The college basketball season might only be operating in November, but there’s some sincere March feels going around.
Not only have we witnessed some serious upsets like Merrimack defeating Northwestern or unranked Florida State toppling Florida, but we also saw those little whippersnappers out of Michigan State finally catch a break with the Spartans defeating the mighty Binghamton Bearcats.
Jokes aside, it’s The Morning After College Basketball.
Leonard Hamilton Everything
Joseph Nardone (@JosephNardone): It’s going to sound hyperbolic. Please know it’s not. Florida State Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton is one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all-time. He’s also, unfortunately, never appreciated enough in real-time because he hasn’t won national titles or brought his teams to a billion Final Fours.
Plus, his best coaching of his career has come toward when most can assume is the end of his career (more on that in a second).
There are few, if any, active coaches with Hamilton’s origin story. His ability to traverse literal racism won’t be enough for most to peg him as a historical great; though it’s worth noting since some of his contemporaries traveled a road less problematic thanks to people like him.
Pretending his short NBA stint never existed, Hamilton has an overall coaching record of 556-427. He’s been to the NCAA Tournament nine times, aging like wine, with Hamilton’s best run of his career coming over the course of the last four seasons (not yet including this one).
Leonard Hamilton can recruit, is an underrated coach and has taken what is essentially a football school and made it where the basketball team is the only reliable money-sport program Florida State has.
With the Seminoles alone — where Hamilton’s most winning has happened — Hamilton has a 62 percent winning percentage, making the Steve Robinson era feel like a thing that happened multiple decades ago. The only other coach in FSU lore who can hold a candle to Hamilton’s excellence is Pat Kennedy, who did a lot of his winning when the Seminoles were in the Metro.
Also, there’st this tweet the immortal Leonard Hamilton sent:
— Leonard Hamilton (@FSUCoachHam) October 14, 2019
Or this one:
— Leonard Hamilton (@FSUCoachHam) October 31, 2019
There was also a tremendous tweet Hamilton sent after defeating the Florida Gators on Sunday, but it’s apparently deleted. Sad Face Emoji.
Anyway, Florida State probably shouldn’t be as good at college basketball — specifically as consistently as they are lately in a brutal ACC — as the Seminoles are. If the program ends up falling in the tank after Hamilton hangs it up, it’ll highlight how special he was. If FSU continues to be a program of relevance, it’ll be because he put the Seminoles in a far better place than he found it.
Everything is coming up Leonard Hamilton.
The Streak Continues For The Seminoles
Blake Lovell (@theblakelovell): Things seemed to set up perfectly for Florida to get its first win in six tries against Florida State. The Gators entered the game ranked No. 6 in the country, while Leonard Hamilton’s team lost its season opener to Pitt, who then turned around lost to Nicholls.
But just as a reminder: College basketball makes absolutely no sense.
The Seminoles earned a 63-51 victory in Gainesville to extend their streak in the rivalry series, and defense was once again a main theme as it typically is with Hamilton-coached teams.
Florida State held Florida to just 28.0 percent shooting from the floor, with the Gators making 4 of 22 shots from 3-point range while turning the ball over 16 times.
What stood out in Florida’s season-opening win against North Florida was that the defense is going to be there. That has been a strength since Mike White took the job in 2015.
However, what also stood out is that there could be some struggles offensively. The Gators just couldn’t hit shots early in that game, and it became a bigger issue in the loss to Florida State.
If Florida wants to be a true Final Four contender, the offense obviously has to get better. Luckily, it’s a long season, and the potential is certainly there for this to be a great team.
Of course, we should also realize that even with one of his youngest teams in several seasons, Hamilton is gonna have Florida State competing in the ACC yet again.
But I was Told Illinois Was…
Joseph: Before the start of the 2019-20 college basketball season began, all this handsome Internet Scribbler (patent pending) read was how the Illinois Fighting Illini were going to be good. Not like decent or having an outsider’s chance at making the NCAA Tournament or something reasonable. Nope. Just flatly good, bordering on whatever comes after good but before great.
Three games into the season and… eh.
Struggling to defeat the Nicholls Colonels doesn’t look as bad now as it did then, and defeating the annually overrated Grand Canyon Antelopes is something to celebrate… if you’re in the WAC. However, Sunday night was a showcase game for Illinois and it fell flat on its figurative face.
The Arizona Wildcats are for real life good. Not “offseason content with some bold spice in which the hive also adopts and runs with it” good. After 40 minutes of play, in which only 20-ish minutes of it were competitive, Arizona defeated Illinois, 90-69 (nice).
To be fair to the Illini, there’s some youth on the roster. Growing pains are to be expected. Still, with such a weak non-conference docket the rest of the way, with a somewhat middling Big Ten this season, it’ll be interesting to see if/when the media turns on the school.
After all, myself included, the media loves nothing more than building something up out of nowhere, only to rip it for not living up to the expectations made for it by the same people doing the murdering with words.
Again, though, who knows? Illinois does have some talent and this can just mean chemistry and youth need some seasoning.
Bill Walton Is Back And We’re All Better For It
Blake: I love Bill Walton.
While I know his commentary isn’t for everyone, I also know that this postgame video of Walton and fellow announcer Roxy Bernstein interviewing UCLA forward Jalen Hill is quality entertainment.
And we all love quality entertainment.
College basketball is back. Bill Walton is back.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
In Closing A Picture Of Me When I Was Like Four
Sexy. Devilishly handsome. A mustache… I think? Nevertheless, I’m no Bill Walton.
Blake Lovell is a national writer for ClutchPoints. He’s also a contributor for the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook and Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview magazine. He hosts two podcasts: Marching to Madness (CBB) and Establish the Pass (NFL).
You can follow him on Twitter @theblakelovell.
Joseph Nardone has been covering basketball for nearly a decade for various outlets in a variety of ways. He currently contributes to Forbes and Clutchpoints. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone.
Also, be sure to follow the ClutchPoints NCAA Facebook page for more great basketball, Florida State Seminoles, Leonard Hamilton, Bill Walton, Illinois Fighting Illini, recruiting, original analysis and whatever other kinds of discussion. We’re also on Twitter over here. Give us a follow. TCU, too?