It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume IIPosted by jbaumgartner on November 25th, 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…. teams playing havoc with the minds and emotions of AP Poll voters. Perfect example this week – North Carolina. After laying a giant stink bomb at home against Belmont and making everyone wonder exactly how much of a difference P.J. Hairston will make even when he’s back, those same short-handed Heels went out and took it straight to the defending champs during Sunday’s convincing win over Louisville. So which is the real Carolina? Hard to say at this point, but yet another reminder that this is a year where almost any team can put up a W.
I LOVED…. efficient scorers. Marcus Paige‘s 32 points on 9-of-13 shooting brought to my attention that we do have a number of examples this year of quantity scorers who are putting up their numbers without dominating the ball — not the most common find with today’s shoot-first mentality. The two names that immediately come to mind are Duke’s Jabari Parker (after two weeks, still for real) and UK’s Julius Randle. Parker is now shooting almost 56 percent for the year (65 percent from three) and has only been under 50 percent shooting once all year, while Randle has never been below that mark. Meanwhile, both are still putting up over 20 points per game. It’s hard to not love a teammate who can fill it up while still leaving shots for the other guys on the floor.
I LOVED…. Russ Smith‘s ability to slice the double team. I’ll harp on his decision-making when appropriate, but there is no one better in the college game about sizing up two defenders at the top of the key, hesitating momentarily to draw them closer and then knifing through to create an instantaneous 5-on-3 situation in the lane that usually results in a layup. He’s a fun talent to see up close.
I LOVED…. the impressive development of UNC’s Marcus Paige from a young point guard to a pure wing scorer in just a matter of weeks. Taking over as your team’s only consistent scoring option (who can create his own shot) isn’t the easiest transition, but Paige has become Carolina’s go-to option overnight in the absence of Hairston, which may benefit the Tar Heels in a big way if they do indeed get their suspended guard back in the coming weeks.
I LOVED…. wandering through the Mohegan Sun on Saturday night and wondering what could be causing the walkway traffic jam in the shopping area that was keeping us from the craps tables. Answer? The Louisville Cardinals and Dickie V. The man is nothing if not at the center of attention.
Five Things I Hated This Week
I HATED…. seeing the effects of the new hand-checking rules live in person while attending this past weekend’s Hall of Fame Tipoff. The whistles on seemingly any and every bit of perimeter contact made the last eight minutes of all halves a free-throw shooting exercise with leisurely strolls to either basket in between. Yes, it’s still early, but it’s hard to imagine that this gets better as the year goes on. Basketball is a game of speed and anticipation, and it seems like the effect of this rule is merely to put both teams in foul trouble — not decrease the contact itself. And as a sidenote, the VCU-Georgetown game had 61 fouls and took almost three hours.
I HATED…. Vermont coming up short. If the Catamounts had managed to somehow come out of Cameron with a win on Sunday, you’d have to think it would rank among the more impressive regular season upsets in recent memory. That last whistle in a tie game seemed awfully quick, but Vermont can’t ask for much more than a chance to win with five seconds left. More alarming for Duke is how they’ve let East Carolina and Vermont hang around these last two games. Offensively they look set, but giving up 90 to the now 1-5 Catamounts leaves plenty to work on at the other end.
I HATED…. the other effect of the increased hand-checking fouls — offensive players intentionally using them to force whistles. As the fouls mounted in the Hall of Fame Tipoff this weekend, you could see dribblers start to immediately push hard with the first dribble just to see if they could get a quick call. Smart? Yes. But not the point of the change, and a sign that the emphasis has gone too far at times.
I HATED…. tons of empty seats for what ended up being a big-time UNC/Louisville match-up. It’s always interesting to me why some of these preseason tournaments with such great non-conference games struggle to put fans in the seats. Too much competition with football season, I guess? With tickets that are usually quite affordable and locations that usually feature off-court entertainment, it just seems like these events could benefit from a little better marketing scheme to drive more early-season interest in the college game — particularly with so many new, talented freshmen making their debuts in these types of venues.
I HATED…. the impact that we saw on Sunday from Louisville’s Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear, which was minimal at best. Louisville might be known for its pressing guard play, and Russ Smith is still the face of this team, but what also stood out during last year’s title run was their ability to wipe the glass clean with their array of uber-athletic small forwards. While North Carolina did throw a stream of big men down low to wear the Cardinals down, they were freshmen and sophomores that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to neutralize these two veterans. If Rick Pitino‘s group plans on another run in 2014, they will need to show up every game.