Thinking 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.”
— Of the 10 college administrators on the committee, three were not from what could be considered power conferences — Northeastern athletic director Peter Roby, Ohio University athletic director Jim Schaus and UNC-Asheville AD Janet Cone. What? Were they muzzled in the meeting rooms with duct tape over their mouths?
— Is this a shift from previous years when mid-majors were told to go on the road and/or find a way to challenge themselves more often? Perhaps. Other teams, like PC, also were told to travel this way in setting up schedules in order to gain potential at-large favor. We may be heading to the time when the Football Five conferences will say, “It’s our ball, and we’re going home with it.”
— There could be a day when we’ll see two tournaments held. One will be the NCAA Tournament, the other will be the Collegiate Professional Minor League Tournament.
— Most egregious error? I would say Monmouth being left out, but that’s easy. Syracuse gaining a 10 seed is preposterous, with a 71 RPI. Tulsa even sniffing the postseason after two season-ending losses by a total of 32 points? Someone in that committee room was brain dead. Or a Tulsa grad. Just sayin’.
— Seeding was pretty screwed up as well. How do Providence and Butler both rate 9 seeds, with the Friars owning three wins over the Bulldogs? That’s only one example. Hey, guess you just gotta go play the games. Butler sure did on Thursday.
— Speaking of the Bulldogs, Portsmouth, Rhode Island’s Andrew Chrabascz had a solid game in their opening round matchup with eighth-seeded Texas Tech — 13 points, four rebounds and three assists in the 71-61 win. Butler shot 52 percent in the second half and hit 5-of-7 from 3-point range. The Bulldogs now have won at least their first NCAA game in five straight appearances.
— Not for nuthin’, but Butler now is 15-2 when Chrabascz reaches double figures in scoring. That’s reppin’ Rhody, huh?
— Schools in the Southeastern Conference certainly feel like they need some help, with only three teams getting bids into the dance this year. Enter former Big East commissioner and current Providence special assistant Mike Tranghese into the picture. Mike T. has been hired as a consultant to help the SEC better position itself when it comes to basketball.
— If the SEC wants to get better at hoops, it’s pretty simple. Recruit players. Go on the road. Win games against other power leagues. Or, introduce football-rabid fans to that round, orange thing we call a basketball. See? Simple.
— My buddy “Big E” is following the Friars from afar. Asked me this week, anticipating a game with North Carolina, “Do you know how to get a UNC fan to leave your house? Pay the pizza delivery driver.” Then he added, “How many Tar Heels does it take to change a tire? Four. Three to tap the keg, the fourth calls Daddy.” He lives in Virginia. ‘Nuff said.
— Dan Hurley is staying at URI. That’s the good news. The bad news? Should the Rams have the kind of season expected of them next year, we could be revisiting this moving-onto-somewhere-else thing again. Chances are, it won’t be to New Jersey. With a “no” to Rutgers, and Seton Hall happy with Kevin Willard’s turnaround, going home again for the Jersey boy might mean going home to retire.
— As long as there is another school out there, dangling more than just a few million dollars at the end of a hook, any coach at URI would be foolish not to examine that bait. Rhody can offer a lot of things, but it can’t offer that kind of quid.
— First thing I noticed as the tournament began, for comparison purposes this week, the NCAA at the Dunk was banged out. Great to see. Even with North Carolina and Virginia playing in Raleigh (before the Friars played Thursday), there were tickets available on game day. Now to be fair, the Dunk held about 12K for its games, while PNC Arena — home to N.C. State and the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes — holds about 19K. Still, strange to see open upper-level seats posing as fans in an area as loopy for hoops as Carolina.
— Next thing noticed, at the Dunk in the postgame interview area — after Duke’s win over UNC-Wilmington — overheard as the Blue Devils’ Mike Krzyzewski held court: “Coach K looks like an old leather shoe in person.” Must be the TV makeup that keeps him looking young(er), or the hair dye. Take your pick.
— As the Friars prepped for USC in North Carolina this week, they saw a team that resembled themselves looking in a mirror. The Trojans started strong but faded late, while PC started strong and had to fight through a rough February with a tough schedule, illness and injury. Both teams had good wins, and USC really had no bad losses.
— The trip from PVD to Raleigh did not go smoothly for the Friars’ travel party. Glitches in the system sometimes happen, and most of the coaches and administrators weren’t terribly upset with the delays. But it was difficult to see the PC bus (with players inside) on the tarmac, 100 feet from the aircraft ready to fly them to Raleigh, sitting for two hours while two other teams landed at T. F. Green and boarded their buses to Providence hotels for their own regional games.
— Hey, Rhode Island? How about a little love for the home team? Or at least some common sense? Stupid is as stupid does.
— All I got left after those last few seconds against USC is, “It’s March Madness, baby.”
— The Trojans are very talented, and as a young team will be tough for the Pac-12 to deal with next year. They were tough to deal with this year, as the Friars could never knock them out of a rhythm for long. While UNC provides an even tougher test Saturday night, these Friars showed real resilience and growth. For much of the game against SC, you saw next year’s PC team on the floor.
— Lotsa heroes, naturally, in Thursday’s victory. I’ll take Rodney Bullock as the first star, and the Dunn/Bentil tandem as the second star. But the coolness of freshman Drew Edwards to show patience in making that pass to Bullock for the game-winner was the stuff legends are made of. And I hate ending a sentence with a preposition.
— As the nationally third-ranked PC hockey Friars open Hockey East semifinal play against UMass-Lowell, they do so without defenseman Jake Walman. Walman was a national scoring leader from the blue line who has been out with a shoulder injury since January, and he had surgery this week to repair it. Walman is out for the remainder of the season.
— Fortunately for the Friars, while losing Walman is a blow, depth does exist. In order to win a championship, it has to. To wit, the skating Friars are 7-2 in Walman’s absence heading into the Hockey East semis.
— OK, so it took a little while to get started. As the rest of the NFL flocked to free agents like hens to June bugs, the Patriots sat back and watched everyone else spend, spend and spend. And then they made a trade. Then they pounced.
— Sending Chandler Jones to Arizona for a second-round pick and an offensive lineman (Johnathan Cooper) was a good deal. One, you now hold back-to-back selections late in the second round this year (60 and 61), and there’s no more worry about having to re-sign either Jones or Jabaal Sheard for big bucks after next season.
— Plus, the Pats picked up Howie Long’s son Chris, a defensive end who previously played for the Rams, on a one-year deal. Motivation can work in wondrous ways, and it appears that’s precisely what the Patriots are banking on here.
— Conversely, not sure what they’re thinking about at running back, with the pickup of free agent Donald Brown. The former Charger, Colt and UConn Husky is versatile, sure — a solid receiver who also can run between the tackles. But is he good enough to be more than a part-timer in either role? Seems to me a No. 1 back still is on the list here.
— The pouncing? Um, yeah. Martellus Bennett comes in to pair with Rob Gronkowski in a TE tandem that just might be unfair to the rest of the NFL. But some said that when Scott Chandler arrived a year ago. Good move? Yes. Typical Bill Belichickian move, hoping to find motivated veterans to play on short deals. But we won’t know if it’s a great move for another seven months or so.
— Not sure the Patriots remembered to turn off the spigot once they turned it on this week. The moves keep coming, picking up LB Shea McClellin from Chicago on a three-year deal. It seems the Pats have a dance partner in the Bears, all of a sudden. And another former first-round selection? Yup. Who needs a first-rounder this year, when the Patriots have signed four former first-rounders in free agency?
— Coincidence, or a message to the commissioner? You. Can’t. Stop. Us. (Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap.) Then again, do the former first-rounders’ teams know something the Patriots haven’t found out yet?
— Kudos to former Hendricken Hawk and Boston College Eagle Will Blackmon, who re-signed for two years with the Washington Redskins this week. Blackmon started 10 games for Washington last season after signing with the team during Week 2 — pretty good move up the depth chart, to be sure. He had a career-best 49 tackles for the Redskins, with two picks and three forced fumbles.
— It simply would not be an inaugural Pawtucket Red Sox Hall of Fame class without late owner Ben Mondor’s inclusion. The first-ever PawSox HOF was chosen by a 15-person panel of club executives, media, fans and historians. With Mondor, Wade Boggs and Jim Rice — both in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York — also will be enshrined.
— Very fitting, as both players were among Mondor’s all-time favorites. And while there have been some truly great players to pass through McCoy’s chalk lines and locker rooms, no one has meant more to baseball in Southern New England than Ben Mondor, who owned the team from 1977 until he passed away at age 85 in 2010. The induction date will be announced at a later time.
— This week’s sign of the Apocalypse: Remember the self-tying sneaker from the “Back to the Future” movies in the ’80s? Nike said this week on CNBC the shoe has been in production for 30 years and is on the verge of actually hitting the market later this year. But for what? $200? $500? $1,000? Would you plunk that kind of cash down for shoes that self-tie themselves? In other news, fat people across the country just sent Nike’s stock soaring.
— As much as college basketball officials were hammered this season — most of it rightfully so — for their inconsistencies in adjusting to new rules regarding physical play, fans, coaches and players in the Big East had it pretty good. In the NCAA Tournament, three-man crews are mixed between leagues and regions for the most part, although the crew that did Butler-Texas Tech on Thursday had two primary BE officials calling the game. John Gaffney and Matt Potter were referees in the Big East, had their good (and bad) moments, and found themselves in the postseason draw with Butler. Providence’s Mike Stephens, who has called the Final Four and the national title game, is back in the Big Dance this year as well.
— In all, 34 of the 41 officials who worked Big East games this season graded out well enough to earn an invitation to the Big Dance. Somewhere, Joe Hassett is actually speechless.
— The NCAA has a system in place rewarding those refs who largely received good grades from their supervisors within conference play, inviting them to work the tournament. In the postseason, these officials answer to the NCAA. Refs, like the teams, must perform well in order to advance to the later rounds. NCAA supervisor of officials J.D. Collins looks for guys who are mobile, communicate well and, most of all, make correct calls. Did they follow the rules as they are written in the rulebook? So as you watch the tournament, if you see a ref you know/love/hate/wish would die, just remember he got to that spot because he did something well. Regardless of what you think/feel/know in the bottom of your soul.
— Ted from Providence posted on Facebook this week: I thought NCAA rules didn’t allow for a “host” team to play same day as games going on at their arena? Ted: While that was a consideration in the past, the NCAA selection committee did away with this several years ago. It’s one of those things that is still assumed by those affected — not just in Rhode Island, but even in Des Moines, Iowa, where Iowa State actually is the host school and the Cyclones are playing elsewhere — up against their own regional. Sure, it’s a shame for local fans who may have held tickets to the second session Thursday night, only to either give them up or just not show up in order to watch the Friars play. If you ask me, it should be a consideration, of course. But as I heard from several “in-the-know” on this, it’s just another layer of confusion, frustration and aggravation for the committee taking host schools playing in the tournament into consideration. So it doesn’t. But it should, at the very least as a thank you to the schools hosting. Typical bureaucratic B.S. Taking the easy way out.
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