Stew Milne/USA Today Sports

Thinking out loud: What to make of Providence basketball

John Rooke
December 08, 2018 - 8:50 am

Thinking out loud…while wondering if what we really need right now is more pro football on the calendar… 

  • Not for nuthin’, but you need to get out and watch Providence’s A.J. Reeves hoop.  He might not be around here for as long as you think he’ll be around here.

 

  • The Celtics’ Danny Ainge was sitting next to our courtside spot for the PC-BC game Tuesday night at Conte Forum.  He was there, at least originally, to get a look at the Eagles’ Ky Bowman – a preseason 1st team all-ACC pick.  But he also caught an eyeful of a Friar freshman who is trying to NOT look like one.

 

  • What does the 100-95 overtime win mean for the Friars?  That expectations are again raised, ever-so-slightly.  Fair or unfair for a team that starts three freshmen?  That’s reality.  Ed Cooley knows it.

 

  • And UMass Friday night brought that reality full-circle.  One of those three is a freshman point guard, trying to lead a team that can’t defend consistently, yet.  A team that can’t shoot consistently, yet.  And it’s still too immature to consider a contender – yet. 

 

  • How else do you explain losing at home after an 18-point lead at the half?  Heralded freshmen, yes. But still just freshmen.  And the experienced players?  They disappear.  As stunning as Tuesday’s OT win was, Friday’s 79-78 loss was a (Steve Austin) Stone Cold Stunner. 

 

  • BC and UMass are both likely to take a hiatus from next year’s schedule.  That’s too bad for New England basketball, but considering the results, may not be so bad for the Friars.

 

  • In BC’s case, PC is the only Big East school who would have anything to do with the Eagles once they jilted the old league. 

 

  • Now, BC wants to crawl back into the good graces of others (Georgetown, St. John’s) who wouldn’t have anything to do with them for the past 15 years. 

 

  • You know who could be a really good player in a year or two?  Jimmy Nichols.  He ain’t bad now, in specific spots.  His rebound dunk the other night at Boston College caused Ainge to sit right up straight in his seat next to us.  Dunks don’t normally do that to Danny.

 

  • URI looks to get back on track Saturday at Holy Cross, after their brick-and-mortar performance last week at the Dunk.  But be considerate of the Crusaders – they’ve won five of six heading into this one and beat UMass earlier this week.  It’s the Rams’ 1st trip into Worcester in 36 years.

 

  • Brown paid a visit to the Hinkle Fieldhouse “Hoosiers” hoop shrine this week, playing at Butler for the first time Wednesday night.   Maybe it was the mystique (ask the Friars about that), but the Bears managed to connect on just two of their first 18 shots from the floor in the first half and could never catch the Bulldogs.  They lost, 70-55. 

 

  • Hoops for the holidays at Bryant, too.  Both men’s and women’s teams have promotions with tickets going for as little as $4 over the next six weeks of their schedules.

 

  • ICYMI, it was UConn who nabbed uber-recruit Akok Akok, giving Dan Hurley the #16-ranked recruiting class for this year as per 247Sports.  But is he playing beyond next semester?  Is this just a ‘wow, wish we could have him but now that we don’t, he’s your problem’ kinda deal?

 

  • After whacking Lafayette this week, the Huskies have started strong this season at 7-2 in Hurley’s debut season on the Storrs campus.  They’ll get a temperature check this weekend against #11 Florida State on Saturday night.

 

  • St. John’s has started a basketball season 8-0 for the first time since 1990.  The thought has long been that basketball in the Big East – in New York – is always better when the Johnnies are good.  Maybe that adage gets put to the test this year.

 

  • The more I watch them, the more I think Marquette is going to be one tough load to handle this season.  If those guys figure out a way to consistently defend, watch out.  We already know Markus Howard can hang half-a-hundred on you.

 

  • Let’s get back to Brown and Bryant for a moment.  The Bears this week hired away Bryant’s James Perry to be their head football coach, replacing Phil Estes.  Is there now an emerging rivalry between the two programs because of the poaching?

 

  • Reality check – anyone and everyone connected to either program had to see this move coming, with Perry’s ties to his alma mater.  He was the QB when I was still calling the games on local radio and has held virtually every passing record in school history.  If Bryant AD Bill Smith is as smart as I think he is, he prepared for this move – weeks ago.

 

  • So what does Bryant do after two winning seasons under Perry?  It’s a national search for his replacement, yes.  I’d remember that, and find an aggressive, young assistant who wants to make a name for himself and run his own show. 

 

  • Realize that it’s better to sit and watch a shooting star, than stumble to catch a falling star.

 

  • UMass’ football hire to replace Mark Whipple may be an example of that.  Walt Bell is only 34-years old as he assumes the reins of the Minuteman program.  He served one year – one – as the offensive coordinator at largely-underachieving Florida State. 

 

  • Golly gee, Beav, he also looks just like Wally Cleaver.  Maybe his ultra-youthful looks belie his football talents.  And maybe I’m just jealous.  But I have socks older than he is.

 

  • Speaking of youngsters, Ohio State’s new head football coach has New England ties.  Ryan Day steps in full time for Urban Meyer with a five-year contract worth $4.5 million per year, after subbing in earlier this season while Meyer was suspended.

 

  • The Buckeyes finished as Big 10 champs, even if they missed out on the playoff, and 12-1 overall.  A pretty good start for a guy who spent some of his grad assistant time shagging balls at Boston College 15 years ago.  He’s also a native of Manchester, NH, and just the 2nd Buckeye coach to be born outside of Ohio since World War II.

 

  • The line of coaches he’s following?  Paul Brown, Woody Hayes, Earle Bruce, John Cooper (the other outsider), Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer.  Whoa, that’s some list.

 

  • After facing Merrimack on the road Friday, the 10th ranked PC men’s hockey team takes three weeks off over the holidays, before lacing them up again against Brown on Dec. 29th. 

 

  • The 8th ranked PC women’s hockey team closed out 2018 Friday night against Holy Cross.  At 14-3 (8-2 in Hockey East), the ladies are off to their best start in 27 years. 

 

  • My buddy Edward in East Providence was very disappointed in the lack of coverage afforded the Ocean State Women’s Classic last week (even though WLNE Channel 6 hit it), won by URI over PC, Bryant and Brown. 

 

  • I could’ve said the smart-alecky thing to him, like “does anyone else other than UConn actually play women’s basketball around here?” But that wouldn’t have been factual.  Literal, maybe.

 

  • I’ll go back to my bottom line on determining what gets covered, and what gets ignored around here.  Just win, baby.  And sadly, it would be best if you’re professional, and not an amateur or in college.  You’ll get noticed. 

 

  • It’s not a bad idea for the Red Sox to re-up with Nathan Eovaldi.  But at $17 mil per year?  Don’t say you wouldn’t pay him the money.  You don’t sign the checks. 

 

  • What we want Sox ownership to do – is to use the money they have on good players, correct?  Hard to argue right now…that they haven’t done that.

 

  • Yes, there will be players on the current roster who will deserve to be paid, through free agency or otherwise, in the very near future.  Outside of Yankee fans, who wouldn’t want a dynasty?  The Sox are moving toward becoming the new “Evil Empire.”

 

  • I also love the fact – despite any other feelings you might have for Sox ownership – that these guys want to win NOW.  They live and work in the moment.

 

  • Is Eovaldi a health risk?  Sure.  But who isn’t in baseball these days?  You pay a premium for pitching.  Period.  The Sox should know his health better than anyone else.

 

  • Why is there any problem, at all, with the Red Sox visiting the White House?  We are past the novelty of intersecting sports with politics and world leaders…but the idea is to go to honor the “office.”  Not the person in the office, necessarily.  I’d go, no matter who is in that office.

 

  • It’s called respect, people.  Try it sometime.  Even if you feel disrespected.  That’s called being an adult.  Even if others can’t be.

 

  • The Pawsox announced their replacement for Kevin Boles as manager, by naming ex-Portland skipper Billy McMillon to run the show next season.  McMillon has been the Sox’ minor league outfield and baserunning coach for the past three years, spending the previous 11 seasons in the Sox organization after a 12-year playing career.

 

  • McMillon’s managerial debut came in 2010 with the Greenville Drive, leading the team into the South Atlantic League championship series.  His catcher on that team?  Current Boston backstop Christian Vazquez.

 

  • The Vikings game plan, and execution of said game plan by the Patriots, was as thorough and exacting as we’ve seen the Patriots perform in some time.  And the defense is beginning to resemble an actual defense, not a sieve.

 

  • Adam Theilen and Bill Belichick’s exchange of pleasantries (shut the bleep up!) was comical.  The emotion of a game can definitely create memorable moments, even if neither party would be particularly proud afterward. 

 

  • Tweet of the Week I, from @ryanhannable: “Coming into today, Adam Thielen had nine, 100-yard receiving games this season and the Patriots defense held him to just 28 yards. That's a job well done.”

 

  • Also a big reason why he was yelling at Belichick in the first place.

 

  • For the life of me, I can’t pinpoint one specific reason why South Florida has become such a danger zone for the Patriots.  I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy sun, surf, sand and South Beach?  Oh, wait.  Wut?

 

  • The keys to victory (in Miami and anywhere else, really) include – the opponent screwing up first.  And more frequently than you do.

 

  • An NFL record, yes.  But a 10th straight AFC East title for New England would merely equal the professional record of consecutive division championships won.  Baseball’s Atlanta Braves have also pulled off the feat of winning at least 10 straight titles.

 

  • The race for the top two seeds in the AFC could go right down to the final week.  Don’t be shocked if Houston snakes itself into this equation.  The Texans may be on a 13-game win streak by the time we get to the postseason.

 

  • One thing is certain – the Patriots continue to draw an audience.  Last Sunday’s win over Minnesota drew a 62-market share in Boston, which means better than 3 out of every five TV’s in use were tuned into the game.  It was the best local rating in more than two years.

 

  • Someone, some team, will give Kareem Hunt a second chance.  Why, when Ray Rice couldn’t get one?  Youth, for one.  Forgiveness, for another.  And desperation, ultimately.  Just sayin’.

 

  • Are NFL bad boys back?  Did anyone actually miss them?

 

  • How about an NFL good boy, too?  Patriot linebacker Kyle Van Noy this week donated more than 250 Christmas trees, decorations and winter coats to local families of fostered and adopted kids.  For a second straight year.  And all we care about is if the guy can cover a running back?

 

  • YAWN.  Josh McDaniels coaching rumors are heating up.  But this year, I think he takes a new gig – and decides to keep it.

 

  • Tweet of the Week II, from @JeffPassan: “Sometimes you feel like you’ve done your job as a dad. Tonight was one of them. 11-year-old: “Colt McCoy is hurt.” Me: “Yeah. Mark Sanchez is in.” 11-year-old: “The Buttfumble guy!?!”

 

  • The XFL has announced it will have teams in New York, Washington DC, Tampa, St. Louis, Dallas, Houston, LA and Seattle.  The AAF (the NFL’s Triple A) will start in Atlanta, Phoenix, San Diego, San Antonio, Memphis, Birmingham, Orlando and Salt Lake.  Which one ultimately succeeds?

 

  • And the Freedom Football League?  Just announced by Ricky Williams Thursday, he and Terrell Owens are among the principals involved with – he says – more than 100 other investors.  Uh huh.  They suitin’ up?  Those who fail to recall and remember the past (WFL, USFL, WLAF, NFL Europe), are doomed to repeat it.

 

  • I’ll take the AAF, if only because they’ll tie their players into NFL teams and towns, giving those fan bases names to potentially follow onto their NFL rosters.  It would also be nice, eventually, to see the AAF invest in New England – Hartford anyone?  They’ve got a stadium that largely goes unused, don’t they?

 

  • For what it’s worth, the FFL says there will be a team in Connecticut.  Be still, my football heart.  Long live the Providence Steam Roller!

 

  • My buddy “Big E” sez he was in his local pub the other day when a drunk walked in, sat down next to him and then leaned over to plant a big kiss on a woman sitting on his other side.  She jumped up and slapped him silly, and he apologized profusely.  “I’m sorry, I thought you were my wife,” he explained.  “You look just like her!”  She screamed back at him.  “You are worthless, insufferable, wretched and a no-good drunk!”  He turned to Big E and said, “funny, she sounds just like my wife, too.”

 

  • @CptKirk73 tweeted this week on the defunct spring football league discussion we had this week: “Hi John. Just wanted to say how much I loved your USFL stories. I love researching and reading about defunct teams and leagues. I’d love to eventually see that jersey and helmet.”

 

  • Shawn – Thanks, as always, for listening to our Patriots’ Playbook show on Patriots.com Radio during the week!  Having worked in the old USFL in the ‘80’s (and having a San Antonio jersey and helmet), there are some stories out there that, quite frankly, would curl your nose hairs.  But it was pro football, and as a young broadcaster I knew I was lucky to be in the position I was in – and loved every minute of it.  Proud to have been a part of it, even if it remains but a footnote in sports history.  Now, if I could just get that $100 bucks the league still owes me, I’d consider us even, after all these years…

 

  • 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.