*I think the UC Bearcats grew a little this weekend, with two wins in Destin that showed some of the team's growth. The main takeaway, I guess, is that the Cats must get both scoring and assertiveness from Jarron Cumberland and Cane Broome, but there's more, like the role Rashawn Fredericks stepped into on Friday, the way Keith Williams seems to have found his niche, and some defense that looked refreshingly familiar. The offense is, um, still a work in progress, but it has gotten better, and there were times in both games when the Bearcats moved the ball quite capably, with good passing out of the post, cutters being fed as they streaked toward the hoop, and a handful of possessions that ended with Cumberland curling off screens and the offense progressing from there.
The opposition in Destin wasn't great. George Mason isn't very good, and no one will be wondering out loud if Ole Miss could beat the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the two wins were steps in the right direction for a team that still has - and should have - pretty lofty goals.
*UC football's successful regular season ended with a bang. The Bearcats steamrolled an East Carolina team that seemed more interested in winter break than playing a football game. Dez Ridder played as well as a quarterback can during the first quarter and the final 45 minutes were a celebration of both a surprising season as well as a bright future.
*Luke Fickell has a better chance of winning next year at UC than anywhere else. He will leave one day, because they all do. The best ones hold out for the right job elsewhere, while maximizing the potential here. The Bearcats could be very, very good next season. The potential job opportunities will be much, much better too.
*Four is enough. I'm opposed to expansion of the College Football Playoff, mainly because I like the exclusivity of it. There are no mediocre teams playing for a national title. This year's crop of candidates present arguments against expansion. Assuming Alabama does what most expect - roll over Georgia - we will be stuck with two reasonably uninspiring teams jockeying for the fourth spot. Ohio State deserves all the credit in the world for manhandling Michigan on Saturday, and I've never believed those who've maintained that a 12-1, Big Ten title-winning Buckeyes team will have no chance of getting into the CFP. But if Oklahoma beats Texas, their body of work will just look more impressive, and they'd be more deserving. I'm sure OSU fans will view this opinion with the objectivity it was formed with.
Not that it matters, because no one is beating the Crimson Tide.
*Is Xavier better off for playing three games in Maui? Yes. Are the Musketeers better than they were before they left the mainland? I'm not sure. There's still no identity, little the team can count on offensively, and things like turnovers and the helplessness against lengthy spurts by the opposition proved to be sobering during those three days last week. The Muskies don't shoot well. They can't play small. They have a long way to go defensively. There were encouraging signs, and stretches of some very solid play, but most were offset by maddening sequences, and frustrating steps backward.
It's November. Teams evolve. Many rarely resemble on Valentine's Day what they look like around Thanksgiving. This team, though still has the same look and feel as it did before the turkey was served.
*Noah Vonleh has been the Knicks' most consistent player, contributing on defense, helping where he can on offense, and providing needed stability on defense. Mitchell Robinson was a steal. Emmanuel Mudiay is playing himself into long-term contract consideration. I know you don't care, but I do. It's my blog.
*Creed II was excellent, with a surprise cameo that completed the film's nod to Rocky IV, some excellent fight scenes, and storylines that weave perfectly in the entire Rocky saga. There's a training montage that's way too long, and the woman that play's Adonis Creed's wife mails in her role (again) but it lived up to my expectations. And I might actually go see it again.
*NFL Sundays are 100 times less fun when the Saints, Rams, and Chiefs aren't playing, but it is at least a blast to watch Andrew Luck's resurgence. It is also interesting to note that the Ravens have won both games that Lamar Jackson has started. It is painful to watch Aaron Rodgers do his thing with such an uninspiring roster. And it is heart-warming to watch Ben Roethlisbeger do his part in pissing a winnable game away. Good Steelers teams under Mike Tomlin do have their share of mystifying losses. Yesterday provided an example.