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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Duke and UNC Will Square Off In An Alumni Game on November 17

Posted by KCarpenter on November 8th, 2011

Even though real, meaningful basketball has started, indulge me for a bit more while we talk about one more meaningless game. Nolan Smith hinted at it on Twitter a couple of weeks ago and it turns out that the rumors are true: There will be a DukeNorth Carolina alumni game featuring some of the very best players in each program’s respective histories. To return to one of the more tragic themes of this fall — the sadness of NBA fans is transmuted into joy for college basketball fans. Due to the NBA lockout, this alumni game is expected to include a sizable number of current NBA players. For Duke, last year’s stars in Smith and Kyrie Irving will team up with some of last decade’s stars, namely Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, and Chris Duhon. For the Tar Heels, the lineup is headlined by a number of stars from the 1990s: Jerry Stackhouse, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter,  and Brendan Haywood.

Duke Stars Together Again?

Notably lacking from either lineup is the presence of many players from the mid-2000s. While Raymond Felton is expected to play for UNC, and Gerald Henderson will suit up for the Blue Devils, some young blood might add a little more spice to the game. Some accounts, notably this one by Duke Basketball Report, suggest J. J. Redick will play, which would certainly be a welcome addition. The most conspicuous missing name, though, is Tyler Hansbrough. In the Kentucky Villains game, Hansbrough showed that he wasn’t absent from the exhibition circuit. That combined with his continued presence in Chapel Hill during the lockout would seem to make him a prime candidate for taking part in this game.

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Christian Laettner and the Profitability of Big Blue Hate

Posted by Gerald Smith on October 25th, 2011

Since 1992, former Duke forward Christian Laettner has been remembered in the dark recesses of every Kentucky fans’ heart. Beating The Unforgettables — the senior class of Wildcats who overachieved through Kentucky’s probation in the early 1990s — on a last-second shot created an entire generation of fans who harbor special hatred for Laettner and his stomp of Wildcat Aminu Timberlake’s chest.  After a decent pro career and some financial difficulties, Laettner re-engaged with Big Blue Nation Monday night. Laettner wanted to be hated; more specifically, Laettner wanted to get paid for being hated.

The Big Blue Hate Trade isn’t quite as profitable as former Wildcat basketball player Jeff Sheppard and his production team hoped. This Villains exhibition game was the ninth and final game of the Big Blue All-Star Tour that stretched throughout the state of Kentucky in the last couple of weeks. Laettner’s fame as Wildcat Enemy #1 was supposed to be the big pull to draw repeat attendees. Instead the announcement of Laettner’s involvement sparked some heated debate within Big Blue Nation as some fans did not want him a part of the festivities. Even after nearly 20 years since Laettner’s shot and Kentucky winning two National Championships of their own, it is still too soon for some Kentucky fans to let bygones be bygones.

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A Few ACC Villains Take On the Kentucky All-Stars Tonight

Posted by KCarpenter on October 24th, 2011

Tonight in Lexington, Kentucky, Duke’s Christian Laettner will lead a coalition of players that have terrorized Kentucky in the past against the Big Blue All-Stars, a group of UK alumni that includes Rajon Rondo, John Wall, and several other Wildcat standouts. Laettner is, of course, the natural choice to coach a team against Kentucky (something about a perfect game and a foot stomp?). Beyond Laettner, though, there are a nice pair of additional ACC players involved in this game on the villain side: Tyler Hansbrough and Nolan Smith.

Laettner Is The Arch-Villain in Lexington, but Tyler Hansbrough and Nolan Smith Make A Nice Pair of Henchmen

Hansbrough in particular is a nice pick-up for this team. Despite a lack of postseason showdowns, Hansbrough’s North Carolina team beat Kentucky in each of his four years in Chapel Hill. More importantly, though, is that he is Tyler Hansbrough, one of the most polarizing players in recent college basketball history. While North Carolina’s fans may adore him, Hansbrough’s awkward, sometimes-clumsy, and freakishly intense play irritated all sorts of college basketball fans on a national level. If I had to bet, I would expect that he will the recipient of some the night’s most fervent jeering. Nolan Smith is a more interesting case, mostly because he never played against Kentucky. However, as a Louisville native, the son of former Louisville star Derek Smith, and perhaps most importantly, a star player for the Duke Blue Devils, I expect that Kentucky fans will have no trouble summoning a healthy disdain for the reigning ACC Player of the Year.

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The Ultimate Kentucky Villain Will Coach In Rupp Arena

Posted by jstevrtc on October 4th, 2011

Kentucky basketball fans, get ready. He…is…coming.

Just under two weeks ago, several Kentucky outlets reported that another one of these NBA lockout-induced games was in the works, this time one that would pit a squad of former Kentucky players against a team comprised of guys considered “villains” of the UK program. We’re talking about players like Kemba Walker, who, along with the rest of Connecticut mates, bumped Kentucky from the Final Four last season. Tyler Hansbrough would certainly be a candidate for such a team; UK thought they had Hansbrough wrapped up during his recruitment in 2005, and his eventual signing with North Carolina seriously irked Kentucky fans. Then he came into Rupp Arena for an ESPN GameDay game in 2007 and put 14/11 on the Wildcats en route to an 86-77 win.

If It Happens, Surely It Was Predicted in the Book of Revelations.

So, as far as the Team of Villains, you get the idea. We have to admit — it’s a darn good one. We were even inspired (cue shameless self-promotion) to have some fun and come up with other villain teams for other schools. But to actually stage a game like this in Kentucky, where passion for college hoops — and the ability to hold a basketball grudge — resides in the very bone marrow of its citizens, is a strong play.

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Morning Five: 09.28.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on September 28th, 2011

  1. On Monday we mentioned that the SEC would be looking for a 14th member to round out its new conference in the very near future. Yesterday, SEC commissioner Mike Silve came out and said they did not have any current plans to add a 14th team and did not have any other institutions currently under consideration to be the 14th team in the conference. We aren’t sure what to say about this other than to say we don’t believe it for a second unless Silve is trying to argue semantics. We can’t imagine that anybody actually believes that the SEC plans on having one of its football team playing a non-conference game each Saturday because they cannot find another SEC team play.
  2. One of the more interesting aspects of the NBA work stoppage in our opinion  has been the presence of NBA players around college campuses to continue working on their games. One of those players is former North Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough, who has spent much of his summer in Chapel Hill living with Bobby Frasor (hopefully not jumping off roofs again). Jeff Goodman caught up with Hansbrough and got his thoughts on some of the current Tar Heels. Normally we just ignore commentary from former players talking about players from their school, but in this case Hansbrough actually critiques the players and points out some of their weakness. We already knew about many of these weaknesses, but it is interesting to see someone with a connection to the program call the players out on those weaknesses publicly.
  3. Detroit may have been dealt a major blow with the announcement that Eli Holman would be taking an indefinite leave of absence while he deals with “personal matters”. Obviously, the impact this has on the Titans will depend a great deal on how long “indefinite” ends up being. They start off the season with a fairly difficult schedule so missing Holman during that period would probably cost them any shot at an at-large bid, which is pretty slim to begin with. Still, if he returns and can continue to add a solid post presence to go along with the potentially spectacular backcourt of Ray McCallum Jr. and Chase Simon the Titans still could pick up the Horizon League’s automatic bid.
  4. Harvard has had a very solid stretch the past few days and we aren’t talking about their growing endowment. In addition to a previous commitment from Evan Cummins, Tommy Amaker picked up commitments from Mike Hall and Siyani Chambers, two highly-touted recruits who many say are the type of players that the Crimson has been unable to land in the past. Like many other members of the media, we are impressed by Amaker’s work in getting highly coveted recruits to come to a program without much basketball tradition even though the promise of an essentially free Harvard education does not sound like a bad deal for players who probably will never be NBA material [Ed. Note: Please don’t start with the NCPA arguments.]. That said we aren’t drinking the Crimson Kool-Aid yet like some individuals who are already talking about an Elite 8 run as we are still waiting for Harvard to make the NCAA Tournament at some point after 1946.
  5. We are a little over two weeks away from Midnight Madness and it appears that some schools may have a significant dilemma on their hands. With this year’s Midnight Madness occurring on a Friday night several major recruits are facing a difficult choice–not play in their school’s Friday night football game or miss an event that has become a ritual in the recruiting process. At least one school, Indiana, has already changed its event from midnight on a Friday to 7:30 PM on Saturday to “meet families who come to a game or this event with their children and expose them to IU basketball for the first time”. However, as Terry Hutchens points out, “Only a cynic would suggest the change would allow top recruit Gary Harris of Hamilton Southeastern to attend the event. Harris, who also plays football at HSE, is busy on Friday nights.” We guess that makes us a bunch of cynics.
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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 VI

Posted by jbaumgartner on January 11th, 2011

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor.  In this piece he’ll spend each week reviewing the five things he loved and hated about the previous week of college basketball.

The Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..someone perfectly expressing everything that pissed me off about the Renardo Sidney decision. Here I was trying to figure out exactly how to denounce such a cowardly, selfish decision by the Mississippi State program, and’s Pat Forde took care of it in this exquisitely-worded blog post. This thing stinks like the three-week-old lettuce sitting in my fridge, and Forde captures each part of that repugnant scent.

I LOVED…..being re-convinced how talented Duke is in seven minutes. I sat down on my couch last week to watch them take on the usually scrappy UAB Blazers, hoping to figure out if the Kyrie-less Dukies still had it. Seven minutes later they were up 26-4, and I suddenly had a free evening to go to the gym. If Nolan Smith keeps playing like this and the outside shooters can make a few, they’ll still be the toughest out come March.

Smith's Excellence Sometimes Gets Lost in the Wake of All the Talk About Singler, Big Toes, the Twins...

I LOVED…..getting a different slice of college b-ball this week when I turned on the much-anticipated Montana State-Billings/Alaska-Anchorage matchup. There’s something exceptionally pure about watching two schools play hard in a gym that is definitely nowhere near the size of the one at my high school. The game was a rout with two minutes left, but guys were still flying all over the place. I only had one issue – really FSN, you really couldn’t find a better close-up shot on the Alaska campus than the sweatshirts being sold inside the student union? I hear there’s some scenic snow up there.

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Behind the Numbers: The Buckeyes Are Ready

Posted by KCarpenter on January 5th, 2011

Kellen Carpenter is an RTC contributor. 

(ed. note: this article was prepared and written prior to Ohio State’s Tuesday night win over Iowa)

When is the appropriate time to start talking seriously about which team is going to win it all? I know that everyone wants to hear predictions before a single game is played and that can be a fun exercise, but how often does it yield any actual insight? Pre-season polls have their place and wiser minds than mine find at least one pre-season poll very useful and interesting. That said, polls and summer hype can lead to some pretty silly results, as pre-season First Team All-American Harrison Barnes is happy to remind you.  So when do we know that a team is win-it-all-good? After they blow out a bunch of cupcakes? After a strong showing in a pre-conference tournament? Do they need to have beaten at least one tough, quality opponent? Do we need to wait for conference play to start? For it to be halfway through? To end? Should we even bother making predictions at all?  Of course,we should: predictions are fun and if we make them too early, who cares? If predictions were always right they wouldn’t be fun. So, in that spirit, it’s time that we start talking about how good Ohio State is.

Winning is Fun, and OSU is Doing a Lot of It

But, wait: wasn’t everybody already talking about how good Ohio State is? Well, yeah. Rush the Court, the AP, and ESPN/USA all think that Ohio State is the second best team in the country behind also-undefeated and still-rolling Duke. That said, they may be better. The electronic seers that Ken Pomeroy has captured and employed now seem to think that Ohio State is the best team in the country, and looking at some of the numbers, I can’t help but nod my head and praise the wisdom of our future robot overlords.

Ohio State has the third most efficient offense in the country and easily the most efficient defense. How good is the defense? The current mark is better than any team, ever, since Mr. Pomeroy started crunching adjusted defensive efficiencies in 2003. They have been, so far, amazing on that end. Thad Matta’s team seemingly never fouls and barely ever sends their opponent to the line, actually leading the sport of college basketball in this category. They force turnovers at a hellacious rate (27.4%, 3rd in the country) and that same gritty defense has held their opponents to 45.3% effective field goal shooting. They are among the best in the country at securing defensive rebounds, thereby limiting opponents’ second-chance opportunities. This is not a forgiving defense.

On offense, the Buckeyes are devastating as well. Looking to keep the national player of the year crown in Ohio, Jared Sullinger has been a force of nature. He shoots the ball at a very efficient clip, he rebounds effectively on both ends, gets to the foul line and rarely turns the ball ever. The ridiculous numbers he’s been putting up aren’t a function of him taking a ton of shots or the team playing at a fast pace (Ohio State, unsurprisingly for a team in the Big Ten, plays at a pretty pokey speed). The ridiculous numbers Sullinger has been putting up are mostly a function of Sullinger actually being ridiculous. He’s not alone either.  Jon Diebler is having the most efficient season of anyone in college basketball on the offensive end. He isn’t shooting a lot, but when he shoots, the ball goes through the hoop. Right now, Diebler is maintaining an other-worldly 74.6% true shooting mark, largely driven by his 51.2% three-point shooting. This isn’t a small sample size fluke either: Diebler has already taken 86 threes this season.  Outside of Sullinger and Diebler, the Buckeyes have plenty of quality offensive options. William Buford, Aaron Craft and David Lighty are all strong playmakers and skilled shooters making the entirety of the starting lineup potentially dangerous.  Freshman Deshaun Thomas has been a pleasant surprise, providing outstanding offensive rebounding from the bench. When a team can surround the likely national player of the year with such an effective arsenal of weapons, what else can be done?

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume II

Posted by jbaumgartner on December 13th, 2010

Jesse Baumgartner is an RTC contributor.  In this piece he’ll spend each week reviewing the five things he loved and hated about the previous week of college basketball.

The Five Things I Loved This Week

I LOVED…..a good comeback story, in this case Notre Dame’s Carleton Scott. Here’s a guy who didn’t play much his first three years and had an issue of some sort last season that caused him to leave the team for a bit. Well he got his chance this year, and the bouncy 6’8 forward has showed big-time versatility while putting up solid numbers in Irish wins against Georgia, Cal and then Saturday against Gonzaga (a career-high 23 points). It’s nice to see someone with obvious talent taking his final chance, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on an NBA roster somewhere next season.

Carleton Scott Deserves a Strong Senior Year

I LOVED…..teams who know how to schedule tough. I’m looking at you, Tom Izzo, and you, too, Bruce Pearl. Game after game you send your guys into hostile environments. This week it was Syracuse in New York for the Spartans, and Pitt in Pittsburgh for the Vols. Yes, MSU has struggled thus far, but these tough games are exactly why that team always wins the close ones in March and makes it to the later rounds. Repeat after me: SOFT SCHEDULERS OF THE WORLD UNITE AND CONFORM, you have nothing to lose but your inflated records, media detractors and early tournament exits.

I LOVED…..the creation of the Champions Classic. Much like ESPN’s little 24-hour marathon to start the year, matching up four elite programs gets fans amped up earlier in the season. No complaints here.

I LOVED…..Illinois using the women’s basketball. Loved might not be a strong enough word. It was hilarious, golden, priceless, whatever adjective you want. If you’re like me, your reaction was something to the tune of: no way……..for seven minutes???…..drop on the floor in laughter. In this day and age of increased replays and greater official oversight in sports, it’s nice to know the zebras can still give us an unthinkable gem like that one. And if you’re  Oakland coach Greg Kampe, you’ve gotta wonder what it says about your team that you were significantly more effective with the women’s ball.

I LOVED…..the disparity between some of the nation’s top freshmen. You have the Jared Sullingers who come out and produce from the first game (props for the 40-spot against IUPUI), but then you have the country’s #1 recruit, Harrison Barnes, struggling to have a big impact. It just shows again that at least one year in college can be an extremely valuable tool for this young talent.

Five Things I Hated This Week

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