Basketball in Rhode Island has hardly been the stuff of legends in recent years. Bad teams equates to lack of interest which translates into more moments of misery than moments of triumph.
Look at last season, for example. In the Atlantic 10, Rhode Island was comfortably entrenched in 13th place in the 14 team league with a 4-12 conference mark and a 7-24 overall record.
Small wonder that Jim Baron was replaced by Danny Hurley this season as the Rams’ coach.
Move into the Ivy League and Brown was embedded in 7th place in the 8 team conference with a 2-12 conference mark and an 8-23 overall record.
Small wonder that former Brown player Mike Martin moved into a new role as the Bears’ coach this season.
Go across town to Providence College and you found the Friars in 15th place in a 16 team conference with a 4-14 Big East record and a 15-17 overall record.
Small wonder that Ed Cooley, in his first season as the Friars’ coach, said that things would get better, but that it might take some time.
And then move into the 12 team Northeast Conference where Bryant University, in its final year of transition into the Division 1 ranks anchored the league with a woeful 1-17 conference record and a 2-28 overall mark.
Small wonder that Bulldogs’ coach Tim O’Shea was talking about “next season” in January.
Which is why the news over the weekend was startling to people who watched all of this unfold last season.
In one glorious day, Bryant beat Wagner, Providence beat Villanova, URI eat Saint Louis and Brown beat Yale.
One day miracle? Aberration?
Check out the standings on Monday morning. Brown was indeed 1-0 in the Ivy League and 7-8 overall, which is one short of matching their win total of a year ago.
Bryant was a sizzling 6-0 in the NEC, 13-4 overall, which is one of the feel good stories of the season in college basketball.
Rhode Island was still struggling with a 1-2 A10 record,, but with a 6-10 overall record, including an upset win over 12-5 Saint Louis, one of the pre-season picks to win the conference, the Rams were only a game off o matching last year’s win total.
And while Providence’s 2-4 Big East record is similar to last season’s pace, the Friars have shown signs that once they get completely healthy they will not be anyone’s easy out, which has some PC fans smiling and Cooley maintaining a positive attitude.
Although there smiles in RI this weekend, the same could be said in Philadelphia where for the city’s 6 college basketball progams-Temple, LaSalle, Penn, Drexel, Saint Joseph’s and Villanova all could be shutout of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1977.
Yes, it is still January and there is plenty of time to recover, but the early trends were not good.
Temple is very much a bubble team in the A10 race which has added Xavier and Butler to the mix to make things tougher. Saint Joe’s and LaSalle are in the same category Drexel is a woeful 6-11 which is not the type of year that coach Bruiser Flint expected of the Dragons Villanova looks like a bottom feeder in the Big East and an NIT team at best and Penn is just flat out bad with a 3-14 overall mark.
The only good news coming out of Philly is that the historic and magical Palestra, which serves as home to Penn and host other Big 5 games remains sold out on most evenings…Butler’s magical 64-63 win over Gonzaga on Saturday night had some folks dreaming again of a Catholic 7/Big East which added both Butler and Gonzaga and Xavier to what could be a very competitive, highly entertaining basketball conference. Syracuse’s upset of Louisville on Saturday was more evidence that this could be one of the maddest of Marches in terms of what to expect come tournament time…Does Minnesota have the best 15-3 record in the country? The Gophers’ three losses are against Duke, Indiana and Michigan who have a combined record of 49-4?© Copyright 2013 Mark, All rights Reserved. Written For: A Jersey Guy