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Thinking Out Loud: NBA draft combine will have big effect on Big East 05.13.16 at 5:41 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to the Olympic ideal.

— Junior Lomomba certainly could have been a part of PC’s backcourt mix next season. Fifth-year players can be found gold for many programs, because they often serve as “coaches on the floor.” In Junior’s case, however, the guess here is that he’ll need a chance to showcase or develop skills that might allow him to pursue pro ball — so he heads to Western Kentucky.

— Junior’s role for the Friars was to defend and rebound — worthwhile and needed, but not conducive to developing an all-around game. He’s a solid student, and a great young man. Hope he gets what he needs.

— Tyree Chambers’ departure shouldn’t come as a surprise, either. It’s simple — the younger guards coming into the program need the playing time in order to develop. They also probably give the Friars the best chance to win — now. Another good program kid who filled a need, and deserves to play somewhere.

— Don’t know if anyone noticed, but Providence was one of 12 college basketball programs with multiple players (2) attending the NBA draft combine this week. If you want to be one of the big boys, you’d best go recruit some big boys. Just sayin’.

— Thoughts on the NBA combine in Chicago? Early returns are mixed, at least where Ben Bentil is concerned. ESPN’s Chad Ford believes he could be a sleeper in the draft and potentially selected anywhere from 18 to 28 overall. Is that enough for him to stay in the draft? It shouldn’t be. On occasion, these “expert” opinions can do more harm than good, if the athletes (and those who are in their ears) pay them any attention at all.

— Hopes for next season are hanging in the balance of this week’s combine at three Big East schools — Providence (Bentil), Villanova (Josh Hart) and Seton Hall (Isaiah Whitehead). All three could return — unless they set the floor on fire this week and hire an agent. All three remain front runners for preseason Player of the Year in the Big East next season, too.

— An NBA scout told the New York Post this week, “It’s a big few days for [the three players] because it allows them to figure out who they are. It’s one thing to be the second-best guy at Providence, the best guy at Seton Hall, and a real good guy at Villanova. But that’s something totally different from being a first-round pick.”

— The Big East could be L-O-A-D-E-D once again, coming off of a national championship year, if these three players are around to lead the way.

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Read More: Ben Bentil, Junior Lomomba,
Thinking Out Loud: Conference realignment set to rear its ugly head again 05.06.16 at 5:47 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to WPRO disc jockey Holland Cooke.

— Told ya so. The story that just won’t go away, like an oncoming tidal wave of inevitability, has returned to our shores. And no, it has nothing to do with air pressure in balls.

It has everything to do with balls, all right. Intercollegiate Armageddon (as I like to call it) began in the early 2000s and rose to a crescendo just a few short years ago (2013) when the old Big East disintegrated, thanks in part to the poaching abilities and inexorable greed from conference commissioners and school administrators in the current ACC, Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12 and, to a lesser extent, the Big 12. Football drives the economic bus on these schools’ campuses, and everyone was eager to pull up to the pump, ready for a fill-up.

For the most part, everyone got what they were hoping to get — especially when it came to their bank accounts. Perhaps except for Boston College, which received athletic irrelevancy and inadequacy in exchange for a big check. But forget the added expenses, forget the extra time spent for student-athletes away from their studies, forget the non-revenue sports thrown to the curb to cut expenses and lower budgets — this is life in the Power Five, or the Football Five. Their version of Collegiate Relevancy.

However, the Big 12 found itself reduced to just 10 schools, and while the conference boasted of being able to play everyone from within, it still was missing out on the Big Party. That soon could change, as a result of league meetings this week and the Big 12 presidents meeting at the end of this month.

The Big Party is the College Football Playoff. True, the Big 12 did have its first entrant in the four-team CFP this year (Oklahoma), but it missed out in Year 1 with two teams that arguably could have been factors (TCU and Baylor). Even though the NCAA has now said leagues with less than the previously mandated 12 teams can hold a conference title game (for more $$$, of course), the Big 12 has known for some time that to be a player in the current national championship chase every year, expanding back to 12 teams from 10 would need to be considered.

Why? Because new research (from CBSSports.com) says the Big 12 would have a 10-15 percent better chance (a chance, mind you) of reaching the CFP in a given year with 12 teams instead of 10. Well then. Drop everything for the almighty dollar, and get ‘er done. More power? More prestige? More money? The Big 12 finally is looking at expansion to get back to 12 teams, and it’s targeting the former members of the Big East currently residing in the American Athletic Conference — whose league office still remains in Providence.

Yes, Providence. The epicenter of Intercollegiate Armageddon then and now, with another earthquake about to shake down the landscape. As if having crime, political inadequacy and corruptness, and general business unfriendliness in Lil’ Rhody wasn’t enough.

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Thinking Out Loud: Patriots deserve Deflategate appeal to break judges’ tie 04.29.16 at 5:33 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while conjuring my inner Cecil B. DeMille.

— Patriots fans feel persecuted. I get it. Point your fingers in a lot of directions, if you must. But the court decision this week had nothing to do with air pressure in footballs, or even Tom Brady’s cell phone destruction. It had everything to do with legal process, and the fact that the NFL players signed away their rights to fair hearings with the NFL in the last collective bargaining agreement.

— So, in effect, as an NFL player Brady is guilty of screwing himself. That might seem a little harsh, but it’s reality.

— “You can’t handle the truth!” A classic movie line that seems appropriate, from “A Few Good Men.” Which the NFL does not seem to possess, btw.

— Here is where a problem exists with Deflategate droning on ad nauseam — legally speaking, we have a tie. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King was the first to point this out this week — and he’s spot-on correct. Judge Berman originally sided with TB12. Judges Parker and Chin ruled for the NFL’s right (and Roger Goodell’s contractual right, thanks to the CBA) to become judge, jury and executioner in this case. Judge Katzmann, the Chief of the entire Second Circuit, dissented, siding with Brady.

— By my scorekeeping, that’s a legal, New England Revolution-like 2-2 tie. We need (and TB12 deserves) a tiebreaker. We need extended overtime. This screams for a Brady appeal — which he and his side undoubtedly will pursue — and ultimately will subject us all to another several weeks and months of Deflategate drivel.

— Conceivably, any appeals process also would allow Brady a stay of his punishment. Which would mean the current hand-wringing over Jimmy Garoppolo’s readiness or bringing in another QB is rendered moot. Until the courts un-moot it again.

— Unfortunately (or not, depending on your point of view), the process is going to win out over facts here. How the law is meted out wins over what the truth might actually entail.

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Read More: Blackie Sherrod, Deflategate, Roger Goodell, Tom Brady
Thinking Out Loud: Breakthrough win for Brown lacrosse 04.22.16 at 5:35 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to “Fireman” Bill Campbell.

— It’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick — Brown’s lacrosse team was named as the NCAA.com “Team of the Week” as the fourth-ranked Bears defeated No. 1 and previously unbeaten Yale, 14-12, last weekend. A first-ever win for Bruno over No. 1.

— More than 3,400 fans packed Stevenson-Pincince Field on campus. ESPN3 televised it. And as a result, Brown climbed to No. 3 in this week’s rankings — and managed to keep from having a letdown with a 16-10 win over rapidly improving Providence. The victory over the Friars is Brown’s 22nd straight in men’s lax.

— That’s downright hoop-like, although Brown has managed a cross-check or two on the basketball court in recent years, hasn’t it?

— Not for nuthin’, but what makes this Bears team particularly tough? 1. Winning faceoffs. 2. Second-half defense, and the ability to score with a man up. Brown needs wins over Cornell this weekend and over Dartmouth next week to claim the outright Ivy League title. ESPN3 is, once again, all over these guys.

— The Las Vegas Review Journal reported this week that PC associate head basketball coach Andre LaFleur will join Marvin Menzies’ new staff at UNLV. It’s the second straight year for Ed Cooley to lose an associate HC, after Bob Simon left for Alabama a year ago. This is simply part of the drill in the coaching world — you never know where opportunity will knock. LaFleur wants to be a head coach, he’s originally from the West Coast (born in Los Angeles), and time is ticking for him. He’s a good guy and a good coach. Hope he finds his spot.

— Will graduate assistant God Shammgod find a full-time slot on the staff as a result of this move? It’s likely that avenue is being traveled as we speak. Or think. Ivan Thomas should assume greater responsibility as well.

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Thinking Out Loud: Ryan Gomes shines in D-League, waiting for chance to return to NBA 04.15.16 at 5:28 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering if I’m really too old to hunt for Easter eggs.

— The good news? Former Friar All-American Bryce Cotton did, indeed, sign a contract for the remainder of the regular season with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies under the league’s hardship rules. The bad news? It was a short-term deal, good only for the two regular-season games the Grizz had left on their schedule. He’s not eligible for the playoffs.

— Another former Friar who should be eligible for someone — Ryan Gomes. Gomes was named the NBA D-League’s Impact Player of the Year, averaging 18 points, eight rebounds and three assists in 31 games for the Los Angeles D-Fenders. He shot 37 percent from 3, too, at age 33 competing against guys 10 years his junior.

— Susan Robinson-Fruchtl resigned this week as women’s basketball coach at Providence after four seasons to accept the athletic director position at Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania. A former Wade Trophy winner as the top women’s player in the country while at Penn State, she never found the magic at PC she may have once had on the floor as a player, or as a one-time coach at Saint Francis.

— It will be tough for her replacement to find the magic, too, considering the athletic success other teams at PC have had — and still are having.

— Like the men’s hockey team, which had sophomore defenseman Jake Walman named this week as a first team All-American, and senior forward Mark Jankowski earningsecond-team A-A honors. Walman becomes the first Friar since Chris Terreri and Tim Army in 1985 to earn first-team All-America accolades.

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Read More: Bryce Cotton, Ryan Gomes,
Thinking Out Loud: Villanova’s thrilling win in NCAA championship game should be boost for basketball 04.08.16 at 5:47 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering how novelist and golf writer Dan Jenkins’ sarcastic wit can be preserved for generations to come.

— Villanova’s national title game finish wasn’t just fun for the fans, terrific for the TV audience or historic for the school. It was good for the game of basketball, and specifically for college basketball. If you missed it, you missed an event — and a finish — for the ages.

— The irony here, however, is that it might have been the best game ever missed, too. Because of Villanova’s blowout win over Oklahoma (and UNC’s pounding of Syracuse) in the semis, overall viewership dropped from a year ago. Still, they were the third- and fourth-most-watched games of this past season on cable TV.

— There was plenty of interest in the stands. More than 75,000 showed up for the semis, which is the second-highest attendance number for a Final Four.

— But was it the best championship game ever? I’m old enough to recall some pretty good ones in my 40-plus years of closely following college hoops, but certainly the Wildcats’ win over North Carolina is every bit as good as N.C. State’s Lorenzo Charles dunking Dereck Whittenburg’s missed jump shot at the buzzer to beat Houston’s famed Phi Slamma Jamma in 1983, or Nova’s shocking 66-64 win over Georgetown two years later.

— What does the win mean for the Big East? It’s hard to quantify, exactly. Respect already should have been there, having been earned over the previous 36 years of on-court play. But relevance in today’s football-crazed world? Now you’re onto something. Eight national crowns in 37 seasons means you’re doing something right for the sport, and the schools involved are also doing things the right way — for them. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

— Villanova coach Jay Wright also pointed out this past week: “I just hope the Power Five sees a value in us as a part of all of this in basketball. We want to keep up with the Power Five. We want to do everything they’re doing, just do it in basketball. I hope this gives us a place at the table because basketball is really important to all these schools.” Amen. And just sayin’.

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Thinking Out Loud: Defending national champion Providence hockey set to begin another run in NCAAs 03.25.16 at 6:19 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering how we became mesmerized by “bracketology.”

— The Providence hockey team’s No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament isn’t the surprise, even though the Friars lost in the Hockey East semis to UMass-Lowell. Boston College getting the 2 seed and potentially facing PC in Worcester is the surprise. The Eagles have been high in the national rankings all season and were deserving of their own top spot.

— How about this nugget? Six Friars are among the top-10 active leaders in NCAA Tournament scoring. That means you’re experienced, deep and talented. Three must-haves if you are to win it all.

— It’s always a compliment when your coach is mentioned for other jobs. Nate Leaman’s name has been mentioned with the opening at Wisconsin, a one-time hockey power looking to regain some lost luster. Just wondering here, but would he be more likely to make a move if the Friars repeat as national champs? Would he need another mountain to climb? Just sayin’.

— So, Notre Dame? Moving to the weaker Big Ten in hockey for travel and expense purposes, or because Hockey East kicks your a**? How about both? Let’s be truthful.

— It’s hard to put a bow around Providence’s basketball season. Twenty-four wins is a sign of success, absolutely. Being ranked as high as eighth nationally was great PR for the program, even though this team may never have been quite that good in reality. Three straight NCAA appearances, however, is the true sign of success these days. Finally winning a game in the tourney is another. The bar has just been set a bit higher.

— No doubt in my mind that Kris Dunn is one of the best athletes to ever wear the black and white on the court. Maybe he’s the best athlete. The Friars have been blessed with extraordinary basketball players through the years, but athletes? Based on what these eyes have seen over three decades, not one of those players — maybe except Eric Murdock, possibly God Shammgod or John Linehan — could keep Dunn in front of them.

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Read More: Ben Bentil, Jamie Dixon, Kris Dunn, Nate Leaman
Thinking Out Loud: As college basketball grabs spotlight, concerns linger behind the scenes 03.18.16 at 5:51 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering if the refs we bagged on all year went dancing, too.

— One up, one down for college basketball. Up would be ratings on FS1, even though national college basketball ratings are down overall. FS1 had a 10 percent increase in total viewers per game for coverage that featured the Big East, but the Fox network was slightly down (as were the ESPNs) for the season compared to last year.

— Down? How about “out,” altogether? Burger King’s sponsorship of the NCAA, after only two years, is ending. The original deal was for three years, but neither side is saying why the relationship is over after only two. Not exactly a “whopper” of a story, but significant enough to note with media rights deals coming up again in a few years.

— Let’s be honest, shall we? The “NCAA Selection Show” on CBS this year was a disaster. Lengthened to two hours, undoubtedly to boost ratings, the show’s length caused the program to drag on and on — with the audience at the mercy of wannabe stand-up comic Charles Barkley, who knows zero about the college game. It’s painfully obvious he doesn’t follow it.

— Just in case the TV types are reading/listening, the better move to make here is to release the bracket in the first hour and spend the second hour breaking it down or interviewing coaches and players. You’ll still keep an audience, Barkley still can screw up on the digi-board, and fans of teams selected at the end won’t suffer nervous breakdowns. As much.

— Oh, and the job done by the selection committee? As bad or worse than the TV show. My two cents: This year was nothing more than the power schools peeing on the fire hydrant, marking their territory and telling mid-to-low majors that this is “our event.”

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Thinking Out Loud: Erin Andrews benefits from celebrity with $55M jury award in stalker case 03.11.16 at 5:20 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Terry Dehere.

— It isn’t my intention to be flippant here, but does anyone else think Erin Andrews received the amount of money ($55 million) she was awarded due to her popularity in the first place? In other words, if she weren’t “Erin Andrews,” there’s no way that kind of a price tag would have been attached to this decision?

— It is undoubtedly a very trying, emotional situation — having to deal with a stalker and deal with the aftermath of a peephole video on the Internet for the rest of her life. But $55 million? There’s absolutely zero chance she ever receives the full amount — especially since her stalker (Michael Barrett) is on the hook for just over half (51 percent) of that.

— Not for nuthin’, but it doesn’t seem as if the exposure here (no pun intended, really) harmed Andrews’ career in the least. Most plaintiffs in civil lawsuits don’t receive anywhere near the kind of compensation she was awarded. Our legal friend Michael McCann (SI.com) pointed out this week an average award in the wrongful death of an adult female is $3 million. And that’s with someone dying.

— If anything, the notoriety of the case helped her gain favor with her new employers at Fox, as they won a bidding war over ESPN for her services. And, by the way, she now hosts ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” too. The defense attorneys in the case made this argument, however, to no avail.

— I have some sympathy over the lack of privacy/invasion of privacy issue, sure. But at what price do we cap monetary awards for alleged humiliation and degradation? This entire “story” was over the top. So was the money. Hope the nude pictures were worth it, fella. But they were kinda pricey, if you ask me. Just sayin’.

— As for the story that has gained traction on Red Sox manager John Farrell and CSNNE’s Jessica Moran having a “relationship,” I concur with ESPNBoston’s Jackie MacMullan. It’s not a good look for either side.

— MacMullan took both Moran and Farrell to task on WEEI this week, and it was deserved. How many times does the business of journalism — especially women reporters — need to be degraded by unthinking, selfish narcissists who allow themselves (and the industry, not to mention employers) to become involved in a situation where no one wins? Except for gaining a few, fleeting moments of pleasure?

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Read More: Erin Andrews, Jessica Moran, john farrell, Kris Dunn
Thinking Out Loud: Big month for Providence forward Ben Bentil in terms of pro future 03.04.16 at 5:22 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Craig Esherick.

— The calendar says it’s March, so that means the Madness has arrived. Or at the very least, is right around the corner. Buckle up.

— Senior Night was more like Relief Night for the Friars, in picking up a 70-66 win over Creighton on Wednesday. Kris Dunn was closer to his “old self” and provided much of the energy early — even though Providence still struggles mightily from 3-point range. At halftime, down by four, PC was 1-13 from 3, and shot 53 percent from two. Um, fellas?

— As former New York Jets coach Herm Edwards once said: “Hello? You play to win the game!”

— It will be hard, for a while, to quantify what Dunn has meant to the Providence program. Sure, it’s easy to see right now how important he is to the welfare of this team, and to this team’s chances for success as March continues. But what does he really mean to the future of Friars basketball? That highly rated McDonald’s All-Americans can succeed at a smaller school over the Dukes of the world? In a word, yes.

— But this type of player doesn’t come along every year, as Friars fans well know. It stands to reason, however, the next one will be along soon, if the program continues to build — and win. It was 17 years, give or take, since the last played here in God Shammgod.

— Dunn, however, was not the best player on this year’s PC team. That honor — or burden — falls upon Ben Bentil’s broad shoulders. This isn’t a knock on Kris at all — his numbers speak for themselves. Dunn is the ONLY Friar in 89 years of history to score 1,000 points, grab 400 rebounds, dish 500 assists and come up with 200 steals. And there have been some great guards pass through Providence, haven’t there?

— As good as he has been, Bentil has also been a byproduct of what the Friars have had to do this year in order to win as much as they have. Think about that for a second.

— It’s why you’ll see Bentil’s name on a few NBA draft boards, but he’s nowhere near ready right now. Bentil is a classic “tweener” playing out of position — too big for the quicks, too quick for the bigs. It won’t be that way in the pros.

— Oh, he has skills, though. Big East Player of the Year skills. He’ll probably do his due diligence, as all good players should, once the offseason arrives. A spectacular March run — like Shammgod’s in 1997 — could be a difference-maker.

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Read More: Ben Bentil, Kris Dunn,