Thinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Steve DeMeo?
— Your bracket is busted, no doubt. For the first time in NCAA Tournament history, five games were decided by one point on the opening day of the Round of 64 games. But did you know that last Friday higher-seeded teams were 15-1, just the second time in tournament history that has happened in a single day in the Round of 64? The one, of course, belonged to Providence.
— It’s a question I’ve been asked plenty over the past week — why did PC lose to Dayton? The answer isn’t as concrete as you might think it would be, but it really boils down to one thing: toughness. A story Grantland.com published this week appears true — the Friars simply weren’t tough enough to beat the Flyers in that environment, and it’s hard to argue the premise.
— The access Ed Cooley allowed Fox during the Big East Tournament, and Grantland for the NCAA appearance, is pretty much unprecedented during my tenure as radio voice. Kudos to the coach for recognizing the advantages of program exposure and PR. The disadvantages? Well, it helps if you win. And the Friars came up a little short in that department — through no fault of their own in New York, anyway. Just sayin’.
— You can argue the NCAA screwed up the seedings, the pairings, the First Four game — all of it. And you would be right. The NCAA Tournament committee seriously messed this up, and undervalued the home-court advantage it handed to Dayton. It would not have taken much to fix the problem, however, if the committee had just switched out Providence’s 6 seed with Xavier. You could have had a blockbuster event in Columbus, with the arena split evenly between UD and XU fans, who already hate each other. Yup, blew that one.
— Not for nuthin,’ but Dayton was the last team in the Dance? In whose mind?
— The fallout from the disappointment of the second-round loss didn’t take long to get started. Tyler Harris announced this week he would be leaving the program, with one year of eligibility remaining. He is graduating in May, and by rule is entitled to transfer and play right away for his last year. Or, he can turn pro. This rule disappears in another year, so I’ve heard, so he’s getting out while the getting is still good. Best of luck, Tyler.
— Replacements? Well, 6-foot-6 forward Eric Paschall has announced his intention to transfer from Fordham — he was the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year — and there should be mutual interest, as he was on the Friars’ recruiting radar a year ago. His father, Juan, told SNY.tv this week he wants to visit PC and Villanova soon.
— Texas’ Rick Barnes is facing all kinds of questions about his job security, which should tell you something about great expectations in Austin, where football still rules over all. Seems to me that regardless of how Longhorns fans might feel about the current state of affairs, the team DID reach the NCAA Tournament this year. When did “the body of work” stop being so important?
— I mean, I love Charlie Strong — as I am a Texas-Ex — but the football team was 6-7 this past year. He gets a pass since it was his first season, and the culture needed a change. But now, show me something. Barnes has been doing that for 17 years in Austin, after his time spent at both PC and Clemson. His buyout, which has been discussed, is $1.5 million if it occurs after April 1 this year. Texas bought out former football coach Mack Brown for $2.75 million. Nice to have that kind of pocket change around, huh?
— Steve Lavin is in talks to have his contract extended at St. John’s, even though there are rumblings that a faction of SJU alumni wants him out. Apparently, the school president likes him. ‘Nuff said.
— DePaul lost out on its chance to lure Ben Howland out of a two-year TV retirement, as Howland signed on this week with Mississippi State. However, after hearing that Buffalo coach and former URI assistant Bobby Hurley would interview in Chicago for the Blue Demons gig, the State University of New York stepped up and apparently re-upped his deal.
— Another former Friars coach — a one-time assistant to both Barnes and Rick Pitino — Herb Sendek was fired this week after nine seasons at Arizona State. Always a pretty solid recruiter, Sendek’s teams (and record) reflect good but not great results.
— So was it a good year for the Rhody Rams? The record says so. URI’s 14 wins at the Ryan Center this past season was the second-best win total since the building opened in 2002-03. The Rams had 15 in 2009-10. But to take the next step — if the Rams want to reach The Big Dance next season — the guess is here they should beef up that schedule, home and away, as best they can. Be willing to take some road risks, if you can’t get teams to come to Kingston. The formula works, and the tournament committee will respond in kind if you can win a few.
— Not for nuthin,’ Part 2: Anyone notice the officials in Thursday’s Sweet 16 games being played? Each of the four had at least one Big East ref working, including Friars-killer Brian O’Connell in the Wisconsin-North Carolina game. That should tell you something, and no, the NCAA isn’t deaf, dumb or blind.
— It may be the absolute height of stupidity in this country, and we’ve got some dumb people here. But Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s signing of a “Religious Freedom” bill into law Thursday is exactly what he says it isn’t — turning the clocks back to the 1950s (and beyond) when water fountains were segregated and you could refuse service to blacks at lunch counters. The law allows Indiana businesses to practice religious freedom — which sounds great, until you realize a business can now refuse service to gays based on religious beliefs, regardless of what the law’s supporters might proclaim. It’s the last great stab at discrimination in this country, no matter the original intent. And with the Final Four headed to Indianapolis? Stupid is as stupid does.
— I will say this: The NCAA is doing something right here, for a change. The organization is leading, rather than reacting. President Mark Emmert has said this action could affect future events there, even to the point of pulling the NCAA offices out of Indianapolis. That’s what should happen in this instance. The NFL should follow suit by pulling the scouting combine, and the Big Ten needs to follow up and pull its football title game out of the city and out of the state. If they don’t, it’s simply little more than endorsing a perverted practice and becomes another sad period of time this country should not have to revisit.
— Got the Blue Devils in your bracket? I have never been a fan of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, and it has nothing to do with the success of his basketball team. It has everything to do with his chameleon-like ability to change his colors based on the surroundings. He’s no different from any other hyper-competitive coach, and sure, he’s better than most. He certainly has the track record, the tradition, 1,000-plus wins, his own coaching tree of success and numerous success stories from the players he has coached and the people he has touched. Can’t argue any of that. But the way mainstream media treats him like a deity is unseemly, especially when the truth is that Coach K set out to kill the old Big East and succeeded.
— Friend and fellow reporter/college hoop connoisseur Mark Blaudschun opined recently on a subject I’ve touched on in the past — that Krzyzewski hated what was happening to the ACC, how basketball was becoming almost an afterthought on Tobacco Road with football’s wild goose chase for TV money. And he especially despised the Big East for its success in gaining national notoriety, beginning with the 3-out-of-4 teams it placed in the Final Four in 1985. Blaudschun pointed out that Coach K, joined later by his athletic director Kevin White, concocted a plan to strengthen the ACC while weakening — and ultimately destroying — the Big East, by blaming all of the conference realignments on football.
— Miami and Virginia Tech relocating regionally to the ACC made sense. Boston College? The Eagles are athletically irrelevant in the Northeast outside of their fan base, and even more so in the South at present with their current “partners.” But that didn’t matter to Coach K and the ACC — the league now can claim owning the Boston TV market to advertisers and supporters. BC’s presence helped bring in Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame (for everything other than football), and it wasn’t to strengthen the football conference. It doesn’t take a genius to see that, based on their basketball pedigrees. Working the back rooms of the ACC, Krzyzewski and White eventually gained a consensus that in order to put the ACC at the top for hoops the Big East had to die. Or at least be weakened considerably.
— Football money was blamed here, but ACC expansion was basketball-driven. This is part of the reason why Maryland pulled out for the Big Ten — the Terps hated Duke and UNC running the show — and why Clemson and Florida State began flirting with the SEC. To balance the league, and quiet any dissension on the football side in South Carolina and Tallahassee, Louisville and UConn were the final choices for expansion. Louisville won out for its stronger football profile, and because BC held the right to veto another Northeast school from joining the conference as a condition of its membership in 2004. So there you have it, warts and all. Blaudschun simply outlined what many have suspected, including me — Coach K really is a clever devil after all, isn’t he?
— ICYMI, the present-day ACC had five teams reach this year’s Sweet 16, tying the record for most by a single conference. Tied with whom? That would be the old Big East, with the mark set in 2009.
— By the way, Duke places ninth among Forbes’ annual rankings of college basketball‘s most valuable teams in revenue and earnings. Louisville repeats as No. 1 from a year ago, North Carolina is fifth, Syracuse sixth. Marquette is 15th (leading the Big East) and Xavier cracks the Top 20 at 18. Dayton just missed making the top 20.
— As much as it might pain Friars fans right now, should the Big East ever decide to expand from the current 10 teams, Dayton is a no-brainer. That, and Marquette and Xavier now are entering dangerous territory — could they ever be gobbled up by the virus-like ACC? Guess that will depend on Coach K’s mood. Can we still offer up UConn as an altar sacrifice?
— Our buddy Ken Fang from Awful Announcing seems almost gleeful over the ratings pounding the Big East apparently is taking on Fox Sports 1, as compared to ESPN’s ratings of other league championships. While I can’t imagine anyone in the Big East is thrilled with the numbers, for the umpteenth time let me stress here that you can’t compare apples to oranges. Or, FS1 to present-day ESPN. Let’s give the current Big East, and the new TV network, a little more than a year and a half to work itself up to speed against the 35-year monolithic giant that is the self-proclaimed World Wide Leader, shall we?
— With the PC hockey Friars squeezing into the NCAA Tournament this week — with a “home” game at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, no less, against Miami (Ohio) — is this the NCAA’s way of saying, “Sorry about last week, we screwed it up. Please take a home hockey game against another Ohio team as our sincerest apology”?
— The matchup with the Red Hawks will be Providence’s 12th game all-time at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, and the first since 2004. The Friars won the 1985 Hockey East championship at what was then the Providence Civic Center, but they haven’t played a postseason game in the building since 1986. PC and Miami are 1-1-2 against each other over the past two years during the regular season. Boston College and Denver supply the other side of the bracket — but will BC fans travel? They rarely do.
— And here’s a little “stand alone” news for you: Providence and Harvard are the only two schools to reach both NCAA basketball and hockey tournaments this year. Taking it a step further, the Friars are the only program in the country to reach both tournaments the last two years.
— It has been a very successful athletic year for PC, regardless of any basketball disappointment. Providence ranks 22nd nationally out of 207 schools in the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup, where points are awarded based on athletic team performance in up to 20 sports. Again, taking it a step further, PC is the only program without football (FBS or FCS) ranked in the top 25. Georgetown (13th) and Villanova (36th) are the other Big East schools in the top 50.
— OK, show of hands here: How many of you are surprised the NFL changed some rules this week, based on the Patriots’ ability to interpret the rulebook? Anyone? Bueller?
— As far as I’m concerned, the Baltimore Ravens will rank right up there among all-time whiners with the Indianapolis Colts. Can’t beat the Patriots? Can’t even understand their formations or player substitutions? Don’t like their defensive backs beating up on your receivers? Change the rules.
— Among the changes coming from this week’s NFL meetings is one that will result in a five-yard penalty for an offensive player wearing an eligible number to report as ineligible and line up outside of the tackle box — which is exactly what NE did to the Ravens in the playoffs, with some success. It’s very reminiscent of when the Colts lobbied to the NFL for change after their receivers were clubbed by Ty Law and company in 2003 — defensive backs now can’t make contact after a five-yard cushion. What’s next?
— “Next” might have already happened for Bill Belichick, who reportedly was upset with ownership shooting down his request for cameras to be placed in end zones to give officials better angles on replay reviews. Cost apparently was a reason behind the rejection, to which Belichick expressed extreme disappointment — based on the league’s decision to play games in London and potentially take the Pro Bowl to Brazil because it can make more money. For what it’s worth, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett backs Belichick on this, when it appears few others will publicly support him.
— Although, because there was a fair amount of discussion on the matter, Belichick also supports changing up the extra point attempt to make it more of a challenge on the field, and the issue apparently will be brought back up for discussion in May. It is entirely possible you’ll see a change in where and/or how PAT’s are attempted next season.
— The circus that is the Aaron Hernandez trial took on a completely different tenor this week after a bomb threat was called in prior to Thursday’s testimony at the Fall River Justice Center. Earlier in the proceedings, Judge Susan Garsh had said some jailhouse phone calls in which Hernandez discusses giving money to a cousin could be used as evidence in the case. And why exactly is this case being tried in Fall River?
— Oh, goody. Injuries already are becoming the story at Red Sox training camp. Catcher Christian Vazquez hasn’t had any improvement to his throwing elbow since he felt some discomfort two weeks ago, which means backup Ryan Hanigan could start the season as No. 1. Or, Blake Swihart’s timetable gets moved up. Shouldn’t this be an example for baseball’s poo-bahs that the exhibition season is simply too long and too much for the players to endure?
— When you’re ready to go, you’re ready to go. Just ask David Ortiz. Why else do you really believe he’s been sitting out spring games? Dehydration? Umm, no. Boredom, more likely.
— My buddy Statbeast tells me he’s always ready. When he was recently getting ready to address his ball during a round of golf, a voice over the PA system announced, “Will the gentleman on the ladies’ tee please move back to the men’s tee?” Again, he tried to address his ball when the PA blared, “Will the man on the red tee box please move back to the white tees?” Statbeast then turned around and shouted, “Will the idiot on the PA please shut up so the man on the ladies’ tee can hit his second shot?”
— We’ve had the long branches of the Providence Friars basketball coaching tree on the front of the brain stem for the past few weeks, and Steve DeMeo’s name recently popped up in conversation. The ex-PC assistant has been in Niceville, Florida, for the past two seasons, and his Northwest Florida State Raiders team won the National Junior College men’s basketball title this past week after defeating South Plains (Kansas) College. DeMeo served under Tim Welsh for 10 seasons in Providence, and also coached at Iona, Hofstra, UCF, Newberry (S.C.) College and Monroe College in the Bronx.
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