting lineup by Kendall Marshall (Marshall ended up a first-round pick, so yes, it was probably warranted). It begs the question of how helpful it is to have transfers who were unhappy at another program with similar history and tradition. With so many kids jumping ship to other schools these days, it will be interesting to see the inevitable statistical analyses in coming years on how programs do once these transports set foot on campus.

I LOVED…. Louisville locking up Rick Pitino before the season even started. College basketball is full of uncertainty. Upsets, untimely off-court issues, underachievers…. you name it. But there are a few things you can bet the house on year in and year out: Cameron Crazies are loud, Calipari’s hair gel could reinforce the shakiest of brick buildings, and Rick Pitino wins basketball games. End of story.

Five Things I Hated This Week

I HATED…. Indiana at No. 1. Sure, I just gave Crean his props, but part of me dies every time a No. 1 is exalted on the basis of little hard evidence. Yes, Indiana has LOTS of returning talent. Yes, I love Cody Zeller. Yes, I love their versatility, their resilience and their toughness in last year’s tourney. And yes, I love how they gave it right back to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen. But no, I still don’t think they’ve played a game in the tournament’s final three rounds (they haven’t), and no, I’m not willing to start them at No. 1 until they play a few games and match up with some other top teams. Part of me thinks that the Hoosiers are like Notre Dame in football. Everyone wants them to be good because of the history and the association with the sport’s roots, and so the moment we think they might be a legit team, we go crazy. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ll take Louisville as my top squad until I see some proof on the court.

Jim Calhoun’s Retirement Leaves a Bad Taste in My Mouth (AP Photo)

I HATED…. Jim Calhoun’s retirement. Before we get lost in the madness of early-season tournaments, I just need to mention once how pathetic the coverage of this event was, and the Grand Canyon-wide pass the media gave him about the situation he saddled his program with. I have crazy respect for Calhoun as a coach, but I don’t care who you are – leaving your program with violations and academically unqualified for postseason play shouldn’t be a mere side note in your retirement article.

I HATED…. how 6 of the 11 college basketball headlines on ESPN.com today focused on issues concerning transfers, violations and suspensions. It’s November! I want previews, profiles and predictions. Enough of the other stuff.

I HATED…. seeing North Carolina State ahead of Duke and UNC in the preseason rankings. Yes, I’m biased for the Tobacco Road rivalry and don’t like adding in a third party (though honestly, how cool is it to have three Top 11 teams right in one little geographic triangle? It doesn’t happen very often). Still, my unease with the preseason rankings persists – similar to my qualms with Indiana at No. 1. The Wolfpack were 0-3 against their neighbors last year, and I don’t want to know that record over the last 10 years (trust me, it’s awful). Yes, NC State returns more pieces, but they’ll have to stick one of their historical rivals with an L before I’ll pay attention.

I HATED… realizing that I have to wait a full eight weeks before Louisville and Kentucky clash for state bragging rights. But even though that’s my game of the year right now, in two months everything might be different, and I definitely love that. So buckle up and hang on — the best six months of the year are finally here.

jbaumgartner (48 Posts)


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