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Thinking Out Loud: Friars making run at NCAA Tournament

02.24.17 at 3:01 pm ET

Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to Dougie McBuckets?

— Nothing like making it difficult for the decision-makers, at least when it comes to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament (aka March Madness). Here come the Friars, charging hard from the outside.

— Providence’s win at Creighton Wednesday night in Omaha was exactly what PC’s tournament resume needed – a road win against a Top 25 team (also a Top 25 RPI team), and another mark in the left-hand column that gets the Friars closer to .500 in the Big East. But it ain’t over yet.

— Kyron Cartwright’s aggressive offensive play = Providence is a pretty good team. No less an expert on good teams than UConn’s Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun told myself and the Journal’s Kevin McNamara as much this week. So, is that why the current Huskies keep ditching the Friars on future schedules?

— The Friars DO have six Top 50 RPI wins this season, which as we’ve been told recently, is at the TOP of the selection committee’s wish list – Top 50 RPI victories. They also DO have two bad losses, to Boston College and DePaul, that smudge the current resume.

— The only cure for that – is to keep winning. If Providence can do that, and get to a .500 minimum in league play, a school-record 4th straight NCAA tournament is in play. And if the Friars keep winning, this year may be Ed Cooley’s best coaching job in the six seasons he has been at PC, when you consider pre-season expectations.

— Villanova failed to clinch a record 4th straight regular season Big East crown, as Butler (Butler?!?) beat the Wildcats for a 2nd time this season, and the Bulldogs are now responsible for two of Nova’s three defeats. Whoa.

— The Big East now has a legit seven teams in position for post-season play in the NCAA field of 68. That’s an astounding 70 percent of your conference membership. The league, lest we forget, also produced last seasons’ national champ in Villanova. Those who once thought the Big East dead a few years ago, are looking a bit foolish today.

— Or, they’re just plain dumb. Stupid is as stupid does.

— URI’s win over LaSalle Tuesday night was big on two fronts – one, it avenged an earlier, somewhat surprising loss to the Explorers at the Ryan Center; two – the Rams showed some defensive strength that will be needed, if not required, to make a serious push into the post-season.

— While it is true the Rams have only managed to have their pre-season starting five available for 11 of the 26 games (through midweek) they’ve played this season, injuries and illness are a part of every team – every year. Some are luckier than others. Those that aren’t as fortunate need to find other ways to succeed – and in URI’s case, it starts with defense.

— Is late better than never? Or will it not make a difference for Rhody?

— Who’s up for PC-URI, Round Two in the upcoming National Invitation Tournament? Don’t laugh, it could still happen. Those of you who would like to see the two schools face each other twice a year, like in the old-but-long-gone-days, could get your wish this year.

— Can’t imagine either team being happy with that prospect, to be honest. While the NIT is in the business of seeding, ratings and selling tickets just like in the NCAA Tournament, best guess for this possibility would actually be in the 2nd or 3rd round of the NIT.

— If, of course, both teams end up in the NIT. There’s still season left to play, with sights set on loftier goals. But something like this would be yyyuuuge around here, wouldn’t it?

— Congrats are in order for Ken Collins, who has hosted local sports events and talk shows in Westerly, Rhode Island (lately on WBLQ, formerly on WERI) for decades. Collins has been chosen for induction into the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame Sunday at the Radisson in Warwick, as the organization of Rhode Island sports writers, sports broadcasters and sports publicists holds their annual awards ceremony.

— Among those to be honored Sunday night are the Brown men’s lacrosse team and their run to the Final Four as the Story of the Year for 2016, Hendricken’s Kwity Paye as the Schoolboy Athlete of the Year, Olympic swimmer Elizabeth Beisel as the Female Athlete of the Year and former Friar Kris Dunn as the state’s Male Athlete of the Year.

— Oh yeah. Congrats to my 28-soon-to-be-29-year broadcast partner on Friar radio broadcasts, Joe Hassett, as the two of us join Ken Collins in the Hall of Fame. It’s always an honor to be recognized by peers, but hey, we’re both old and have been around the block once or twice. It’s been a helluva ride, though.

— Boston College athletic director Brad Bates has announced he’s stepping down at The Heights, effective in June. Bates will become a Vice President for a search and consulting firm, Collegiate Sports Associates.

— He is responsible for the hiring of football coach Steve Addazio and basketball coach Jim Christian, and while BC hasn’t quite set the athletic world on fire with those hires, the Eagles did make a bowl game this year – and the hoop team beat PC and Syracuse by double-digits in back-to-back games.

— Still get the feeling, however, that he’s getting out of town at just about the right time. BC has never been more irrelevant in New England athletic circles than they are at the present time. What are they doing with all of that ACC money, anyway?

— Patriots owner Robert Kraft told HBO’s Real Sports this week that the Deflategate saga bothered him deeply. “I go back to my Dad and he said, ‘the most important thing you can earn in life is a good name.’ That (was) impacting our good name or our reputation. And it wasn’t something I appreciated.”

— To which I would respond to Mr. Kraft in-kind – revenge is a dish best served cold. Just sayin.’

— Loved Chris Gaspar’s recent column in the Boston Globe, pointing out Seattle getting off for not reporting Richard Sherman’s late-season injury correctly to the NFL. Double standard much, @nflcommish?

— So Tom Brady’s pilfered jersey is worth a half-million bucks? My zen question of the week – who could cash in on something like that, when everyone in the free world knows it’s stolen?

— Sports Business Daily reported this week there will be a new book – and movie – chronicling TB12’s last couple of years, culminating with the Super Bowl LI overtime win. A “fall from grace and return to the pinnacle” type of story. How do you think NFL commissioner Roger Goodell should be portrayed in this thing? Like Snidely Whiplash?

— And not for nuthin,’ but Pro Football Talk reported a producer has purchased the rights to tell the life story of Malcolm Butler for a film currently being called “The Secondary.” To the victors go the spoils, I guess.

— And to the victors, go the new gigs, too. Offensive assistant Brian Daboll is headed for the college game, as he’ll work for Nick Saban and Alabama as the Crimson Tide’s new offensive coordinator.

— Don’t you just love team-bonding stories? I need a “sarcasm” font for that line.

— Still, the Red Sox had a team-bonding moment at Spring Training in Fort Myers this week, viewing the movie “Patriots Day” together. If this movie screening was complete with David Ortiz shouting “This is our (bleeping) city!” I’m all in.

— A-Fraud is back. No, not as a player, but as a very expensive, part-time roving instructor for the Yankees at Spring Training. Whoopee. Hey Alex, do you show the rookies where to stick the needle so the tracks don’t get seen? Do you bond with the players by giving them the inside scoop on where to get the “good stuff?” Please.

— So, in case you haven’t been counting along at home, Bruce Cassidy finally lost one as the Bruins’ head coach. That’s wonderful and all, but wake me up when the Stanley Cup playoffs get here.

— Here’s a feel-good story – the radio voice of the Dallas Stars, Dave Strader, has returned to the airwaves after battling cancer since the start to this season. With Dallas all-but-out of the playoff picture, Strader’s comeback – after grueling treatments for his illness – is a great tale of what having positivity and attitude can do.

— Magic Johnson, the now-woebegone Los Angeles Lakers turn their lonely eyes to you. But if you think Larry Bird or Danny Ainge will trade with you, you’re nuts. Good luck with that.

— If you think the NBA has problems, the WNBA now apparently has issues, too. Did you read where former women’s star Candice Wiggins told the San Diego Union-Tribune that she was harassed – even bullied – for being heterosexual? As a straight woman, she said she was forced to play in a “toxic” environment. Somehow, I don’t think this is the look women’s hoops was hoping for.

— My buddy “Big E” sez he was on a crowded elevator recently when his wife became increasingly furious with him. Why? Because he seemed to be delighted to be pressed against a beautiful blonde who squeezed onto the elevator at the last minute. When the elevator stopped on their floor, Big E got off and immediately got slapped by Mrs. E, who said “that will teach you to pinch!” My buddy was a bit bewildered over that, only because he didn’t pinch anyone. While trying to spit that out to his wife (“I, I, I didn’t pinch that girl!”), she stopped him cold in his tracks. “I know you didn’t, honey,” she said, consolingly. “I did.”

— Why the uproar over the Celtics’ non-moves before the trading deadline? Number one, I’m not surprised – pleasantly – that Danny Ainge decided to hold onto his current hand. To get, you must give, first.

— Yes, the Celtics need inside help right now. No, the Celtics are not a championship contender right now. But mortgage the future for the present? No way, not against the Golden State Warriors or even Cleveland Cavaliers – the de facto NBA finalists. The Celtics have their future ahead of them – thanks in large part to Ainge swinging his aging veterans to Brooklyn and getting big picks in return.

— Relax. The Celtics are building again. They’re on the right track, so enjoy the journey.

— Also not surprised that the NBA trade deadline passed Thursday without any major, earth-rattling moves. The NBA is following the NFL’s trade-deadline model – much ado about nothing.

— Any why is this? Too many teams are nervous to swing major deals, involving major players even if the money works out, for fear of screwing up. Fear of repercussion. Fear of public scrutiny. Fear of losing a job. Fear of being ridiculed in this day-and-age of social media that never forgets.

— Big East and Creighton fans will certainly remember Dougie McBuckets, aka Doug McDermott, as he led the Blue Jays in their first Big East campaign to the conference tournament finals (where they lost to Providence) and NCAA’s while being named the National Player of Year. But his start in the NBA hasn’t been what he would have hoped it would be – a knee injury during his rookie season in Chicago slowed his progress considerably, and while he did have enough playing time (over the next season-and-a-half) to become a favorite of Bulls’ head coach Fred Hoiberg – who was very much like McDermott during his playing days – McDermott was traded before this week’s deadline to Oklahoma City, led by former Friar Billy Donovan. It was a five-player extravaganza, orchestrated in part by OKC GM Sam Presti (an Emerson College alum) and McDermott perhaps now finds an opportunity to contribute on a playoff-contending team. Has Dougie McBuckets now become Dougie McLucky, too?

— PC grad Joe posted on Facebook this week in response to the Friars’ come-from-behind, last-second win at Creighton Wednesday night: “Wow, have they grown up during the course of this year.” Joe: It’s one of the great pleasures I get for doing what I do over the past three decades, and that’s watch these young men grow up right before my (and all our) eyes. This year’s team has done that. While I imagine there’s still some growing to do this season, it has been fun to see a team learn how to be tougher on the floor, and turn that into wins. Does this growth translate into an NCAA appearance again? It might, but even if it doesn’t, it has been fun to watch. Might as well play the games, you just don’t know what will happen at any given moment!

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