College Blog Blog Network
Thinking Out Loud: Big 12 expansion unlikely to include UConn 07.22.16 at 5:51 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Burt Ward.

— As Gotham’s Dark Knight, Batman, once said, “Storm’s comin’.” The Big 12 football media days wrapped up this week in Dallas, and the final item on the agenda involved the dreaded “E” word — expansion. The league has all but decided that expanding back to 12 teams (from the present 10) is the way to go — and don’t be surprised if the conference eventually moves to 14 teams.

— Why? The Big 12 seemed relatively happy with the 10-team setup, and with newest partners West Virginia and TCU now cut in on full league shares (the pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow), no school was eager to cut into their slice of the pie. Until mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money came into the picture. In clear color.

— That’s right. Several studies, one notably by, have indicated mo’ money for all teams by raising membership and conducting a conference football championship game once again, which the league will reintroduce by 2017. And there’s another catch.

Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports the lure of added TV money from the existing Big 12 media partners requiring the current carriers to pay league market value for each additional member is a big reason for potential expansion. The networks have to pay new schools like they pay everyone else. Now, the new schools could agree to partial shares (like TCU and West Virginia did) and work their way into full shares. In the interim, it’s a short-term money grab (there’s that word again) for everyone else.

— Big 12 members made more than $30 million each after disbursing revenue earned for this past year. Those are numbers that make schools like Brigham Young (an independent in football), UConn, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, Central Florida and South Florida all shake in their shoes. Presently, these schools earn in the range of $2 million-$4 million. Per year. The difference is palpable.

— The American Athletic Conference — the remnants of the former Big East, based in Providence — is under siege once again. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby says he hopes a decision on expansion is reached prior to the 2017 football season kickoff. For my money, I’m taking BYU and Houston as the lead horses in this race, with Cincinnati in the lead pack of contenders.

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Thinking Out Loud: Tom Brady leaves Patriots fans feeling deflated 07.15.16 at 9:12 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering if Pikachu, Squirtle or Charizard might be lurking around the corner.

— Well, then. That’s it? What do we have to complain about now?

— Eighteen months after the torturous tale began, Tom Brady has decided not to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, effectively ending Deflategate. And my initial reaction is a deflated one, like the way I felt after watching “The Sopranos” finale. That’s it?

— All along, the smarter Kool-Aid drinkers (and I’m still one of them) believed TB12’s best chance at playing in September was through a stay granted by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg, if we are to believe in her precedents, generally has sided with labor over management in labor-related causes.

— However, the burden of proof was on Brady’s team to show this case traveled well beyond a simple football spat between a player and a commissioner. Ultimately, based on case precedent, the odds weren’t on TB12’s side. And we know how he loves to win. So let’s strike up the band and climb aboard the Jimmy Garoppolo bandwagon.

— Perhaps the recent public display of “dislike” for presidential candidate Donald Trump could have caused a problem with Justice Ginsburg’s consideration of TB12’s case – especially with Brady as a Trump “friend”? You’d like to think not. You’d like to think our Supreme Court justices can be impartial, even though they are human. But impartial enough to keep TB12 in the fight? Nope. You have to think his legal team suggested as much.

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Read More: Deflategate, Tom Brady,
Thinking Out Loud: Kevin Durant’s flirtation with Boston not rooted in reality 07.08.16 at 5:41 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Keith Foulke.

— For me, Kevin Durant’s flirtation with Boston was a fantasy. Pure fiction conjured up only to get the fans and media riled up and make a little news. It’s great that the Celtics brought Tom Brady into the mix for a recruiting pitch, and I’m sure KD thought it was cool. It’s also cool to see Julian Edelman, David Ortiz and other noteworthy New England sports superstars tout Boston’s attributes. But there’s only one thing that drives decisions like these, and that is money. Big money.

— Oh. And winning. It’s also about winning, and Golden State now stands to be an overwhelming favorite for next season, when you add Durant to the Warriors’ mix. Nothing different here than when LeBron James decided to take his talents to South Beach — KD simply decided against producing a (bleep) show, made-for-TV event to announce it.

— If Durant was really smart, though, he’d see that he could be setting himself up for a big-time flop. This team won a record 73 games during the season and didn’t win the title. Should we just fast-forward to June of 2017 now and get this over with? Talk about your meaningless regular seasons.

— And what does Durant’s departure for rich, Western pastures mean for former Friar Billy Donovan as Oklahoma City’s coach? Next year figured to be a transitional year without KD, of course. But with his other star Russell Westbrook also on the edge of leaving town (a year left on his deal), could Billy the Kid consider the college game again?

— Crazy rumor already being floated: Donovan to replace mentor Rick Pitino in Louisville. Hmmm. Makes sense (and cents?), doesn’t it?

— Speaking of making cents, congrats to Kris Dunn, now signed, sealed and delivered to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Dunn stands to make almost $4 million this year, just for playing basketball. He’ll make much more than that, you know, by being a solid citizen and great corporate spokesperson. We’ll say we knew him when.

— Al Horford’s addition to the Celtics is a good move. Not a great move, but a good move. Horford will bring toughness, rebounding ability and attitude — all three are good things contending teams must have. But shooting? Where is the shooter? Did I miss another memo on needing a shooter?

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Read More: Billy Donovan, Kevin Durant,
Thinking Out Loud: Frozen Fenway a fun take, but novelty has worn off 07.01.16 at 5:43 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering why we don’t have birthday cake on the Fourth of July.

— OK, so it’s summertime. I’ve only been to the beach a couple of times, and we’re already talking hockey? But it was cool — and somewhat timely — to get the announcement this week that the Providence Friars would get the chance to skate again at Fenway Park (aka Frozen Fenway) next season against Boston College.

— PC first took part in the outdoor rink phenomenon that launched at Fenway in 2014, in a 1-1 tie with Hockey East rival Merrimack. Next year, there will be two weekends of outdoor doubleheaders at the Fens, with Jan. 7 featuring the Friars and Eagles along with BU facing UMass. The following Saturday (Jan. 14) will have Maine-UConn and UNH-Northeastern games.

— Great exposure for Hockey East perhaps, and maybe fun for hockey krishnas. If you like freezing. Personally, I’m a little past the novelty and nostalgia of staged pond hockey, whether it’s at Fenway or not. Just sayin’.

— A total of four future and current Friars were selected in the recently completed NHL draft. Vincent Desharnais, a 6-foot-6, 210-pound sophomore, was picked in the seventh round by Edmonton, while Friars-to-be Kasper Bjorkqvist (Finland), Brandon Duhaime (Florida) and Jake Ryczek (Ludlow, Mass.) were taken by Pittsburgh (2nd round), Minnesota (4th round) and Chicago (7th round).

— Not for nuthin’, but it’s the first time since 2000 that PC has had as many as four players selected in a single NHL draft — they had five picked back in ’00. Providence should have plenty of talent on the roster this fall, with seven NHL draft picks ready to suit up.

— Congrats to PC grad Ryan Breen, who is joining the scouting staff of the New Jersey Devils. Breen was director of hockey operations for PC, and followed that up with a scouting role for the USHL’s Bloomington Thunder, and a hockey ops/video coordinator position with the Providence Bruins before earning the NHL gig.

— In case you missed it, former Friar Bryce Cotton has been added to the Atlanta Hawks’ roster for the Las Vegas Summer League. Cotton appeared in eight games for Phoenix and Memphis last season, and spent the majority of his year with the D-League’s Austin Toros. The Hawks are looking for shooting, and Cotton is a career 45 percent shooter from 3 in the NBADL.

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Thinking Out Loud: Celtics draft pick Ben Bentil should have stayed at Providence another year 06.24.16 at 5:50 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Sam Bowie.

— Kris Dunn’s night in the NBA draft spotlight very nearly had a local lean to it, except for Danny Ainge’s crazy idea that Jaylen Brown might actually be a serviceable player right away. More on that in a sec — but for Dunn, it was the culmination of what could best be described as a beautiful struggle.

— If you know Dunn’s story (and if you don’t, Google it), you know this is a fairy tale ending. Or beginning. Minnesota has a piece now that could turn a 29-53 Timberwolves team into a playoff contender. From the PC point of view, Dunn is the first first-rounder selected since Marshon Brooks in 2011 (25th to Boston), and the highest pick (at No. 5 overall) since Marvin Barnes was taken at No. 2 in 1974. He’s also the fourth Friar all-time to be selected in the top five of the draft (Barnes, Jimmy Walker, Ernie DiGregorio), and also the 11th all-time to be taken in the first round.

— The last NBA draft top-10 pick for Providence? Otis Thorpe at No. 9 (by Kansas City, now Sacramento) in 1984. Forty-three Friars have been NBA draft picks, all-time.

— Andrew Wiggins. Karl Anthony Townes. The last two NBA Rookies of the Year reside in T-wolves Land. Good company for Dunn. Ricky Rubio. Zach LaVine. Highlight reel alley-oops are on the revamped dinner menu.

— One other note worth mentioning here — Dunn may be the first person in recorded history to put J.C. Penney and Gucci in the same sentence. Dunn already has a sponsorship deal with J.C. Penney for clothing, as his draft night suit was created by the clothing store giant. His Gucci shoes were glittering to the point he was asked about them by ESPN’s Lisa Salters.

— Tallying the draft score college conference-wise, the Big East had four players drafted in the two rounds (Marquette’s Henry Ellenson No. 18 to Detroit, Seton Hall’s Isaiah Whitehead No. 42 to Utah, then traded to Brooklyn), including PC’s Dunn and Ben Bentil.

— If you’re keeping score at home, the Big Ten, SEC, Big 12 and Pac-12 each had six picks, while the ACC led the way with nine players selected. Only one other league had multiple picks (the WCC, with two) and 12 conferences were represented overall, including the Atlantic-10 (St. Joseph’s DeAndre Bembry, 21st to Atlanta) and the American (UConn’s Daniel Hamilton 56th to Oklahoma City).

— Bentil’s wait until the second round and the 51st pick overall was not a surprise in these eyes. Great that Boston selected him, and he’ll get the chance to compete for a Celtics roster spot. Dunn and Bentil now make it 10 times PC has had multiple NBA draft picks in the same year.

— But anyone who really believes Bentil made the right “basketball” move by leaving Providence early is wrong.

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Read More: Ben Bentil, Kris Dunn,
Thinking Out Loud: Celtics should lock in on Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield 06.17.16 at 5:40 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to O.J.’s iconic white Ford Bronco.

— The Celtics recently worked out the guy I’d actually like to see them take at No. 3 in next week’s NBA draft, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield. Dead-eye shooter. Mature player. Nice kid. He’s about as complete as you can be coming from college. But if not Hield, Boston should take that pick and a few others and deal them away for an established player/star.

— Not sure that Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, the former Marquette star, is that guy. Reportedly, the Celtics want him, but at what cost? I’m in the Kevin Durant-or-nothing corner. The Bulls are presently coveting a shot at Kris Dunn somewhere in that 3-5 range in the first round, according to several sources.

— Friars fans are gathering to see just where Dunn and Ben Bentil land on Thursday night at G Pub in downtown Providence, starting at 7:30 p.m. Should Bentil sneak into the first round, it will be the first time in PC’s 89-year basketball history that the team will have two first-round selections in the same year.

— The last time the Friars had two players taken in the same NBA draft? In 1997, when Austin Croshere was selected 12th in the first round (by Indiana) and God Shammgod was taken with the 45th pick in the second round (by Washington). Having multiple draftees has been much harder to accomplish over the past 27 years — in 1989, the draft was reduced to two rounds, down from 10 rounds in 1974 to 1985. Unbelievably, the league used to draft until there was literally no one left in the ’60s, up to an astounding 21 rounds.

— In ’85 the draft was shortened to seven rounds, before cutting it down to the present two-round affair in ’89. I’d be in favor of adding another round to the selection process, as most second-round selections are cast off to the D-League or stashed away on a foreign team anyway. Even a “territorial” pick, like what used to occur in the ’40s and into the ’60s with teams preselecting players from nearby schools, could help bring back local interest in a big way.

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Thinking Out Loud: Despite brash style, Muhammad Ali worth admiring for standing by his principles 06.10.16 at 5:34 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to the “real” Rocky, Chuck Wepner?

— “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” — Muhammad Ali

— To me, the above quote is precisely what encapsulates the person Muhammad Ali was. And they are words I’ve always tried to follow myself. I don’t have any personal experiences with Ali, as it seems countless thousands of sports writers and reporters were apparently blessed with, just my personal thoughts on a life and career that were beyond remarkable, but not without flaws.

— I didn’t even like Ali, who passed away last weekend at 74. I grew up rooting against him, instead choosing to cheer for Joe Frazier and even Jerry Quarry to give him his comeuppance. Competing in the ring many, many years ago with everyone trying to “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” I tried emulating Frazier I was so anti-Ali. His treatment of Frazier leading up to their first fight in 1971, calling him an “Uncle Tom,” was as insulting and unprofessional as it was racist.

— But it attracted the attention of the sporting world, if not the entire world. His introduction of trash-talking to the American sports consciousness was the complete opposite of how I was always coached to “behave” in competition. It took me a few years to realize what Ali probably was doing, and he used ABC’s Howard Cosell and guys like Frazier as whipping posts — or as straight men — for his literal punch lines.

— Despite his crass, loud and boisterous manner, Ali created a forum for many who could not speak, who could not find justice or equality, or who were disadvantaged merely because their skin was a different color. Early in his career, he went to extremes to make his points. But he stood up for his principles, which I later, grudgingly, learned to admire. After all, many still believe Ali was nothing more than a U.S. military draft-dodger in the early ’60s.

— Above all, however, he backed up his boastfulness like few others in history have managed to do. Like him or not, you have to respect his ability to walk the walk, after talking the talk.

— My admiration for his skills, in and out of the ring, grew considerably after Parkinson’s ravaged his physical self. Ali remained a world icon well into a new generation of fans and followers who knew little — if anything at all — about his boxing career. We may never see another personality like him, especially with our social media-driven world ready to chew you up and spit you out for outrageous comments, or standing up for your beliefs.

— “Don’t count the days — make the days count,” was how Ali lived. And I learned to embrace the philosophy.

— Here’s another one of my favorite Ali quotes: “A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” Amen. And rest in peace, champ.

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Thinking Out Loud: Bryant, URI headline 5 New England baseball teams in NCAAs 06.03.16 at 5:50 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Jim Foster and Charlie Hickey?

— Record-setting? Better believe it. Bryant baseball is traveling where no Bulldog has barked before, as a No. 2 seed at the NCAA regional in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend. The Northeast Conference champs won a nation-leading 47 games during the regular season and are playing in their third regional tournament over the past four years.

— Not for nuthin’, but did I mention best winning percentage and best run-differential (beating opponents by about five runs per game) in the country, too? Didn’t think so. Not bad for a team that scooped baseballs out of 6-foot snow drifts while several opponents prepped for the season in the relative warmth south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

— The star of this “Can You Top That?” act just might be URI’s baseball team, as the Rams steamrolled through the Atlantic-10 tournament by a combined 38-7 over three games. The Rams are in their second-ever NCAA appearance (and first since 2005), playing as the No. 4 seed at the regional in Columbia, South Carolina.

— It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Two plane tickets to South Carolina to watch the Rams make history? $677. Two plane tickets to Virginia to see the Bulldogs try to beat a national title contender? $746. The chance to watch two baseball teams from Rhode Island in the NCAA Tournament in the same year? It’s never happened before. Priceless.

— There’s a true Rhode Island flavor sprinkled throughout the NCAA field this year, beyond just Bryant and URI. Fairfield features Brendan Tracy from Providence’s LaSalle Academy, with the Stags playing at Texas Tech. UConn, winner of the American Athletic Conference Tournament, plays at Georgia Tech with a former Hendricken Hawk, John Toppa, second on the Huskies in hitting (.314).

— Would now be a good time to mention I used to coach Tracy in the Rumford (Rhode Island) Little League? Just sayin’.

— Lest we forget, another former Hendricken star — Reed Gamache — leads America East champ Binghamton at Texas A&M this weekend. The senior second baseman hit .367 for the Bearcats and was a candidate for Player of the Year in America East, hitting just under .400 in conference play.

— Oh. Right. Boston College baseball made it, too, as an at-large selection from the ACC. That’s five New England teams among the field of 64 in the NCAA Tournament — another first — on the road to Omaha, Nebraska, for the College World Series.

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Thinking Out Loud: Ben Bentil’s decision to remain in NBA draft leaves hole at Providence 05.27.16 at 11:24 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Dave Stapleton.

— It’s very hard to root against someone in search of their dream, but count me among those believing Ben Bentil’s decision to enter the NBA draft as premature. Could he use more time at the college level? Of course. This is the problem inherent in the pro game these days — a lot of players just aren’t “ready” for the skills needed to be a long-term, consistently productive pro.

— This being said, Bentil has worked out well for several teams and had a great combine, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that he’s now mentioned as a first-round possibility. Hopefully, someone sees his potential and signs him to a multiyear contract. We’ve seen this before around here, or have you forgotten Ricky Ledo and God Shammgod?

— I will say this: Providence has never had two first-rounders selected in the same year, so I’ll be rooting for that come draft day. A program first like that one certainly would stand out on the recruiting trail for Ed Cooley and his staff.

— And in case you needed a reminder, this is what it’s like for a college basketball blue blood. Wanna be like Duke, Kentucky and Kansas? Get used to losing players before their eligibility expires. The tough part is reloading. For true blue bloods, it’s simply, “Next man up.”

— It seems as if each of the past few offseasons, the Friars have had a need for new players to emerge, and so far they’ve managed to do just that. Consider the losses — Marshon Brooks, Bryce Cotton, LaDontae Henton, Carson Desrosiers, Tyler Harris, Kris Dunn and now Bentil — and each time a player emerges to be just what the program needs.

— My money is on Rodney Bullock to be the all-conference player PC needs him to be in order to have a shot at the postseason again. Jalen Lindsay, Kyron Cartwright and Emmitt Holt also will need to contribute in a major way. Hard to expect too much out of newcomers (Holt being a transfer), but Isaiah Jackson also will need to figure prominently for Providence to pick up next season where it left off this past March.

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Thinking Out Loud: NFL might be king, but NBA rules on Twitter 05.20.16 at 5:44 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering why ads on uniforms are such a big deal.

— Yes, yes. The NFL is king. On TV, and in the stands. In the hearts and minds of most sports fans, football has long been anointed as our true national pastime. But in the world of social media, apparently, synthetic rubber and cowhide hold an edge over pigskin. Especially when it comes to Twitter followers.

— Recent numbers compiled by Greg Auman of the Tampa Tribune bear this out, somewhat surprisingly. In Twitter’s current top 10 pro sports team accounts, the NBA beats the NFL with five teams represented, compared to four for football and one in baseball. In fact, the top three Twitter accounts in total followers all belong to basketball teams — the Lakers (4.82 million), Heat (3.35 million) and Bulls (2.6 million).

— The Patriots are No. 1 in the NFL, fourth overall, with 2.41 million Twitter followers. The Celtics are right behind at fifth overall with 1.86 million followers. The Yankees are baseball’s lone rep in the top 10, ranking ninth (1.65 million).

— Out of 122 professional sports teams in the four major leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL), there’s a bottom 10 in Twitter followers, too. Six hockey teams, four baseball teams. Dead last among the 122, the Miami Marlins with 198,000 followers, roughly the equivalent of a nice, long two-week homestand. Or, a four-game Sox-Yankees series.

— There still are games to play, but former Friar Billy Donovan has the defending NBA champ Warriors’ attention at the very least, don’t you think? The key to success, by my way of thinking, for a good college coach to transition successfully into the pros is for the coach to put aside his own ego. Or at least make his players believe he’s doing that.

— It’s something Rick Pitino, through my observations, couldn’t quite accomplish while in the NBA. Of course, you can make the argument Boston (and New England) wouldn’t let him, either.

— Donovan’s ego is so nondescript, did you even remember he was the coach in Oklahoma City before the last few weeks? The one-time student learned from the teacher in this case, and he has, so far, successfully applied those lessons to his present-day team.

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