Thinking out loud … while wondering if I have any long, lost relatives related to Mike and Liz Ruane.
— The announcement from Providence College this week on the development of the Ruane Friar Development Center is a celebration — and a sigh of relief at the same time. Finally, a basketball-centric practice facility for a nationally ranked program, complete with new offices, a Hall of Fame and scholastic development for all student athletes at PC.
— With Providence being the last school in the Big East to create such a building, it now will be tougher to use the lack of facilities at PC as an anti-recruiting tool. Which was happening. Recruitable kids pay attention to this stuff. How does the saying go? He who has the most toys wins?
— He who has Ben Bentil is likely to win, too. Ed Cooley put Bentil out on the floor last week in a struggle with Bryant at the Dunk, sore ankle and all, and immediately his presence settled everyone down. And this was without Kris Dunn available, thanks to Dunn’s illness. Bentil’s leadership and ability, even though he is only a sophomore, ranks right up there with Dunn’s talent as a reason for the Friars’ success thus far.
— And that success has the current PC hoop ranking hovering at 14th nationally in both the AP and USA Today coaches’ poll this week. The 10-1 start is the best in 27 years, since Rick Barnes’ 1988-89 Friars began that season 13-0.
— What lies ahead for Providence? Rider on Saturday night, following a week off for semester exams, and one more road game at UMass on Dec. 21 before opening conference play New Year’s Eve on the road at nationally ranked Butler. A 12-1 record and a shot at the top 10? Can’t. Wait.
— Pack the Dunk, and buckle up for a memorable ride.
— Updating the Big East: Four out of 10 teams (40 percent) in the conference currently rank in the national Top 25 polls. The Big 12 and ACC have five, but the ACC also has 15 teams. Rightfully, the Big 12 and Big East belong at the top of the RPI rankings. Yes, the Big East still needs to win in March, but news of the league’s one-time demise is greatly exaggerated. And false.
— Requiem for the Big East? Didn’t take long for that ESPN film to become irrelevant, did it?
— Here’s a juicy morsel: Big East teams have a composite record of 23-14 (through Friday) against programs in the so-called Power Five leagues (Big 12, Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Pac-12), where football holds all of the athletic influence. Having big-moneyed, major college football might improve your bank book outlook, but it says little about your ability to put the ball in a basket.
— Dave Gavitt has to be smiling at that thought.
— Miss Chris Obekpa? Not at St. John’s, where Chris Mullin ran off most of what Steve Lavin left behind. Obekpa transferred to UNLV, and in his place, freshmen Yankuba Sima (6-foot-11, from Spain) and Kassoum Yakwe (6-foot-7, from Mali) protect the rim like few young players can. The two were impressive in a win at the Garden over Syracuse, and the Red Storm can’t be taken lightly once Big East play begins.
— Don’t look now, but Marquette is rolling. That’s seven straight wins for a young Golden Eagles team after a 1-2 start, including a road win at rival Wisconsin. The Badgers’ long-time coach, Bo Ryan, stepped down this week, retiring midseason. Ryan’s teams — and last year’s lost in the national title game to Duke — lost just 29 home games in his 29 1/2 seasons as a head coach, including the loss to MU on Dec. 12. Whoa.
— Georgetown lost to giant-killing Monmouth this week, the latest in a long string of victims (including UCLA, USC and Notre Dame) for the Hawks. Yes, Monmouth appears to be NCAA at-large bid good. The Hoyas, meanwhile, are a great big enigma. Four losses in non-league play? For a team that should be NCAA at-large bid good, they’ve got work to do in the Big East.
— The Monmouth “Bench Mob,” currently one of the hottest items out there in the world of college basketball for the players’ sideline celebrations, pulled off a beauty following a 3-pointer against the Hoyas. It was their version of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Funny and awe-inspiring all at once.
— Hoping to see a speedy recovery for URI’s All-Atlantic 10 guard E.C. Matthews, who had his torn ACL repaired this week. If all goes well, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t, the Rams could very well be Top 25-good themselves next season.
— Next season. Next season. It is frustrating to always be thinking “next season,” isn’t it? I feel the Ram Fan pain. Stumbling at Nebraska this past week didn’t help matters, but winning on the road is hard in the high majors. URI misses its offensive star, the kind of player who can quiet the crowd. D-up, bang the boards and let Jarvis Garrett run that show, and the Rams will still make noise this season.
— Bryant does not look like a 2-9 team after taking the wounded Friars to the limit last weekend. Has the schedule been too big of a bite this year? Tim O’Shea might agree, but in a year that appears to be wide open within the Northeast Conference, don’t rule out the Bulldogs making a run at an NCAA bid as the league champ. If the shots start falling, Dan Garvin (inside) and Shane McLaughlin (outside) could be a tough combo for other teams to defend.
— Here’s one you don’t see every day — a player transfers back to the original program he left? That’s what Brown’s Justin Massey did this week, going back to Florida Atlantic after transferring to Brown following last season. He started all nine games for the Bears, averaging 9.2 points per game. His twin brother Jason, also a sophomore, is staying at Brown.
— The Providence hockey Friars are the nation’s only unbeaten team remaining, and still ranked No. 1 for a sixth straight week. PC is the first team undefeated at Christmas (12-0-3) since Colorado College pulled off the feat in 1995-96. The Friars won’t return to the ice until Dec. 28.
— Up next for the Friars is a matchup against a resurgent Cornell team in the semifinals of the Florida College Classic. Then there is the potential second-round matchup against Boston College, which could be the start of three out of four against the Eagles.
— If Nate Leaman’s team survives this gauntlet unscathed during the next five games, it could be on to something special. Again.
— What’s wrong with this picture? Pete Rose won’t be reinstated to baseball for his gambling, yet MLB continues to take ad money from DraftKings and FanDuel. Stupid is as stupid does.
— Tweet of the Week I, from @mooretosay: Pete Rose wins by losing. Stays relevant as long as he isn’t in. Clinically dead story stays on life support. Yawn.
— Tweet of the Week II, from @Jeffgoldklang: Pete Rose is everything I want my children to be between the lines, and everything I don’t want them to be outside of them.
— Once again, so there is no doubt where I stand on this issue: The Baseball Hall of Fame is a museum for the sport. It is history. It is not the judge and jury on right or wrong. It is not our national moral compass. The HOF in Cooperstown could take care of the Pete Rose issue by not making “eligibility” for the sport a prerequisite for enshrinement.
— To say that the all-time hits leader isn’t HOF-worthy is a sham, a farce and a gross misrepresentation of the history of baseball. Rose, along with his accomplishments on the field, belongs in the Hall. Along with all of the other “bad guys” undoubtedly already in there. It’s the height of hypocrisy.
— In the first 40 years of the franchise the Patriots won five AFC East division titles. In the last 15 years the Patriots have won 13 AFC East division titles. Just putting things in perspective for you, in case you are south of 40 years old — and joggin’ your noggin’ if you’re north of 40.
— And thanks to our buddy @footballfacts (Kerry Byrne) for this one: In the two years the Patriots didn’t win the division (2002, ’08), they still tied for first place and lost out on the playoffs because of tiebreakers. Which means 15 straight years of finishing first. Unprecedented, unmatched and pretty much unbelievable.
— And not for nuthin’, but the count now has reached seven straight division crowns, matching what the 1973-79 Los Angeles Rams once achieved. If that doesn’t qualify as dynastic, I don’t know what else would — short of the Mongols’ reign over China.
— Now LeGarrette Blount and Dominique Easley have joined the hit parade, going on injured reserve this week. Injuries continue to pile up like so much rush-hour snow on I-95. Damn. Probably just jinxed that, huh?
— Here’s the reality of it all: New England now has 16 players listed as “out for the season,” tied with the New York Giants for second most in the NFL (four behind the Baltimore Ravens). And yet this “next man up” thing continues to work. If you’ve got some ability, it might be time to get in line.
— When does this philosophy stop working? When TB12 becomes a casualty. Oh, knock on wood. Hope I didn’t jinx that one. Just sayin’.
— According to Spotrac, there are 320 players on injured reserve through 14 weeks of this NFL season. If you think about it, that’s about six full teams of players on the sidelines. Momma, don’t let your babies grow up to be Cowboys — or Steelers or Colts, etc.
— If an 18-game regular-season proposal for the NFL ever gets seriously considered, there positively — absolutely — will need to be a second bye week for every team in the league. Which will turn a 17-week regular season into a 20-week adventure in survival. And expanded rosters, say, from 53 to 63. The guys being added at this late date in the season, like Montee Ball coming to the Patriots this week, certainly won’t have to sweat out finding a job.
— Steven Jackson to the Patriots? He was, not too long ago, considered the best running back in the NFL. Why not? Short money, nothing long term, and there’s a definitive need. He certainly has fresh legs, not having played in a year. There’s no downside to this one.
— Think it’s about time for Peyton Manning to be the center of controversy in Denver. He’s returned to practice, recovering from plantar fasciitis, and Brock Osweiler just lost his first start to Oakland last week. He’s going to want to be “the man” again. Do the Broncos still want him as “the man”?
— Manning might need more than Nationwide on his side in this argument.
— Felt bad for the Bengals’ Andy Dalton, out in Cincinnati with a thumb injury. If he’s out for an extended amount of time at this stage of the season, who (or what) is left to challenge the Patriots? The rumble you hear in the background is Pittsburgh, charging hard to the finish line.
— Rajon Rondo‘s act is getting tiresome. Still miss him around here, Celtics fans? After his alleged slurs toward NBA referee Bill Kennedy, Kennedy this week came out as a gay man. Whiney, petulant and possibly bigoted? No thanks.
— Need a point guard in Boston? Um, there’s a guy named Dunn from Providence who would look fantastic in Celtic green and white next year. Every bit as talented as Rondo may have been at one time, and actually a nice person to boot. How about that for a combo?
— Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year? I don’t have a problem with Serena Williams getting the nod, but to me, the more impactful sports personalities for 2015 might have been Steph Curry or Jordan Spieth because of the competition they faced. Yes, three major titles (winning one while fighting through an illness) and doubling the ranking points of the world’s No. 2 tennis player should earn acclaim. She is dominant, no question.
— This won’t make my buddy Edward in Johnston happy, but because Serena is so dominant, I would argue what’s so special about her accomplishments? Until she has competition in women’s tennis — like Martina Navratilova had Chris Evert — how do we really know how good she is? She’s crushing everything, and everyone, in sight. Is that good for the sport?
— It’s like women’s college basketball. Yes, I’m picking on you and your favorite sports, Edward. UConn kills it. Until someone can rise up and kill UConn back, it’s tough to get too excited about a Goliath in sport. Unless you are Goliath. Everyone else loves the underdog, and always will.
— Speaking of Sports Illustrated, PC’s Dunn was featured this week. His story of growing up, not knowing his father, dodging authorities with his mother in jail and eventually reuniting with his dad is touching and troubling all at once. It is also a great story of perseverance, and acceptance. Whenever I get asked about Kris, the one thing I always say is that he’s a great kid. And it’s really true.
— Nothing funny from my buddy Statbeast this week, if only because he’s had surgery and is temporarily down for the count. Wishing him the speediest of recoveries.
— True story: As a college professor, I conducted a little survey by writing “woman without her man is nothing” and told my students to punctuate the phrase. Males wrote, for the most part: “Woman, without her man, is nothing.” The females? Best response: “Woman! Without her, man is nothing!” That last one earned a big laugh — and an ‘A’ from me.
— Could there possibly be a better Christmas gift-giving time than the one Friars fans are enjoying right now? Consider yourselves fortunate — Kris Dunn, one of the best players in the country; a nationally 14th-ranked basketball team, 10-1 to start the year; a major donation that finally makes the basketball practice facility a reality.
— The gift from former PC Board of Trustees chairman Mike Ruane and his wife Liz is generous to a fault, especially since the Ruane name already is a familiar one on buildings and facilities throughout the campus. The new facility, which will be attached to Alumni Hall, will start construction this spring and is scheduled to be completed before the start of the 2017-18 season.
— Steve in Killeen, Texas, tweeted this week: Friars are rolling. Pats take AFC East. Man, you’ve got nothing to talk about, John. I feel for ya Steve: It’s always best to keep rooting interests to a minimum when it comes to work, because, frankly, you can get way too tied up in things that are never under your own control. Keep highs to a minimum, lows also will be at a minimum. Nevertheless, it ain’t boring around here right now, to be sure. All it really means is some good people are achieving success in what they do, and it’s hard not to root for that.
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