It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume III

Posted 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.

Dana Altman Remains One of the Most Quietly Effective Coaches in the Country

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.

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume II

Posted by jbaumgartner on November 25th, 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…. teams playing havoc with the minds and emotions of AP Poll voters. Perfect example this week – North Carolina. After laying a giant stink bomb at home against Belmont and making everyone wonder exactly how much of a difference P.J. Hairston will make even when he’s back, those same short-handed Heels went out and took it straight to the defending champs during Sunday’s convincing win over Louisville. So which is the real Carolina? Hard to say at this point, but yet another reminder that this is a year where almost any team can put up a W.

UNC Took It to the Champs on Sunday (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

UNC Took It to the Champs on Sunday (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

I LOVED…. efficient scorers. Marcus Paige‘s 32 points on 9-of-13 shooting brought to my attention that we do have a number of examples this year of quantity scorers who are putting up their numbers without dominating the ball — not the most common find with today’s shoot-first mentality. The two names that immediately come to mind are Duke’s Jabari Parker (after two weeks, still for real) and UK’s Julius Randle. Parker is now shooting almost 56 percent for the year (65 percent from three) and has only been under 50 percent shooting once all year, while Randle has never been below that mark. Meanwhile, both are still putting up over 20 points per game. It’s hard to not love a teammate who can fill it up while still leaving shots for the other guys on the floor.

I LOVED…. Russ Smith‘s ability to slice the double team. I’ll harp on his decision-making when appropriate, but there is no one better in the college game about sizing up two defenders at the top of the key, hesitating momentarily to draw them closer and then knifing through to create an instantaneous 5-on-3 situation in the lane that usually results in a layup. He’s a fun talent to see up close.

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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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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XVI

Posted by jbaumgartner on April 12th, 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…. a final game that was so good, so full of quality and runs and drama, that you literally sat in your seat and wondered if it could sustain itself for 40 minutes. The answer was yes, and anyone who wasn’t on the edge of their seat for most of Monday night doesn’t have a pulse. That game was everything we could have hoped for – after an NCAA Tournament that included both upsets and duds to go alongside some raggedy play, this was a title game deserving of the name. What a way to end the year.

I LOVED…. being vindicated in my disgust for Doug Gottlieb. Just take a few quick seconds in case you missed him making a fool of himself on national television (ahem, I mean bigger fool than usual).

I LOVED…. Russdiculousness. You have to give it to Russ Smith – he carried his Louisville team all the way to the Final Four, all the way to the title game with a torrid stretch of scoring, and once he got there he flat-out refused to become a different player. With a lead down the stretch, Russ fouled on the perimeter, dribbled into traffic, took a three-pointer with a new shot clock and 2:30 left, threw crazy passes into the stands and generally tried to give the championship trophy away. But hey, he wouldn’t be Russ if he weren’t a little nutty, and the Cardinals wouldn’t be holding that trophy if he wasn’t on their side.

Russdiculous Lived Up to His Name

I LOVED…. a shootout. It didn’t get any better than that first-half step-off from 22 feet by Spike Albrecht and Luke Hancock. Spike’s might have been more unexpected, but Hancock’s was pure guts in the face of a double-digit deficit with the season on the line. It made for some incredible runs in the first 20 minutes, and it got even better when Albrecht made a cybermove on Kate Upton.

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XV

Posted by jbaumgartner on April 2nd, 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…. Mach Five speed. There reached a point in Sunday’s regional final between Louisville and Duke where lateral movement ceased to exist. There was Peyton Siva, there was Russ Smith, and there was 94 feet of court from end to end. It didn’t matter where and when they got the ball – they were heading straight to the hole, and you could try to keep up if you wanted. Those two bring a dimension that no other team in the country has, and they made some decent Duke guards look downright tortoise-like on both offense and defense throughout the second half rout. They ran ‘em straight out of the gym.

I LOVED…. Wichita State “shocking” (sorry, too easy) the world and making it out of the West Region, and more importantly striking another solid blow for mid-majors with its convincing win over a very good Ohio State team. While Gonzaga making it just two games as a #1 seed was rough, this WSU run helps erase some of that damage for quality schools in small conferences going forward.

I LOVED…. Trey Burke deciding to become The Man. For nine minutes against Kansas, literally everyone in the building knew exactly who the ball was going to and what he was trying to do. Didn’t matter. Ping, ping, ping, ping – the jumpers just kept raining in as he willed his Wolverines into overtime and on to victory. Any Player of the Year questions should have been answered right there.

Trey Burke Took Over, and Michigan Advanced…

I LOVED…. just how dumb the NCAA Tournament selection committee looked by putting Oregon as a #12 seed. I honestly believe it was one of the worst hack jobs in selection history, and the Ducks, who were possibly underseeded by about five slots or so, powered their way to the Sweet Sixteen and hung with a star-studded Louisville team for the full 40 minutes. Someone needs to take a long hard look at what went wrong there, and make sure we don’t ever, ever see it again.

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It’s Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XIV

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 26th, 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…. the swag of the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles. Absurd (and questionably timed) alley-oops, the wing walk, tongues wagging, unknown jigs while running downcourt – it’s hard not to like the amount of fun that these kids have on the court, and they have the talent to back it up.

Florida Gulf Coast: the Story of the NCAA Tournament This Year

I LOVED…. Duke’s defense on Creighton. The Blue Devils didn’t play well in this one, but man did they defend. I thought Creighton got the exact pace they wanted and the ideal defensive effort to slow down Duke’s perimeter play, and it still didn’t matter. Duke just continued to bang with a relentless Doug McDermott and got the stops that allowed them to finally pull away when a few threes began to drop. That’s the kind of game you have to grind out in March, and they did it comfortably.

I LOVED…. that I don’t have to watch Marshall Henderson for another weekend (and believe me, I was worried there for a while). In case you were wondering, Henderson’s stats in the tourney were about as prolific as the regular season – 14-of-42 from the field (33%), and 7-of-27 on three-pointers (26%). I’d love to see the Ole Miss coach explain to his players why they would build their team next year around a guard that shoots too much, and not particularly well.

I LOVED…. the statement game. For me this was an easy one to pick – Michigan seemed to be fading a bit, but they put on an absolute clinic against a very talented VCU team and showed just how versatile they can be when freshman Mitch McGary can stay on the floor for an extended period of time. It opens up everything else for the Wolverines, and with Trey Burke dancing around the lane and Tim Hardaway, Jr., able to spot up, this looked like a squad ready to make a legit run.

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XIII

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 19th, 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… Wisconsin senior Ryan Evans. One of the best things about conference tournament week is that you suddenly get a much larger dose of all the guys who you’ve seen for a just few highlights, or maybe a couple of prime time games. And while I was ready to stamp Wisconsin with the “lucky to make it to second weekend” label, I couldn’t help but find myself impressed with the Badgers’ discipline and the savvy, fundamentals-based game that Evans displayed during UW’s impressive run in Chicago. Plus, you can’t help but love the flat top.

Ryan Evans’ Team Impressed Over the Weekend

I LOVED… Jim Larranaga completing an incredible ACC turnaround. Winning both the regular season and conference tournament titles is a truly great accomplishment, and it seems like so often that we see teams have a great start to conference play and then flare out as we get into the tough March games that really make or break you. Though I still think the Hurricanes are vulnerable, with Shane Larkin leading the way, Miami is definitely capable of a big run, too.

I LOVED… Tournament Week. I’m embarrassed to guess how many hours I spent in front of the TV last week, but it was definitely justified. The Big Ten tourney alone was enough, but additional quality finals in the Big 12, ACC and Big East, among others, made this a vintage Couch Potato weekend.

I LOVED… how Greg Anthony has somehow gotten himself into every other college basketball TV commercial.

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XII

Posted by jbaumgartner on March 11th, 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…. seeing Cody Zeller want, demand and pursue the ball with the game on the line against Michigan. Yes, Michigan helped blow this one with a last-minute collapse, but credit Zeller for being aggressive and relentless on the glass in IU’s biggest game to date. Winning in Ann Arbor has been brutal for road teams in the last two years, and Zeller’s fingerprints were all over this comeback – which is exactly what the Hoosiers will need during the next four weeks if they want to cut down the nets in April.

I LOVED…. Mark Few’s honesty about being No. 1 in the nation. After downplaying the accomplishment previously, the Gonzaga coach said this in a Seattle Times story after beating Loyola Marymount in the WCC Tournament — “I was kind of surprised at how many of my (coaching) colleagues reached out to me,” said Few, referring to the No. 1 vote. He smiled sheepishly and said, “I’ve adjusted my thoughts on it.” While it may be up for debate whether the Zags should be there (though at this point, it’s becoming hard to argue), it is undeniably a huge accomplishment for a mid-major program and it’s cool to see Few come to that realization.

I LOVED…. the emotion from Victor Oladipo and Tom Crean after Sunday’s win. What a special moment as they embraced after clinching the title, with Oladipo barely able to hold it together. Yes, it’s just a game – but these guys give a lot of themselves to one area of their life, and it’s special to catch a glimpse of just how much work and effort goes into it.

Indiana Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean hugs guard Victor Oladipo (4) after the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Crisler Center. Indiana won 72-71. (Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports)

Victor Oladipo Had a NPOY Caliber Regular Season For Indiana

I LOVED…. While on the same subject, Yahoo! columnist Pat Forde’s great feature on Victor Oladipo’s conflicted relationship with his dad. Definitely worth a few minutes.

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume XI

Posted by jbaumgartner on February 25th, 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…. Ohio State’s Sam Thompson getting so high on this alley-oop against Michigan State on Sunday that he was literally staring at the rim when he got the ball. That would have been enough, but then he chose to hammer home right on a poor Michigan State defender – just for kicks. Definitely one of the more impressive athletic plays I’ve seen this year.

Sam Thompson is not shy about attacking the rim

I LOVED…. the hilariousness that is Jay Bilas and Bill Raftery on set. In this week’s gift from above, Raftery comically asks Bilas if he’s “ever been ridden” before. Take a look – it’s just too much.

I LOVED…. everyone realizing that Miami can be very, very average – or in this case, downright bad in a loss to a Wake Forest team that was 4-9 in the ACC going into Saturday. If Miami and Gonzaga somehow play their way into #1-seeds, I don’t think it’s overkill to say that they could be two of the more susceptible #1-seeds ever for a first-round upset. And Miami could even be the likelier of the two because of how much they love the three-ball.

I LOVED…. glancing at the Georgetown schedule and having my jaw slowly drop lower and lower as I looked at their defensive efficiency during this very impressive nine-game winning streak. Check it out – since losing to South Florida on January 19, the Hoyas have allowed 47, 51, 52, 56, 63, 55, 55, 66 and 46 points. That’s pretty stingy, and it bodes well for a Tournament run if they can continue mustering enough offense. Read the rest of this entry »

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It’s A Love/Hate Relationship: Volume X

Posted by jbaumgartner on February 19th, 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…. Minnesota coach Tubby Smith. Please watch this video, and tell me how anyone can not love Tubby as he breaks it down with moves that men his age should not be attempting. If he ever gets a miraculous title with the Golden Gophers, all will be right with the world.

I LOVED…. an unexpected dunk attempt. When North Carolina’s toothpick point guard Marcus Paige waltzed into the lane against Virginia on Saturday, an educated guess said he would be going for his normal finger roll. Instead, the freshman rose up with bad intentions and tried to throw down over the Cavaliers’ big men at the cup. Did he succeed? Of course not. He’s like 110 pounds and the ball went flying over the rim. But you have to like the kid who is willing to dream big.

I LOVED…. Mike Krzyzewski‘s succinct opinion on whether Duke will be scheduling an annual game with Maryland after the Terps flee the ACC for the Big Ten — in a word, nope. This is funny on a number of levels, but mainly because it brilliantly reinforces Duke’s opinion that Maryland is not a rival. This has driven Maryland fans nuts for years (much as NC State tries to paint UNC as its main rival, when the Duke rivalry is obviously much bigger). Coach K is nothing if not crafty, and he knew just how to throw a departing barb at the turtles as they plod out of the conference (though their win on Saturday will leave them with some fond memories, as well).

I LOVED…. Ben McLemore‘s nasty 360 dunk against Texas on Saturday. For a guy with a quiet, smooth demeanor on the court who thrives on sneakily dominating a game, this was a raw display of athleticism and power that we haven’t always seen. I always respect the 360 decision, because you’re willing to take the risk that you’ll be No. 1 on the “Not Top-10″ list if anything goes wrong. Read the rest of this entry »

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume IX

Posted by jbaumgartner on February 11th, 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…. my friend’s text response to my joking suggestion that Dickie V might not survive five overtimes at his age during the Louisville-Notre Dame game Saturday night: “At one point in the third OT he said on air, ‘Dan I gotta go to the bathroom. Seriously I’m not kidding,’ and then he was gone from the broadcast for like five minutes.” Priceless.

I LOVED…. Indiana going from an are-you-kidding-me loss to Illinois, complete with a late-game collapse and unforgivable defensive sequence on the buzzer-beater, to looking like a can’t-miss Final Four team by completely dominating Ohio State on the road.  Of course, what good college team hasn’t pulled this Jekyll and Hyde routine at least once this season? If Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller are on their A-game, though, this Hoosiers team is awfully tough to beat.

I LOVED…. Tim Hardaway Jr.’s stroke. It’s been a while since I’ve seen someone pure so many consecutive threes as he did against Ohio State on Tuesday. As LeBron pointed out in a tweet, it’s pretty because the form is so consistent each time he rises up. His clutch marksmanship should have gotten the Wolverines a win at Wisconsin on Saturday, and it could be part of some fun nail-biters in March, too.

Tim-hardaway-jr_display_image

Tim Hardaway’s Stroke is Picture Perfect

I LOVED…. the cat-and-mouse ending to the Kansas-Oklahoma game. Bill Self made the absolute right call switching to the triangle-and-two defense, which got the Jayhawks back into the game in the final minutes. He dared the Sooners to beat them from the perimeter, and they did just that by knocking down multiple three-balls in the closing minutes. Perfect strategy shift, but better response.

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It’s a Love/Hate Relationship: Volume VIII

Posted by jbaumgartner on February 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…. remembering just how bad of an announcer Bill Walton is during the Washington-Arizona game on ESPN, and coming to the incredible conclusion that he might be even worse at college than he was with the NBA. In a two-hour span Bill managed to explain what a disgrace UCLA basketball is, mention Reggie Miller Night at Pauley Pavilion 10 (10!!) times, called a Seattle high school coach in attendance one of the great human rights leaders (no qualifications needed!) and declared one 20-second stretch “the worst possession in the history of Washington basketball.” Other comments may or may not have included forays into the Grateful Dead and Google Earth, but it was hard to catch it all. God bless crazy old legends who can still go on TV and say whatever crosses their mind.

Bill Walton - So Bad, He's Good?

Bill Walton – So Bad, He’s Good?

I LOVED…. a prime time top-5 Big Ten match-up that didn’t disappoint. Be honest – if I told you two premier Big 10 teams were facing off, you’d predict a final score of 53-50 (OK fine, 59-56). The point is, in past years these games have tended to earn a 9.5 on the snoozer scale and reinforced the conference’s slow, methodical, offensively-challenged reputation. Thus, an 81-73 Indiana win was a refreshing foray into the 21st Century and a boost of confidence that one of these teams will be in my Final Four bracket come March.

I LOVED…. Miami backing up its Duke win with very legit road win against an N.C. State team that refuses to conform to society’s expectations and beat teams that it actually should. For Miami, they definitely keep their current label as a dangerous, well-coached team that could be a sleeper pick in March. For State? Well, at some point you might just have to stop convincing yourself that they’re going to change.

I LOVED…. the completely-terrible-idea-should-have-just-dribbled-out-the-clock-but-got-excited-and-gave-the-losing-team-motivation-for-revenge dunk by Indiana’s Victor Oladipo. Also, if you’re looking for this year’s most ridiculous athlete, he might just be it. Check out this almost alley-oop that would have gone down as one of the year’s best slams.

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