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…. the magic of an intrastate rivalry in a basketball crazy state with Butler/Indiana. There are some games that seem like they’re just meant to take place in March, with all of those final consequences, and this sure seemed like one of those contests. What a treat of a game this early in the year, with all the back-and-forth and late dramatics that you could ask for. It makes sense that the Cinderella-prone Bulldogs and the upstart Hoosiers would be primed to start up a testy rivalry, but this barnburner might have just sped up that process by a couple of years. And you have to love the recruiting implications, too.
I LOVED… Sean Miller’s Wildcats taking out Florida in an early-season battle of potential March heavyweights. This one made me smile for two reasons – one, I feel like Miller is still on track with molding UA back into the perennial power that it was just a few years ago (and with that campus to recruit to, as it always should be…). But the other reason is that we need a couple of schools in the West to step up after a rough couple of years, just to restore some geographic balance to the college landscape. This Wildcats team looks like they could do their part this season.
I LOVED…. how content Tubby Smith is. He’s got another sneaky good team at Minnesota this season, as the Golden Gophers have only lost to #1 Duke and taken down Memphis and San Diego State, among others. You have to think that a guy with Tubby’s resume (read: national title) has turned down some offers at more marquee programs the past few seasons, but he’s remained committed to what most people would consider a rather moderate-profile university in a quality conference. It’s not flashy, and neither is Tubby, but it’s refreshing to see a good coach stay the course and keep building.
I LOVED…. Indiana losing a game at this point in the year. Though I’ve questioned their No. 1 ranking from the start, I really do like this team and think they very well could cut down the nets at the end of the year. But they needed some adversity, and getting it now rather than in late January or February will be a positive development, in my opinion. And getting it from a team that isn’t at their talent level should give Tom Crean even more material to work with in practice.