It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume IIIPosted by Jesse Baumgartner on December 4th, 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…. Arizona‘s balance. So far, this year has been all about the fantastic freshmen and the individual talents that have really driven early-season interest in the college game. But I have yet to see a team that looked as consistently balanced across the floor as the Wildcats did against Duke last Friday night, particularly down low with stud freshman Aaron Gordon and veterans Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski. That tripod of length, skill and athleticism spells two things — high quality shots in the paint, and rebounds galore. And it’s really cleaning the glass that will be toughest on opponents in March and April, as we saw with Louisville’s run last season.
I LOVED…. a reasonable contract extension. Dana Altman has done a great job at Oregon, no question about it — he’s brought the Ducks back into the national picture, won NCAA Tournament games, and really put an exciting roster on the floor in Eugene (and hey, let’s just assume for argument’s sake that he had absolutely nothing to do with that horrific floor design). But while it seems like we see so many contracts these days that give out too much money/years on just a season or two of success, Altman’s three-year extension seems just right. Good job, here’s a cookie, and more to come as the program keeps growing.
I LOVED…. UMass back in the AP rankings for the first time in 15 years. You know, just another one of those programs John Calipari hit and ran on. Somewhere, someplace, Dr. J is smiling.
I LOVED…. seeing Villanova put in a solid performance in the Bahamas to outlast Kansas. I’ve always liked Jay Wright as a coach, and it seems like he’s nearing the point where he needs a solid NCAA Tournament run to reinforce that the program isn’t too far removed from the 2009 Final Four squad. For Kansas, that game seems to just reaffirm what is true for so many of these uber-talented, uber-young teams — any given night they can go down.
I LOVED…. Tom Izzo holding out three starters from the opening lineup to make a point about being late for class during finals week. A big deal? Of course not — but it’s classic Izzo. Nothing is bigger than the team in East Lansing (can you name their last legitimate superstar or one-and-done?), and every little bit matters over the course of the season.
Five Things I Hated This Week
I HATED…. Wichita State‘s non-conference schedule. Obviously that’s not something that can just be changed on a whim after last year’s historic Final Four run, but the Shockers haven’t just been a quality program for a year either. Smaller-conference teams need to take a page out of Gonzaga’s book here — the selection committee is a lot more likely to overlook early losses to quality programs than a patsy schedule and a glossy overall record. And with so many quality preseason tournaments out there now, Wichita really needs to make sure they have these lined up year after year — which won’t hurt recruiting exposure either. In this case, the underwhelming CBE Classic where Wichita defeated DePaul and BYU, didn’t do the job.
I HATED (but secretly loved)…. the Tim Floyd/Andy Enfield fracas before the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. If you haven’t yet done so, give Seth Davis’ piece a read on SI.com. I still can’t decide what the best part of this story is. The history with Floyd and USC? That Enfield’s wife was a bystander? Enfield saying Floyd wanted his job? Debating the merits of El Paso, Texas? Or Floyd saying “Do you want to kick my ass?” Nothing like some overaggressive, immature, middle-aged men to create some good print copy, and it got even better when Floyd couldn’t let it go after his game last Thursday. A little bitter, Tim?
I HATED…. the negative progression of James Michael McAdoo for North Carolina. Remember how high this guy was on the draft boards after UNC lost to Kansas in the Elite Eight two years ago, following Kendall Marshall’s ill-timed injury? With great anticipation in the passing lanes and tenacity on the boards, most experts had him as a lottery lock. But the past two seasons have seen little to no progression for the athletic small forward – he still has poor touch down low, a subpar passing ability out of the double-team, and an unreliable perimeter shot to go with massive free throw problems. At this point, it’s hard to imagine anything but a mid-second round selection for him unless something drastically changes this year.
I HATED…. seeing Josh Smith on the Georgetown roster helping out the Hoyas, and knowing that he’ll do so next year as well. Count me as another confused fan on this one. How does a guy get to play multiple games (six) for a team last season, leave for Georgetown in January, and not only get to play immediately but also get that entire junior year back? Huh? Good thing the NCAA is always very clear and consistent on these sorts of things….
I HATED…. blogs/columns like this one. We’re six or seven games into the season, folks — there should be literally zero arguments out there that this year’s No. 1 freshman should be playing like one guy who has had an incredibly hot start to the year. First, Andrew Wiggins has been putting up good numbers and played a big part in Kansas pulling away from Duke to start the year (yes, that’s right, the Jayhawks won with his 16 points in the second half and a jump shot to ice it). But beyond that, it’s really unfair to say too much against any of these true freshman until at least 15 games in. They’re still forming their own identities against the best competition they’ve faced to date, and columns like this are a bit laughable in early December.