It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume I

Posted 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.

Parker and Friends are Worth Stopping What You’re Doing to Watch Them

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.

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Big 12 M5: 01.11.13 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 11th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. We were beginning to wonder about Ben McLemore a bit during his explosion against Iowa State on Wednesday night and so was his coach. McLemore wasn’t aggressive enough or at least enough to Bill Self’s liking. “[McLemore] doesn’t get himself plugged in,” Self said. Well coach, I think his 33 points on just 12 shots is about as “plugged in” as it gets. He tripled his scoring average of his two games previous (11.0 PPG) and made all six of his threes against the Cyclones. You almost forget that this guy was ineligible to play on last year’s team that lost to Kentucky in the national title game. If he had been eligible, there easily could have been another championship banner hanging at The Phog this season. They could still end up hanging another one but they’ll just have to wait until next season’s home opener to do so.
  2. If we learned anything from Wednesday night’s game, it’s that Iowa State has set up a template for beating the Jayhawks. As Rob Dauster notes, Cyclones’ bigs aren’t your prototypical bigs. Guys like Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim can shoot from the outside which means Jeff Withey’s superb shot-blocking ability can be neutralized a bit (although he still had three blocks) when he isn’t hanging around the painted area as much. I think if Big 12 teams were to study this, it could work to their advantage. I look at a team like Baylor with seven-footer Isaiah Austin, who also has the tendency to play around the perimeter. If Austin is on his game, KU could find itself in trouble again.
  3. The Los Angeles Athletic Club announced the midseason 25 candidates for the John R. Wooden Award which is college basketball’s most prestigious individual honor. The Big 12 had four players crack the list: Pierre Jackson, Ben McLemore, Marcus Smart and Jeff Withey. First impressions: the LAAC got ‘em all right. The representatives went like this among power conferences: the Big East had five, the Big Ten had four, the ACC had three, and the Pac-12, surprisingly, had none. The SEC had two players on the list but both of them (Laurence Bowers and Phil Pressey) play for Missouri, so technically, the Big 12 would have had six players make the cut if the Tigers hadn’t jumped ship after last season. Think about that.
  4. It’s no secret that WVU-Texas on Wednesday night was everything wrong about college basketball but what Bob Huggins said after his Mountaineers prevailed in overtime raised some eyebrows, if not just my own. “We had opportunities to pack it in and we didn’t when we got down [13] points and we were having a hard time scoring. Hopefully this kind of gets us back to being my kind of team,” Huggins said. I wonder if he actually believes that last sentence. I guess somebody has to, right? The Mountaineers struggled to reach 57 points even with an extra five-minute cushion to boot. All I know is that if Huggins is able to turn this season around, it would be the biggest “sike” in Big 12 history.
  5. For the first time since guys like Blake Griffin and James Anderson suited up, the Bedlam Series matters again. Despite their recent slide, I feel good enough to say Oklahoma State will be an NCAA Tournament team by season’s end, but the wildcard in this analysis is Oklahoma. The Sooners didn’t play all that tough of a non-conference schedule so their losses aren’t all that bad, but they have the talent and coaching to go .500 in conference play, maybe better. But, hey, this is a rivalry game — all the facts and figures are supposed to be thrown out the window anyway.
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