It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume IPosted by jbaumgartner on November 18th, 2013
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…. starting this year off with what for my money was the best preseason event in recent memory. Combining the history of the Duke/Kansas/Kentucky/Michigan State programs with the incredible talent those squads have this year was a November treat for any college basketball fan who has grown tired of the NFL’s unthinkably terrible Monday/Thursday schedule this fall. Michael Wilbon said it right in his column after the game — this type of night makes college basketball relevant earlier in the year and gets people paying attention before January. I think you saw that same sentiment from those coaches, too, in their postgame interviews – this was not your ordinary non-conference event.
I LOVED…. Jabari Parker. When I look at freshmen now, I put them through what I call the Kevin Durant Eye Test. When you saw Durant during his unbelievable freshman year at Texas, you stopped doing whatever it was you were previously doing. You thought, no way is this kid this big with these type of perimeter skills and that feathery stroke. No way is he only 18, and no way would he not be making an impact on an NBA team right now. Parker passed that test, and this year is going to be fun.
I LOVED…. that I still had to think about if the night’s star was Parker, because UK’s Julius Randle (Zach Randolph should sue for post-game style patent infringement) and KU’s Andrew Wiggins (who woke up for the second half against Duke to remind us what all the hype was about) delivered similarly eye-opening performances. I also loved that for how great Parker and Randle were, it was the more-balanced Jayhawks and Spartans that came out on top.
I LOVED…. Kevin Ware back on the floor. It’s hard to remember the last time that everyone wanted to see a kid back on his feet more than Ware, whose gruesome injury last March caused America to collectively turn their heads away from the TV set. Making his first three-pointer was pretty great, but I loved this past week even more when Ware cut into the lane and bounced off of a two-foot jump stop for a high-flying finger roll at the cup. What a great story.
I LOVED…. the start of the Steve Alford era at UCLA. I was strongly in the camp that UCLA didn’t understand a good thing when they had it with Ben Howland. While he might not have been the perfect fit for the LA media, Howland consistently recruited well, put good teams on the floor, and made a boatload of Final Fours. In my opinion, that alumni base still has some bizarre feeling that the days of John Wooden are just one hire away, and I’ll be interested to see a) how Alford does; and b) the type of criticism and expectations he faces after the AD ran a successful coach out of town.
Five Things I Hated This Week
I HATED…. Sports Illustrated’s recent cover with Andrew Wiggins and Wilt Chamberlain. I know it makes for a good story, but in my mind this is one of those comparisons that you just don’t touch. Wilt changed the game of basketball — literally changed it. We may never see another player like him. To compare an unproven freshman (YouTube highlights don’t count) is offensive to the greatness of Wilt. I love Wiggins’ potential, too, but let’s not feed the media hype unnecessarily just to sell magazines.
I HATED…. Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones picking Duke. Because when you currently have Jabari Parker, some things just aren’t fair.
I HATED…. the amount of fouls called in the Michigan State/Kentucky game with the new emphasis on hand-checking and blocking fouls. As a buddy of mine pointed out, one of the great parts of college basketball is that the games are always under two hours, no matter what — unlike the 2.5 hours that the NBA usually drags on for. But now we are seeing similar game times and a painfully disjointed pace of play. This needs to change quickly, because it’s taking the fast-paced flow out of college basketball. As my friend also noted, it’s pretty ironic that the NCAA’s changes were designed to make the game more offensive and open, but instead have made them unthinkably more ugly thus far.
I HATED…. that Aaron Craft has somehow been given a ninth year of eligibility. This kid cannot be still be here, right? But I loved that this Ohio State team has his same stamp on it like usual, and with that defense I think they’ll be right there in March once again (though they might face tougher tests than Marquette, whose 35 points in 40 minutes dealt another blow to modern-day basketball).
I HATED…. that freshmen are now in the preseason Wooden Award list. If we’re now at a point that this “honor” includes players who have never played a college game and have literally zero resume, maybe it’s time to get rid of this preseason version and go with a mid-season list. Any takers?