My college basketball valentines

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Not everyone will be celebrating Valentine’s Day the same way today. Some folks are more traditional, opting for dinner and a night out with their sweetie. Other will have “Singles Awareness Day” and weep while they watch Nicholas Sparks movies by themselves.

As for me, I’ll be watching college basketball, and that’s all the love a guy could really ask for. I don’t need Dove chocolates or a bottle of wine. All I require is my beloved game of hardwood bliss and I’m all set.

So, in honor of this Holiday of Love, I complied a list of players, coaches, and teams who will be receiving a bouquet of roses and a homemade construction-paper Valentine’s Day card made from yours truly.

Jay Wright, Villanova head coach

Let’s all just face it, Jay Wright is the best dressed coach of any sport, of any time. He can wear any style suit — three pieces, pin stripes, four-button, slim fit, tweed, whatever. Wright always seems to dress like he’s about to take Jennifer Aniston out for Valentine’s Day dinner. He’s the Frank Sinatra of the sideline. Wright’s suits look so suave, he makes Rick Pitino look like a Branson, Mo., lounge singer.

OK, but enough about Wright’s sweet threads. Let’s talk about the fact that the man can flat out coach. Wright’s Villanova Wildcat’s are 22-2, currently sitting atop the Big East while ranking No. 6 in the AP and Coaches Polls … yet still seem to be flying under the national radar.

You’re my boy, Jay.

D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State guard

It would make sense if D’Angelo Russell was named after the R&B savant D’Angelo. They’re both talented beyond all imagination, have a smooth game, are a bit of a throwback yet undoubtedly original.

OK, so I might have just dated myself with the D’Angelo music reference, but it is Valentine’s Day … you should be listening to D’Angelo. You’ll thank me later.

But this D’Angelo — D’Angelo Russell, is the prized possession of the Big Ten, the toast of Columbus, and one of the most offensively efficient players in college basketball according to KenPom. Russell averages 19.4 points per game with 5.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game all while shooting almost 44 percent from deep. The kid for Louisville is ready for the NBA. Can you say lottery pick?

The roses are on their way, D’Angelo.

Oklahoma State backcourt

Don’t tell Doug Gottlieb I’m talking about the Pokes backcourt and he isn’t in the conversation. While Doug was great in his own right, I’m not sure that he has much on Le’Bryan Nash and Phil Forte III. Just when we were all about to declare the Cowboys dead after losing five of eight in January, OK State has earned a Valentine’s Day Card from me, winning three in a row — including big wins over Texas, Kansas, and Baylor, all ranked teams.

Thanks to Nash and Forte, the Pokes were able to resurrect their season, but their work is not done yet. After facing TCU later today, OK State hosts No. 14 Iowa State and No. 21 West Virginia next Wednesday and Saturday.

On the year Nash has averaged 17.1 points with 5.6 rebounds per game and attacks the rim as well as any wing player in college hoops. Forte is a Maverick, unafraid to pull the trigger when he thinks he’s hot.

Forte averages 17 points per game while shooting 41 percent from behind the arc and 85 percent from the charity stripe. Without the Top Gun combo of Nash and Forte, Oklahoma State would have crashed and burned weeks ago.

Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin center

Frank the Tank came back for his senior year after a stunning and heartbreaking loss to Kentucky last year in the Final Four and what was sure to be an NBA lottery draft selection.

Kaminsky is like a taller, more-dangly Justin Timberlake — he can do a little bit of everything. He’s surprisingly a decent ball handler, agile for a big man with a sweet outside stroke who finds open teammates on the perimeter from his spot in the post. Kaminsky will be a fantastic stretch four in the Association this time next year, but not before the task at hand — taking the Badgers back to the Final Four.

According to the basketball nerd bible, KenPom.com, Kaminsky is the leading player of the year candidate. The Tank is 32nd overall in offensive efficiency (126.3), with a true shooting percentage of 62.4. For the more conventional statistician, Kaminsky is averaging 17.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.7 blocks per game while shooting 54 percent from inside the arc, 40 percent from 3-point land, 75 percent from the line.

Can you say man-crush?

Mid-major love fest

College football is all about the haves and the have-nots. It’s an entitled system, ruled by the elite that only rewards the rich and snobby. Isn’t that why we fought the American Revolution, to break away from tyrannical oppressors? That’s why we have college basketball. You don’t have to be a huge, publicly funded university that survives off of football.

In college basketball, we love the little guys, the Cinderella story. Except, now there are fewer glass slippers as top coaches are choosing to stay at smaller schools, building mid-major powerhouses — and I love it.

Think about where Butler was just three seasons ago. The Horizon League. Can you name another Horizon League school? I’ll wait …

But this season, and going forward, is different. Look at the Top 25 right now. Gonzaga is ranked at No. 2, Villanova is 6, Northern Iowa is 12, Wichita State is 13, Butler is 18, VCU is 22, and SMU is 25. Do you know what these schools have in common? Besides SMU, none of them offer football as an FBS option — and do we really consider SMU a football school anymore? Not since Eric Dickerson left.

Give it up for the little guys, we love ’em. They each get a rose and a card.

 

So do yourself a favor tonight, on this celebration for love. Grab your bae, a vat of Carlo Rossi, put on some D’Angelo (not Russell), cook your Easy Mac, and cuddle up in front of the tube and watch some great college basketball. That’s true love.

Happy Valentine’s Day, lovers.

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