Providence coach Ed Cooley

Steven Branscombe/USA Today Sports

Thinking out loud: College basketball is back

John Rooke
November 08, 2019 - 3:21 pm
Categories: 

Thinking out loud…while wondering how Rhode Island has managed to step off its’ self-inflicted economic cliff, and survive…

 

  • Feeling a little like Rip Van Winkle today.  Went to sleep last night, and when I woke up it was February outside.  Wait, wut?

 

  • College basketball’s opening night across the country was this past Tuesday. Like the pros, the colleges’ have finally figured out the best way to grab attention is to make Opening Night a big event.

 

  • Unlike football, basketball isn’t predictable.  NCAA Division I men’s basketball has had 17 different schools from nine conferences reach the Final Four over the past five years.  Football has Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State involved every year in the CFP.  Kudos to those programs, but I’m all in for a little more variety and unpredictability.

 

  • And was Opening Night for hoops a big event?  Depends on your point of view and the team(s) you root for, of course.  There were some big games for first games, like Duke-Kansas and Michigan State-Kentucky.  The winners feel great.  The losers, not so much. 

 

  • Hope these early-season shootouts survive, because it’s great for the sport.  It’s great for ratings and resume-building for some.  Will the sport’s big wheels keep spinning in the future when they know they could take a licking?

 

  • Kentucky’s John Calipari – whose team looked GREAT in their opening win, btw – already wants to push back the big encounters a week so his guys can get in a cream puff or two.  Cal, can you just roll with us on this?

 

  • This time of year is a large overload of sports stuff on the menu, right?  NFL, NBA, NHL are all in play, and baseball just wrapped up the playoffs with an eye toward the ever-important hot-stove season. 

 

  • Colleges are supposed to be smaht, aren’t they?  Featuring an official “Opening Night” with marquee matchups is a smaht way to grab a slice of that sports spotlight against the heavyweights, by asking some heavyweights to trade punches.

 

  • The ACC may have been flat-out crazy, however, in featuring conference games on opening night.  Boston College beat Wake Forest, for example, on Night One. 

 

  • Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim has already started his whining, after his Orange were WWII era-historically bad in a 48-34 loss to defending national champ Virginia.  He called the Opening Night conference game “stupid,” and a “money grab” thanks to the presence of the ACC Network.

 

  • A money grab?  Of course it is, just like the one the SU athletic department grabbed a decade ago when ditching the Big East.

 

  • And with the Big East expanding to 20 league games starting next year (UConn, hello!) don’t be surprised if something similar also takes shape around here.

 

  • I’ve also already seen more than one pundit complain the college game doesn’t have any sure-fire pros in it this season.  What?  Nope, no Zion Williamsons’ out there.  But we just started. 

 

  • Can we allow these teams – these players – to develop just a bit before saddling them with expectations?  That’s the beauty in the college game – finding the future stars and watching them transform in front of us…complete with the rah-rah and rivalry that goes along with it.

 

  • The Friars fired a shot out of the cannon on Opening Night, for sure.  The question is, however – can they keep that cannon loaded throughout the season? 

 

  • Two items from Opening Night Tuesday stand out: 1) Don’t expect this Friar team to shoot as well as they did for the entire season.  It’s a great start, of course.  But don’t get carried away…or, become overly reliant on the three-ball.

 

  • 2) If Emmitt Holt can give 10 points and five rebounds per game, these Friars will have incredible, quality depth – the best I’ve seen in 30 years.  They’ll come at teams in waves.  And wear most everyone down.

 

  • And that new Chick Fil A Fowl Shot promotion?  Winner, winner, chicken dinner.  If an opponent misses two consecutive free throws during the second half of games at the Dunk, everyone with a ticket wins a free chicken sandwich. 

 

  • The roof will need repairs if this happens more than once or twice this season.  Be ready for that, Larry Lepore.

 

  • Senior all-Big East selection Alpha Diallo was nominated for both Wooden and Naismith National Player of the Year awards this week, as a Top 50 player in the country.  If he averages a double-double and keeps his shooting percentage high – and he might – he may also work himself into an NBA Draft possibility as well.

 

  • Best thing I could see from URI’s debut win over LIU-Brooklyn was a solid start from their returning core of players.  Cyril Langevine earned his 24th career double-double as Rhody ruled inside.

 

  • But for the Rams to work their way into eventual NCAA contention, the new kids on the block (like Jacob Toppin) will need to grow up fast.  7th ranked Maryland looms this weekend.

 

  • Brown and Bryant found themselves in a Smithfield shootout, with the Bears edging the Bulldogs by a deuce Tuesday as senior Brandon Anderson hit a game-winner with 12 ticks remaining on the clock.  Bryant is improved, absolutely.  The Bears should be exciting to watch.

 

  • And the Bulldogs almost knocked off Big 10 Rutgers, with a last-second three pointer to win hitting iron instead of the net Thursday night. 

 

  • The Big East began with an unbeaten week heading into Friday night, which shouldn’t come as a surprise with the way the league is L-O-A-D-E-D with players.  Every team has a ‘star,’ or at least one-in-the-making. 

 

  • Butler, however, has big issues early as senior all-Big East guard Kamar Baldwin was injured in their opening win over IUPUI.  Georgetown got an early scare from Mount St. Mary’s, down 46-27 at one point early in the second half, before putting up 56 total second half points on ‘em.

 

  • And I don’t think points will be hard to come by for others, either.  Marquette’s Markus Howard became his program’s all-time scoring leader with 38 in a win over Loyola.  Seton Hall and St. John’s joined PC in hangin’ more than a hunnerd on opponents, with Villanova also adding 97.

 

  • Weird science:  PC’s women’s basketball team opened their season Tuesday night at Yale and led 42-33 at halftime.  Then, a scoreboard malfunction caused the game to be suspended – indefinitely.  The two schools will work on a solution to finish the game at a later date.

 

  • From the pitch: the 17th ranked Brown women wrap up the regular season with Yale before the NCAA tournament selection Monday; URI’s men won the Atlantic-10 regular season title and open the conference tourney against Davidson Saturday; the PC men shut out 8th ranked St. John’s and open the Big East tourney as a 3-seed Saturday against Marquette, while the women reached the Big East semis but lost to 18th ranked Georgetown.

 

  • When did we – collectively, of course – learn how to play soccer like this?

 

  • URI’s Malik Gavek – a sophomore defensive back from Cranston – was named the CAA Player of the Week in the Rams’ 42-14 win over Merrimack last Saturday.  Gavek had 14 tackles, 1.5 for a loss, two fumble recoveries and a 30-yard pick six.  Have a day, why don’t ya?

 

  • Not for nuthin’, but college football’s 150th birthday was this week - November 6th.  On that date in 1869, Rutgers (yep, THAT Rutgers) and Princeton played something closer to rugby or a really rough game of, um, soccer. 

 

  • Rutgers won, 6-4.  Yeah, scoring was a bit different then.  And Rutgers won, too, so that was different.

 

  • My buddy “Big E” sez there was a time not long ago where his precocious grandson was really outspoken.  He often had to be taken aside to be told to say the ‘right thing.’  Big E’s wife once was interrupted in front of house guests by saying he had to go pee.  Grandma explained it wasn’t polite to speak like that, so she suggested he say, “I want to whisper.”

 

  • Sure enough, when Grandma’s brother the next day was sitting in his chair, Johnny leaned over to him and said, “Uncle, I want to whisper.”  His uncle then replied, “Ok Johnny, you can whisper in my ear.”  And, um, he did.

 

  • Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson is the youngest QB to beat Bill Belichick since 2004.  It’s not often nu skool beats old school.

 

  • Perspective: before Sunday, the Patriots had trailed for all of 13:51 over eight games.  They never led in the game against the Ravens. 

 

  • Perspective x 2:  Even the ’85 Chicago Bears gave up 38 points to the Miami Dolphins.  No need to push the panic button, or even find out where it’s located.

 

  • Sure, the Patriots’ defense has some holes defending the run game.  It was designed to slow down the fast-paced air attacks in the league, first and foremost.  

 

  • The offense and TB12 have a new binky – Mohamed Sanu.  Size, some speed, agility.  Perhaps most of all, reliability. 

 

  • It’s really pretty simple for the Patriots, heading into easily their toughest stretch of the season. Eliminate mistakes, eliminate losses.  Felt like the loss to the Ravens could have been overcome if they simply stopped with the stupid.

 

  • Speaking of which, Julian Edelman – and we all love him, right? – has at least one, um, stupid play per game, doesn’t he?  A drop of a sure catch, maybe, but dumb, nevertheless.

 

  • Bye, week:  File under “needed.”  And if the NFL goes to a 17-game schedule (or more), you’ll be getting more of these. 

 

  • With the loss to Baltimore, the Colts are now the only team since 2000 to win their first nine games and still go on to win the Super Bowl (2006).  So, at least there’s that.

 

  • Stupid is as stupid does?  Taken to a whole ‘notha level by 2nd year pro Jermaine Whitehead this week, cut by the Browns after making threatening tweets toward fans who dared criticize his performance in a loss to Denver.  He did apologize – after he was cut. 

 

  • And he’s still unemployed.

 

  • Young bucks.  Amazing some of them can even walk to practice, with so many of them succumbing to foot-in-mouth disease.

 

  • Last weekend, ICYMI, had NFL home teams (in this country) going 11-1 on Sunday and Monday.  Finally, home field meant having an actual advantage.

 

  • Mookie Betts won his 4th Gold Glove, and he and Xander Bogaerts also won Silver Sluggers this week.  Great players – franchise players, right?  This team could win again next year. 

 

  • And yet, the Red Sox are basically held hostage by Betts, torn between trying to trade him or sign him to an extraordinarily unwieldy contract.

 

  • Betts is a generational talent.  For this era.  To say he’s anything less is denying what your eyes have seen.  Can you imagine the Sox thinking about trading Teddy Ballgame?  That’s really what this equates to…dealing away a signature (again, for this era) franchise player.

 

  • Chaim Bloom has the thankless job of leading the decision-making process here for Betts.  It’s too easy to say, ‘trade him,’ and probably too expensive to ‘sign him’ long term.  Quite the conundrum.  I don’t think you can get anything close to equal value if you try to trade him, so…

 

  • …I’d ride the Mookie train as long and as hard as you can, luxury tax-be-damned, and try to win again.  The question is – do you want to win again?  Right now?  If yes, you keep him.

 

  • If he doesn’t want to stay, and decides to cash out, don’t chase and let him go, and take a draft pick.  Or, trade for what you can.  That’s the marketplace we’re in, unlike the era of Ted Williams.

 

  • But don’t trade Bogaerts and his salary to keep Betts and his.  Bogaerts already has a relatively team-friendly deal and plays shortstop.  Don’t create a problem where one doesn’t exist.

 

  • Love that J.D. Martinez has decided to return.  The loyalty is welcomed.  But his decision doesn’t help what to do about Betts in the least bit.  It complicates it.  Could we find the Sox in position for some sort of multi-player, blockbuster deal in an effort to gain pitching, and shed salary?

 

  • Houston is already the odds-on fave for next year, at 9-4. The Sox are 3rd, at 5-1, behind only the Yankees and Astros to win it all next year.  And they could blow this up?  Where is the sense in that? 

 

  • Although, it ain’t my money.  Now John Henry decides to stay within a budget?

 

  • I wish I had bloviator Stephen A. Smith’s budget.  A new 5-year deal from ESPN worth nearly $8 million per year?  Whoa.  Not only is he now ESPN’s highest paid employee, but now you also know where some of your always-rising cable subscription fees have gone. 

 

  • 24/7 Wall Street this week ranked Massachusetts as the #1 state to live in, with Connecticut at #5.  Somewhat surprisingly, Rhode Island isn’t last – far from it, in fact.  Rhody actually came in at #17.

 

  • Hey, I know what’s good around here.  It’s easy to see.  But the measuring stick for Wall Street?  Poverty rate, percentage of residents with college degrees and average life expectancy. 

 

  • Since we’ve got a ton of old people in RI, this ranking shouldn’t come as a surprise then, should it?  Just sayin’.

 

  • Nick in Vegas posted on Facebook this week, on the Patriots’ loss: “The Ravens were more READY TO PLAY. They used their bye week to FULL advantage. That was not a very good Patriots’ effort, even the last Jets game, by comparison, was a massive effort. This was not.”

 

  • Nick:  It was one of the few times, really, when Bill Belichick and his staff were outcoached.  Out schemed.  Out thought.  Just goes to show you, even the best at what they do have bad days.  With four massive games straight ahead, was Baltimore a wakeup call, or a sign of what’s to come?

 

  • 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 Cordischi and Coit!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.