It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume VIII

Posted by jbaumgartner on January 17th, 2012

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….Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s momentum changing alley-oop against Tennessee. My favorite plays are those ones where in a second, the whole mood of a chaotic gym suddenly changes. The combination of floating from one side of the hoop to the other (hang time we can only dream of) and the emphatic CRACK of the rim snapping took UT’s good vibes and threw them for a complete 180. If there’s one thing I love about the modern game, it’s the microphone near the rims – they make monster slams even better (watch at the 0:40 mark).

I LOVED….Baylor keeping me wondering whether they’re for real. Coming into this week, I looked at their schedule and thought, well, they still haven’t played anyone stellar. And yet, even after last night’s tough loss in Allen Fieldhouse — a place where nobody can reasonably expect to win — it’s getting harder and harder to find too much to fault with these Bears. This weekend’s upcoming game in Waco against Missouri will help me figure this team out.

I LOVED….Syracuse continuing to shrug off the scandal surrounding the program and keep pace at No. 1. It’s tough to focus on playing when your coach and the university are under so much scrutiny, but this mess was not brought on by these kids – who have worked hard to put themselves in prime position for a postseason run. Let’s hope that they continue to tune out the other stuff.

I LOVED….feeling the upset-happy “This is College Basketball” vibe for the first time this year on Saturday. North Carolina turned the world upside down by getting trounced, Northwestern shocked the hottest team in the country, Iowa upended Michigan, Oklahoma took out KSU….this is the chaos I know and love.

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume VII

Posted by jbaumgartner on January 9th, 2012


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….a coach getting into the action. Not that we like to see anyone getting hurt, but who doesn’t love a clipboard-toting coach taking his turn in the layup line like Xavier’s Chris Mack? Unfortunately for him, his second uncontested drive to the hoop somehow ended up in knee surgery. We love the spirit, coach, but you’ve gotta remember – two steps, jump, and come down soft.

I LOVED….that a sharp-shooting Kentucky freshman got his $10K prize after all. Count on a big-chain food store to consider not doling out the prize because the participant’s foot was not completely behind the half-court line (Really, Kroger? Really?). Luckily they came to their senses, and the swish just made that freshman a very popular man on campus.

Mike Krzyzewski And Duke Took One On The Chin Over The Weekend (AP)

I LOVED….Duke taking one on the chin against Temple. And no, not because I’m a Carolina grad (though yes, I took pleasure in that capacity as well). Anyone who follows Duke knows that Coach K doesn’t go out of his way to schedule true non-conference road games. He greatly prefers neutral sites (where his team might play during the NCAA tournament) or home games against top competition. Now, Duke didn’t actually play at Temple, but still, a game against the Owls in Philly qualifies in my book. Though Krzyzewski is the one with four titles, I just find it hard to believe that the Blue Devils can’t use 2-3 of these games during the non-conference schedule to toughen them up for the latter part of the season. It’s hard to imagine that this loss won’t be a helpful building block down the road for a young team.

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume VI

Posted by jbaumgartner on December 29th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC columnist. His Love/Hate column will publish on Mondays throughout the season. This week’s was delayed due to the lack of college basketball over the weekend. 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….defenders who are willing to risk being the #1 highlight on SportsCenter. Two brave Texas Longhorns bit the bullet last week against North Carolina, and they paid a hefty price. First Dexter Strickland went up and over his Texas defender for the poster slam. Then, P.J. Hairston put on a hit that would make NFL safeties smile before throwing down a one-hander.

I LOVED….the strong early showing from the Big Ten. I’m the first to admit that I don’t love the style of play from this conference, but it’s nice to see so many teams with quality wins early in the year. On the top of that list is Indiana, which finally dropped its first game on the road against Michigan State (more than excusable). If Tom Crean’s revitalized Hoosiers can put together a decent conference season and Michigan State continues its strong recovery, you could be looking at a lot of high seeds from the Big Ten come March.

Crean Has Turned Indiana Around

I LOVED….a name like Fab Melo of Syracuse. First off, you can’t go wrong when you are a seven-foot Brazilian named Fab. Combine that with an identical last name to the program’s national championship hero/NBA star, and it’s almost too much. And if Fab puts up more games like the 12-point, 10-block, and 7-rebound performance against Seton Hall, Cuse fans will be chanting his name plenty by the end of the season.

I LOVED….the Georgetown Hoyas setting me up again. After Wednesday’s big win against Louisville on the road, they’re 11-1 and rolling. So just like the last few years, I will get too excited, expect big things, think this year is different, and end up frustrated with them all season and still picking them too far in my bracket. Oh well, at least I’m prepared early this time around.

I LOVED….this feel-good moment around the holidays, with UConn’s Andre Drummond giving back his scholarship to teammate Michael Bradley, who initially sacrificed it so that UConn could have room for the star recruit.

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume V

Posted by jbaumgartner on December 19th, 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….that Xavier went down in flames against mighty Oral Roberts thanks to the multiple suspensions from the Cincinnati brawl – including Tu Holloway. Not that I ever want to wish ill upon others, but it seems so much more helpful when players really get to see the consequences of their actions. Perhaps an embarrassing loss like this will make the Musketeers think twice before entering any other on-court confrontations.

I LOVED….Billy Donovan signing on for five more years. I had so much respect for Donovan when he passed up the lucrative offer with the Orlando Magic to stay on with the Gators and continue building a legacy that will be one of the finer tenures in college basketball by the time it ends. I don’t think anyone questions whether the Donovans, Williams, Calhouns or Krzyzewskis of the world could coach at the NBA level, but it’s so nice to keep them in the college game.

Donovan in Gainesville For Another Several Years is a Good Thing

I LOVED….Butler’s under-the-radar win against Purdue. Look, this isn’t a great Butler team. They’re 5-6, and they’re not reaching the NCAA Final again (I promise…). But it’s these normal, ho-hum wins against quality big-conference teams that continue to legitimize Brad Stevens’ squad as much as the crazy Cinderella wins in March. That’s how you keep stealing recruits from the big boys in the long run.

I LOVED….some alley-oop aerial acrobatics. For my money, there’s almost nothing more impressive than a player turning an alley into some sort of innovative slam. To intentionally twist your body while in the air and adjusting for a ball that is moving toward the hoop takes a combination of coordination and athleticism that most of us will never experience. This week we got a disgusting reverse alley from Oregon State’s Jared Cunningham (arguably the nation’s best leaper), and a 360 version from Terrence Ross of Washington (at the 6:13 mark).

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume IV

Posted 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.

Christian Watford's Game-Winner Represents IU's Renaissance

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.

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume III

Posted by jbaumgartner on December 5th, 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….a game so good that you’re left wondering if you just saw the National Championship preview. There was plenty of hype involved with Kentucky-North Carolina, and it would have been easy to see the game devolve into a sloppy, up-and-down affair. But instead we got everything we asked for and more. Fans and scouts alike were able to salivate over matchups like John Henson-Terrence Jones, and while lightning fast, the pace was still in control. One point on a non-neutral court certainly doesn’t give us any lasting conclusions, other than we’d all be happy to see these two powers square off again in April.

I LOVED….seeing something new. Every year we witness moments that are absurdly unthinkable, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen one like this shot from Detroit’s Ray McCallum, Jr. When in doubt, use the bounce.

I LOVED….seeing a well-balanced attack this early in the year. It’s not shocking that I’m talking about Ohio State, with how much experience and chemistry they have on the court. But still, their dismantling of Duke last Tuesday was a clinic on offensive balance. They may have arguably the best player in the nation in Jared Sullinger, but the Buckeyes spread the ball around so well that it even overshadowed Sullinger’s brilliance on the block.

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume II

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 28th, 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….that classic first game of the season where you just get blindsided. With a lineup full of projected first-round picks and some much-needed experience from last season, many felt that it would take a while for top-ranked North Carolina to fall. But those Runnin’ Rebels from UNLV went Jerry Tarkanian on Roy Williams’ crew and gave us 2011’s first shocker. That was seriously out of nowhere, and just two weeks into the season we can start asking what seems to be an annual question about UNC’s ability to defend the perimeter.

UNLV RTC'd the Orleans Arena Floor Saturday Night (With Good Reason)

I LOVED….how Rick Majerus has Saint Louis rolling this early. The Billikens have already knocked off Washington, Boston College, and Villanova this season – marking them as a mid-major to deal with down the road. Majerus is a fascinating coach with plenty of supporters and detractors (see this great article from Sports Illustrated’s S.L. Price in 2008) but he’s one heck of a basketball coach.

I LOVED….Griffin Lentsch’s 89 points last week for Grinnell College against Principia College. For those not familiar with Division III Grinnell, the Iowa school plays a crazy-fast, shoot-happy style that scores boatloads of points – so this kind of outburst makes a slight bit of sense. Still, I’ve been fascinated with point totals like these ever since Kobe Byrant dropped his remarkable 81. Scoring 89 points at any collegiate level is pretty remarkable.

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume I

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 21st, 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….finding out answers on Opening Night. After last year, we all knew UConn’s Jeremy Lamb had the chance to be special, but weren’t sure exactly what we’d get with Kemba Walker gone and a new team in Storrs. It took all of 32 minutes and 11 seconds against Columbia for Lamb to go baseline and throw down a “Yeah-I’m-A-POY-frontrunner-and-don’t-you-forget it” posterization. I’ll be shocked if that’s still not a Top 10 play by year’s end, and take note – this is the kid to watch for the next six months.

I LOVED….that moment when you realize college basketball is back – not necessarily the first game, but the first time you jump halfway off the couch and let out a little Ohhh!!! For me it was Alabama/Maryland, when Bama’s Tony Mitchell timed a tip jam so perfectly that he had time to cock it back into a semi-tomahawk and absolutely rip the net apart. The best time of the year is here.

I LOVED….the uniqueness of the North Carolina/Michigan State Carrier Classic. Yes, it was a great matchup, great coaches, a great tribute to our veterans, etc. But more than that, for the first time I can remember the backdrop setting of the game truly overtook the importance of the matchup or the result. Organizers have tried to do that in the past by setting up courts in huge venues, but this trumped them all. Five years from now, I think far more people will remember pictures like this than the final score. OK, well, maybe they’ll remember Roy Williams in combat boots, too.

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XVII

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 30th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball. This week, Jesse continues his alienation of Kentucky fans, suggests Mr. Sullinger calm it down for a little bit, and wants D-Will to get his props.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..watching 40 minutes of North Carolina-Kentucky and coming away fairly certain that it was the highest quality of play we’ve witnessed this season. Guard play, NBA talent down low, spurts both ways, a tie game with a few minutes left…wow. There’s no doubt in my mind that those were the two best teams left in the tournament, even though that doesn’t mean the Wildcats will bring home the crown.

I LOVED…..that Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart had to say that “this Final Four banner will stay.” Stay, as in not be taken away like the other two banners that John Calipari has – excuse me, HAD – on his resume. Quite a statement, that your athletic director needs to accentuate that point right after the big win. Yes, I can’t stand Cal. Sue me.

Could the Devils Have Won It All Without Him?

I LOVED…..trying to decipher the Kyrie Irving situation. Common sense said getting him back anywhere near full strength put this Duke team right back in the title picture. But after Nolan Smith struggled in the shocker against Arizona (eight points, six turnovers), you found yourself balancing the effects (Irving had 28 points). The bottom line was summed up perfectly by ESPN’s Jay Bilas. Is there any way that you justify not playing the nation’s best PG? No. And do they win the title without Irving? No way.

I LOVED…..how NC State keeps holding out hope of being a big time program again. Maybe it’s just because I spent four years in the state, but the kooks in Raleigh crack me up every time. With the Wolfpack job open, I’ve already heard “rumors” about Arizona coach Sean Miller and VCU coach Shaka Smart in connection with the job. Who in their right mind would want to go there, especially over a job like Arizona, which is a stay-there-till-you-die destination (weather, history, recruiting, etc.)? State fans are crazy, and any coach who wants to follow Sidney Lowe is crazier. If Smart lives up to his name, he’ll steer clear.

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XVI

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 21st, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball. This week, Jesse longs for a 16 to beat a 1, discusses how that Butler win can keep on winning, and says it’s time to holiday-ify the first two rounds.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith in the studio analyzing collegiate games. And frankly, anyone who doesn’t has no sense of humor. These guys have little idea what they’re doing, and the result is an endless string of off-the-cuff observations that contrast with the measured responses from the normal college basketball analysts. My favorite moments were as follows: 1) Barkley ripping the Big East a new one right in front of guest panelist Rick Pitino. The Louisville coach was absolutely simmering as Barkley explained how the conference “has no talent,” and Pitino proceeded to guarantee that Notre Dame would knock off Florida State. That obviously didn’t work out so well. Barkley also said that his first-round picks don’t count and blamed the Cardinals for his red-heavy bracket right in front of Pitino.  2) Kenny and Chuck dissecting a zone defense. Barkley summed up his point by saying something to the extent of this: “The zone is EASIEST defense in the world to play against. You just dribble through it.” Comedy gold, people. Embrace it.

 

And You Doubted This Man?

I LOVED…..finding out the answer to this question: How long can you keep your job by selling the fact that you recruited Blake Griffin? Answer: an even two years, as we found out with Jeff Capel this week. Some (including Griffin) say he got a raw deal. I don’t know, though – Griffin is the type of recruit you should be able to use to draw other guys in. Frank Martin had a similar situation with Michael Beasley at Kansas State, and he’s still got his Wildcats in the national picture.

I LOVED…..Brad Stevens doing it again. After last year’s Cinderella run, it would have been so easy to see the Bulldogs backslide with the loss of Gordon Hayward. This run to the Sweet Sixteen cements his squad as a consistent contender, and in my mind it makes recruiting that much easier. Now you can tell prospects, “Hey, not only did we make the final against Duke, but we came back and knocked off another No. 1 seed the next year.” I still think it’s hard to see Stevens not leaving in the near future, but it’s good for the college game if he stays and keeps Butler at this level.

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XV

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 14th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball. This week, Jesse asks who the best prototype player in the game is, backs the Princeton Tigers, and laments his bad bracket luck. Yeah, Jesse…tell it to Coach Greenberg.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..trying to figure out a unique question. I was having a debate with someone about Connecticut, and in the course of that argument said that “you have to remember, the Huskies don’t have five Kembas.” Well, my buddy (RTC’s own David Ely) asked which player I would take five of in order to form a team that would be the most competitive against a full squad from another school. Think about it, it’s a really interesting question. They have to be able to handle the ball if a team pressed, have to be big enough to compete on the boards (is 6’4 or 6’5 big enough?), have to shoot well enough to keep a D honest, have to be a versatile defender, etc. I think Jordan Hamilton from Texas might be my pick, but here are some of players that came to mind: Harrison Barnes (he’s the prototype you’d think of, 6’8 with some guard skills), Kyle Singler, Derrick Williams, Daniel Hardy, Brad Wanamaker, Scotty Hopson, DeAndre Liggins, Brandon Knight, Cory Joseph. Who would you take?

Is Barnes the Best "All-Rounder" of a Player?

I LOVED…..two perfect buzzer beaters. Kemba Walker and Washington’s Isaiah Thomas gave us a couple of doozies to salivate over this week, and I liked them for different reasons. With Kemba, it was the ridiculous move. Yes, he had a post player on him, but that stepback was so comically absurd (Pitt’s Gary McGhee fell down) that the only critique might be that he exerted too much energy getting more space than he needed. He’s still my POY, by the way. With Thomas, it was the perfect setup. It was an incredible game (a TITLE game), overtime, swings for both teams…and a perfect ending. Thomas played the clock absolutely perfectly, and the backboard lit up just as his J swished through the hoop. Oh, and by the way, Gus Johnson was on the call (watch to get excited for this coming week): “Thomas….shake….crossover….stepback…..AHHHHIAAHHHH!!!!! AT THE BUZZER!!! YOUNG!!!…..ZEKE!!! (someone told Gus that Thomas was named after the NBA great PG)…….. COLD!!!! ….. BLOODED!!!!!”

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XIV

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 7th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor. In this weekly piece he’ll review the five things he loved and hated about the previous seven days of college basketball. This week, Jesse digs a rout out west and credits the Thompson men in their handling of Klay’s mistake, and tells the Longhorns and Hokies what he thinks of ‘em.

Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED..…Rick Pitino saying that there were no hard feelings about the Louisville cheerleader who gave Pitt a chance to tie the game last Sunday by running onto the court and hurling the ball skyward, earning a technical. He went on to say that the overzealous student should “enjoy your moment of glory.” But while Rick might have been all chummy the next day, that frankly was not the case after the game. Click this link and listen to the audio of his press conference: “I’m sure it was unintentional, but you could actually lose a game that way …. But hopefully he’ll learn the rules of basketball next time.” Pitino might have been in his happy-go-lucky PR mood after taking 24 hours to calm down, but his gut reaction is pretty hilarious – don’t EVER touch my ball.

Pitino Showed His Mellower Side During Cheerleadergate

I LOVED……a subconscious admission of a classic Duke flop tactic (P.S., I’m neutralizing the upcoming Duke hate by giving Nolan Smith mad props for single-handedly keeping the Devils in the game against UNC this weekend). While watching the UK/Vanderbilt game this week, I saw a guard draw a three-shot foul by sticking out his legs on a jumper and acting his way into the call. The side announcer (I want to say it was Jimmy Dykes) proceeds to say, “Over the years, Duke’s shooters. You go back to even guys like J.J. Redick. So good and so clever. (Jon) Scheyer. Nolan Smith right now…just enough of a foot out when you’re in the air to draw contact.” THREE Duke players, NO ONE ELSE! It was quite humorous, and come on – you’ve got to give credit first and foremost to Best Actor nominee Reggie Miller, who invented that move long ago.

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