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Thinking out loud: Catching up with Providence basketball

John Rooke
February 15, 2019 - 4:50 pm

Thinking out loud…while wondering how Steven Tyler has avoided Hollywood’s Walk of Fame thus far?

  • What do the Friars need to do from this point forward? 

 

  • Time is of the essence with just six games remaining in the Big East regular season.  Four of them are at the Dunk, including the next three in a row – so it’s a given, they’ll need to win those.  And that includes beating 10th ranked Marquette next week.

 

  • Beyond that, win at least one of the last two on the road – at Creighton and/or at Butler.  That would put Providence at 19-12 overall, 9-9 in the league with a competitive NET ranking.  Good enough to get into the conversation at tournament time.

 

  • But winning at least two in New York would stamp your ticket.  Short of that, it’ll be time to start a new NCAA tournament streak next season. 

 

  • But winning at The Garden?  That’s possible, considering the Friars are 12-5 at MSG over the past six seasons, including last weekend’s win over St. John’s.  This team likes the stage, and they showed that a year ago, losing to the eventual national champs, in overtime, in the title game.

 

  • A repeat performance on Broadway is not out of the question. 

 

  • Especially with this version of the Big East so balanced – perhaps except for one of the Top Two in Villanova and Marquette.  But any team – literally ANY team – can surprise.  Should be fun.

 

  • Not for nuthin,’ but Villanova’s made-over Finneran Pavilion is fabulous.  Restricted by space and campus restraints (sound familiar, Friars?) it is a gleaming example of what winning it all can and will do for a program.

 

  • Chicken salad out of chicken bleep?  It’s that, at least.  The only thing that keeps it from being elite is the seating size at 6500.  Kinda rinky-dink for a national champion, if you ask me.  But it’s LOUD in that building.

 

  • Here’s a thought, since the Big East has asked St. John’s to consider moving all league games to the Garden and off campus – why won’t the Big East ask Villanova to do the same, and play conference games at the downtown Wells Fargo Center? 

 

  • Because of the $65 million Villanova spent on renovations to the Pavilion, or because Villanova has the cache within the Big East to do “as it pleases?”  You decide.

 

  • A primary example that the Big East’s muddied-middle this year is hurting league perception:  Only one Sweet 16 projection – Marquette, as a potential three-seed.  Villanova comes in with a 5-seed.  But Joey ‘Brackets’ Lunardi says on ESPN that 5 or 6 Big East teams can still play their way into the Big Dance. 

 

  • ‘Brackets’ likes the Big East balance.  He’s got five teams in right now, ICYMI.  So stop your frettin’ and sweatin.’  Just win, baby.

 

  • In case you weren’t aware, the Chair of the NCAA selection committee this year is a Brown alum – current Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir, who played for the Bears in the late ‘80’s and was the team co-captain in 1989-90. 

 

  • Muir has had an outstanding athletic career, with stops working at Notre Dame, Georgetown, Delaware and with the NCAA in Indianapolis prior to Palo Alto.  Looks like an Ivy resume to me.

 

  • Approaching the halfway mark in the Ivy League slate, Brown finds itself two games out of the conversation for the Ivy postseason tournament.  It’s a Cornell and Columbia travel weekend for the Bears, and Cornell is one of three teams tied for 2nd at 4-2. 

 

  • Seems like a good time to jump into that postseason conversation, if the Bears have designs on doing that this year.  Just sayin’. 

 

  • Senior guard Obi Okolie is on a hot streak, with eight straight games scoring in double figures for a guy who is known primarily for his defensive abilities.  Okolie hit for a career high 25 points in a win over Penn last week.

 

  • I’ve seen where some URI fans are already questioning David Cox’s ability to coach.  Wow.  Seems like some in South County need to get their heads out of the sand and come up for air.

 

  • Sure, the successes of the past couple of seasons under Danny Hurley are still fresh in the memory bank, but the reality is – the coach and those players are gone.  This coach needs some time to do his own thing. 

 

  • Rhode Island isn’t Villanova, where you re-load.  It’s not even Providence, as upsetting as that may be to those who support the State U.  Truth is greater than fiction, and truth is all about the dollar signs. 

 

  • The programs exist in different leagues – and different worlds – and that’s no news flash.

 

  • If Cox can’t do it in three or four years, fine.  Judge him then.  But realize you’re talking about a program with a budget so tight it could choke a horse. Or a Ram.

 

  • Meanwhile, as far as I can tell, there’s three or four pretty good players on that roster.  Get ‘em some help, URI will be fine…and a Top 3 A-10 program again – as they should be – in short order.

 

  • Checking in on Bryant, the Bulldogs had a Valentine’s Day heart-breaker with Sacred Heart (no pun intended), losing 105-104 at the Chace Athletic Center.  Bryant shot a program-record 69% from the floor for the game – the 3rd highest shooting percentage by ANY team in Division I this season – and still lost. 

 

  • Great tweet from the ProJo’s Kevin McNamara this week, who pointed out former Bulldog Nisre Zouzoua – who scored better than 20 points per game while at Bryant, then transferred to Top 10 Nevada – hasn’t scored more than five points in a game this season.

 

  • Just shows you, the grass ain’t always greener on the other side.  Nor is the hardwood always bouncier, either.

 

  • ICYMI, Providence athletic director Bob Driscoll received a promotion to school Vice President this week, still overseeing the athletic department.  A nice gesture for a guy who has elevated several of PC’s sports programs to heights not even imagined when he arrived here 18 years ago.

 

  • And the building on campus?  Like death and taxes, a crane or construction somewhere is a sure thing.  Driscoll has been the go-to guy, leading the fundraising charge for the new athletic facilities.

 

  • Freshman forward Mary Baskerville was named as the Big East’s Freshman of the Week for a 4th time this season this past week, just the 3rd player in program history to earn the honor four times.  She has five double-doubles, leading all Big East freshmen in scoring and rebounding.

 

  • At 14-11 overall going into the weekend, PC’s women are 9-0 when they outrebound the opponent, 3-0 in the league when they hit 10 or more threes.  Shoot it and rebound it.  Easy game.

 

  • Senior guard Maddie Jolin, from Rehoboth, MA and a Bishop Feehan grad, is just six points shy of hitting 1000 points for her career.  She’ll be the 35th player in program history to hit the mark.  I’ll bet my buddy Edward from East Providence knew that already.

 

  • Have to think that while PC’s basketball Friars may be on the outside looking in at the tournament bubble, the same situation may face PC’s 13th-ranked Hockey Friars, too. 

 

  • Tied for 16th in the Pairwise rankings (college hockey’s version of the RPI/NET) this week – and only 16 teams reach the NCAA Tournament – the two games against 10th ranked UMass-Lowell this weekend are H-U-G-E. 

 

  • Lowell is above Providence in the Pairwise, and currently 2nd in Hockey East.  The Friars are 4th.  Like in hoops, opportunity exists…at Lowell Friday night, at Schneider Arena Saturday.

 

  • PC’s women’s hockey team closes out the home season Saturday afternoon against 3rd ranked Northeastern at 2:00 pm.  That’s a heckuva doubleheader if you’re so inclined.

 

  • A cautionary tale for the ACC, and their soon-to-be-launched ACC Network:  The Pac-12 Network is woefully underperforming.  In the ratings and in revenue. 

 

  • The Seattle Times reports a source indicating projected annual school payouts are several million dollars below intended pre-launch figures, after six payouts to member schools.  The well, it seems, is beginning to run dry.

 

  • Tweet of the Week, from @BDCCeltics: “Danny Ainge on the notion the Celtics are better without Kyrie Irving, on @Toucherandrich: "It's completely illogical. It makes no sense."

 

  • Stop the madness.  This Celtics team isn’t necessarily ‘better’ without Irving, but they play harder.  Probably to make up for his absence.  Saw that for myself this week in Philadelphia against the Sixers.

 

  • And if Ainge can’t see that, he’ll need to remove his Kyrie-colored glasses before proceeding any further.

 

  • If Brad Stevens could figure out a way to maximize the effort with Kyrie on the floor, now you’d have something.  But I fear that might not happen.  Ever.  Kyrie is – complicated.

 

  • Jayson Tatum is nasty.  But for Anthony Davis, yup – I’d deal him.  Enough of this ‘build for the future’ stuff. Strike while the iron still has heat.

 

  • Not for nuthin’, but Boston is all about championships.  A.D. gives the organization its best shot at another one in the present universe.  Make it happen, if you can.

 

  • But you’d have to keep Kyrie around, too…so, there’s that.

 

  • There are 21 NFL players in history who have five or more Super Bowl appearances.  Eight of them are current or former New England Patriots. 

 

  • Got your resume ready to go?  Lots of job openings at One Patriot Place for coaches next season. 

 

  • Success is breeding opportunity this year for four assistants headed to Miami – Brian Flores, Chad O’Shea, Jerry Schuplinski and Josh Boyer.  D-line coach Brendan Daly is also reportedly going to Kansas City.

 

  • The guess here is – younger guys will begin to move up the ladder from within Fort Foxboro, and receive their own opportunities, with one notable exception in the form of Greg Schiano. 

 

  • Let’s see if the staff can get itself settled in advance of the Combine, or at least the Draft.  Then, get ready for the roster makeover yet-to-come.  ‘Cuz it will.

 

  • Told you last week the NFL is growing weary of the Patriots…confirmed this week in several reports, the league is leaning heavily toward snatching the Thursday Opening Night game in September away from the Patriots. 

 

  • If the NFL believes Packers-Bears is a better fit than say, Patriots-Cowboys?  They’re delusional.  What sells better than hate?

 

  • Joe Flacco to Denver.  And John Elway is being praised for this?  Last I saw, Flacco had turned into a virtual statue at QB in Baltimore. 

 

  • Not surprised in the least that Kareem Hunt signed with Cleveland.  Football-wise, it’s a smart move by the Browns.  Depending upon when (or IF) he’s suspended by the NFL for his off-field misconduct, you’ll have a motivated player ready to go – who’s already very good.

 

  • Cleveland has guaranteed him nothing.  They’ve told him there is a zero-tolerance policy toward his violence.  It’s a minimal risk.  And, Browns’ GM John Dorsey drafted him while in Kansas City.  So, there’s that, too.

 

  • Humanity-wise, maybe it’s not-so-smart.  But second-chances exist, as they should, in this day and age.  He apologized, the public (or most of the public) forgives.  If he has learned his lesson, the Browns have a steal.

 

  • Did you see last week where the newly-launched AAF (Alliance of American Football) outpaced a regular season NBA game in the TV ratings?  First, NBA regular season games are too predictable, anyway.  And we’re a football-mad country these days.  But I am surprised spring football had better ratings than pro basketball.

 

  • Will it last?  Even with CBS televising last week, it will – only if the product continues to impress.  These first couple of weeks have fans still buzzing from the Super Bowl, looking for a quick fix.  We’ll check back in on this next month.

 

  • Want some thoughts on the new Red Sox radio booth announcers?  Good.  Here you go.  WEEI needs to publish a schedule of who is appearing on-air with Joe Castiglione, and when it will happen.  Otherwise, confusion and uncertainty will push listeners to who and what they know – on TV.

 

  • Familiarity breeds listenership and viewership.  Every time.  The rotating booth is a novel idea to answering a difficult question – what will the future of Red Sox radio become?  But it’s only a short-term fix. 

 

  • Making an appointment, say, to hear Sean McDonough?  Or to hear Chris Berman go ‘back, back, back?’  Yeah, I’d listen to that.  But I can’t listen to something I don’t know about.

 

  • Listening to play-by-play on radio is akin to putting on a comfortable pair of slippers.  You know them, and you feel as if they know you.  Don’t mess with what you know.  New slippers need time to break in, amiright?

 

  • I don’t know about you, but while the Sox seem pretty content with things as they now stand – the bullpen seems a might light in the backend.  They won last year because they had enough overall pitching.  They don’t have enough right now – so there’s work to do.

 

  • MLS Commissioner Don Garber has been re-upped for another five-year run as league boss.  And why not?  Major League Soccer has grown from 12 to 27 teams since he became commish and added 23 new owners…all folks who voted to keep him in place, btw.

 

  • He’s not saying he’s old or anything, but my buddy “Big E” sez he was in line at Social Security last week and forgot his ID.  When it was his turn, in order to prove his age, he simply unbuttoned his shirt to show the clerk his graying chest hair.  The clerk believed his age and eligibility claim.  He went home to Mrs. E and told her what had happened, then showed her his check.

 

  • She responded with, “well get back down there and take off your shorts. See if you can get disability.”

 

  • Told you it was only a matter of time.  This week, the Rhode Island Senate approved, by a 31-4 vote, mobile sports betting in the state.  This would mean anyone within the state border could, in theory, place a sports wager with a mobile app attached to an online account with either of the Twin River facilities.  The bill now goes to the House for further approval.

 

  • Really?  Aerosmith is just now getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame?  Walk This Way is only one of the best-known, most famous/popular rock songs ever written and performed.  For like, 45 years now.  C’mon, man.

 

  • The star ceremony was to be held this week, but bad weather forced a postponement.  No matter. Aerosmith was only inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.  They’ve won four Grammy’s.  We’ll wait.  Dopes.

 

  • Lead singer Steven Tyler is still rockin’ it at age 70, and just opened “Janie’s House” outside of Memphis for abused and neglected girls.  It has apparently come full-circle for Tyler, who reportedly once adopted, dated and then impregnated a teen in the early 1970’s.

 

  • @muckymarty tweeted at me this week, referencing Antonio Brown’s apparent wish to leave the Pittsburgh Steelers: “NE trade for a prima donna?  Really?”

 

  • Martha – Like you, I seriously doubt it.  The Steelers won’t trade the NFL’s best receiver to their “arch-rival,” but stranger things have happened.  More likely, the Patriots could get involved in a potential deal with the Giants for Odell Beckham, Jr.  

 

  • But what are you offering in return?  There’s a lot of internal housekeeping that needs to take place first, before shopping for next season’s groceries. 

 

  • Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to jrooke@weei.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

 

Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Southern New England Sports Saturday!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937

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