Noah K. Murray/USA Today Sports

Thinking out loud: Big East play is underway

December 29, 2017 - 8:04 pm

By John Rooke

Thinking out loud…while wondering how many New Years’ promises I’ll be able to keep?

  • This year I promise to…broaden my horizons while watching sports on TV.  Since I have split-screen capability at home, I will now watch two games at once.  At all times.


  • Having your health is really a great thing, isn’t it?  Ask the Friars about it.


  • Certainly, the start to Big East play could not have gone much better for Providence than it did Thursday night at St. John’s.  But as we’ve said all along – PC goes as Kyron Cartwright goes.  And Cartwright was magnificent against the Johnnies with 21 points and a career-best 15 dimes.


  • Hope that Cartwright-apprentice Makai Ashton-Langford was paying attention during that second half.  Pass first, score second.  That’s how good point guards produce in this league, and advance to the next one.  Oh, and make free throws, too.


  • When a team shoots as well as Providence shot the ball (69% from three in the second half), it’s a beautiful game.  St. John’s is improved, and will beat teams in the Big East.  The Friars may not be all the way back from such lofty preseason expectations, but beating the Red Storm like that is a large step in the right direction.


  • 16 made three’s?  Most ever in a Big East game for the Friars, 2nd most ever in a single game.  This is a better shooting team than last year, sure.  But sharp-shooting won’t win every game.  Defending the other teams’ shooting will, however.


  • A split in the opening two-game road trip was hoped for.  But a sweep – if the Friars can win at Creighton Sunday – will put those lofty expectations right back on the top rung of the league ladder.  PC has won the last three times they’ve played in Omaha. 


  • In case you didn’t notice, road teams won four of the first five Big East games this week – and in all five games, the winning team scored at least 90 points.  Three of the four road winners were picked in the Top 4 of the preseason polls. 


  • Have you heard there will be a little extra “audio” for the Friars’ game at DePaul on Jan. 12th?  Both Ed Cooley and New Bedford’s Dave Leitao will be wearing live microphones on the sidelines and in their team huddles for the Fox TV coverage of the game – with no commercials except for halftime. 


  • Wonder if either will mention Caserta’s Pizzeria up on Federal Hill – a favorite for both?


  • URI’s Rams are in a good position, if they continue to win.  The Atlantic-10 won’t be doing them any favors during conference play, so having an experienced team can help avoid needless pratfalls in places like Olean, NY and Amherst, MA.


  • E.C. Matthews’ return only helps a deep backcourt become that much deeper.  Matthews hit for 20 this week in a home win against Dunk City (FGCU), but teams with size will still be the teams giving URI trouble.


  • Brown’s Desmond Cambridge was named as the Ivy League Player of the Week, as well as the league Rookie of the Week, for last week after exploding for 33 points in a 90-69 win over Marist.  It’s already three rookie nods from the Ivies for Cambridge this season, and Ivy play hasn’t yet started.


  • I’ll go out on a limb.  Duke will not win the National Championship.  Kansas or Kentucky won’t either.  They’re good and capable, but I’ll take an unexpected hot hand to rip through the tournament this year.   A bracket-buster breaks through. 


  • This year I promise to…watch fewer bowl games than ever before.  I’m already halfway there.  I so dislike this “everyone gets a trophy” era in college football. 


  • Am I the only person who wishes we still had the national champ decided by a bunch of overweight, middle-aged, cigar-smoking sportswriters voting in the Associated Press poll?  Why does everything need a finite ending to it?


  • Conjecture is at the very core of sports.  Discussion about who is better is the reason we follow with such fervor.   


  • This year I promise to…continue my one-man crusade against video replay in the NFL.  It stinks.  Let’s go back to the way things were – and let human decisions (along with human error) decide things on the field.  Would we really be any worse off than we are now?


  • The way that Pittsburgh seemed to turn on erstwhile star James Harrison this week, methinks the Steelers have the Patriots firmly stuck in their heads.  If Cleveland were any good, they’d have a shot to pop those guys this week.


  • If you get fired from Miller-Coors and Anheuser-Busch offers you a job – loyalty gets thrown out the window.  Amiright?  Same deal with Harrison, whether he conspired to leave Pitt or not.  The man apparently just wanted to play ball.  So, he has his chance in New England.  Play on, Deebo.


  • Putting Harrison’s move to the Dark Side in perspective, was none other than Bill Belichick this week: “We’re not talking about college where players don’t change teams. This is professional football, it’s like that every year, it’s like that every week, it’s like that on every team. I don’t see it as some big, historical event.”


  • First time around was too close for comfort with the J-E-T-S.  It was also the first time (out of three that I can recall) video replay served to significantly side with New England.  But the notion that anyone in New York favors the Patriots is preposterous.


  • Or have you forgotten those little “Gate” tales from yesteryear already?


  • Call me underwhelmed with Brandin Cooks’ performance this season.  Maybe expectations were too high, too unreasonable?  All the man did was become the 3rd player – ever – to catch more than 1000 yards in receptions in his first season with Tom Brady.


  • Thanks to Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal for that tidbit.  The others?  Randy Moss and Wes Welker.  And there is a long list of notable ex-wideouts who came up short.


  • Speaking of wideouts, um, nice try Kelvin Benjamin.  But it wasn’t a catch.  You didn’t get a second foot down in the end zone.  Although if we don’t have replay, that’s probably a touchdown.


  • Did You Know?  Only five teams in NFL history have managed to have a thousand-yard rusher, wide receiver and thousand-yard tight end in the same season.  One occurred this year, in Kansas City. 


  • If Dion Lewis, who was last week’s AFC Offensive Player of the Week, can rush for 197 yards against the J-E-T-S, the Patriots would become number six.


  • This year I promise to…dislike the J-E-T-S more than ever.  Why?  Call it the “Yankee factor.”


  • Sports are just better when you can muster up a good hatred for all-things New York.


  • Which makes the current NFL playoff picture all-the-better.  No NY sightings anywhere close to the postseason. 


  • While the AFC should come down to Patriots-Steelers Part II, the emerging NFC fave seems to be Minnesota, which can play a home game of sorts if they reach the Super Bowl.  Right now, however, I’m favoring the Rams – and don’t sleep on Carolina, either.


  • My buddy “Big E” sez he set out some milk and cookies for Santa with his five-year-old grandson, and while placing them on the living room table one of the cookies fell onto the floor.  No problem, “E” told his grandson, and he put the cookie back onto the plate.  “But you can’t do that, it has bacteria on it,” the boy argued.  “Big E” said Santa would never know.  His grandson then proceeded to reason – “So he knows if I’ve been bad or good all year, but he doesn’t know if a cookie fell on the floor?”


  • This year I promise to…not get overly excited about the Celtics.  Again. 


  • Despite the 26-point, come-from-behind win over Houston the other night, it’s after Christmas.  Is it time to take the Celtics seriously, or do they still look a little shaky to you?


  • Jayson Tatum may be a star in the NBA, someday.  But if I’m Cleveland, or Golden State, or any other contending team I’ve still got my focus on Kyrie Irving – and only Kyrie – if I need to beat Boston.


  • Looking back on the Sports Year of 2017, I’m sure you have your favorite stories, games or events that stand out.  But to me, the comeback from 28-3 in the Super Bowl for the Patriots over Atlanta dwarfs everything else – to the point I can’t remember anything else.


  • I mean, it was that incredible, that memorable, that unlikely.  So much so, we’re not likely to see it again.  At least until next month.


  • Not for nuthin,’ but Julian Edelman’s injury and Jimmy Garoppolo’s trade to San Francisco are mere blips on the overall radar.  Certainly story-worthy, but if the Patriots reach another Super Bowl without them – how significant were they, really?


  • As for the Old Towne Team, two items stand out above the rest.  They both involve failure.  Failure to win on the field (as in John Farrell’s firing), and failure to control the asylum in the clubhouse – or David Price’s tantrums, which led to Farrell’s firing.


  • The Celtics had an unexpected trip to the Eastern Conference finals, but more than that, Irving’s unexpected arrival in Boston (along with Gordon Hayward’s) trumps the success on the floor. 


  • And not to be left out, but shouldn’t we include Bruce Cassidy’s assumption of the Boston Bruins’ coaching reins from Providence?  Especially since a late season surge with Cassidy at the helm last season vaulted the B’s into the playoffs.


  • In our little corner of the world, I can’t imagine anything much more significant than the Friars and Rams BOTH reaching the NCAA Tournament in the same season for the first time in 20 years. 


  • College basketball has always been Rhode Island’s “pro sport,” so when 50% of your Division I teams in the state reach the Big Dance, it’s a big deal.  Repeating the feat this year would be bigger, wouldn’t it?  Just sayin’.


  • A couple of observations from the sports media world this year as well – one of them had 98.5 The Sports Hub changing ownership.  Competition is a good thing in the media world, it keeps everyone honest.  Well, most of us.


  • Here’s hoping Beasley Broadcasting continues to invest in The Sports Hub as a major player around here.  All I know is, I like listening to WEEI more now because 98.5 is there as a viable listening alternative.


  • And two – kudos to WLNE Channel 6’s Nick Coit and Ian Steele for their consistent use of social media as accompaniments to their TV coverage.  More and more of us are getting our info from the little screens on our phones, than from the bigger screens in our living rooms.  These two are plowing the roads for future success.


  • And in case you did not know, both of those guys are former students of mine.  Have I mentioned that before?  #itaintbraggingifitstrue #thefutureisalreadyhere


  • And congrats to one-time ESPN Radio partner Charles Pierce, who currently pens opinions and other thought-provoking stories for Esquire Magazine.  Charlie was also a one-time scribe for Sports Illustrated and the Boston Herald, and was this week selected to the US Basketball Writers Association Hall of Fame.  


  • This year I promise to…not pay attention to anyone who calls me out for not living up to the above promises.  So there ya’ go.


  • Richard in Deerfield Beach, Florida posted on Facebook this week on the Friars’ current roster: “Are the Friars officially redshirting (Dajour) Dickens?”  Richard:  You can never say “never,” but in a perfect world I believe Ed Cooley would love to use this year as a developmental year for Dickens without wasting a year of eligibility.  With the growing pains already being experienced by Kalief Young and Nate Watson, adding more to that current inexperienced mix might become untenable.  Dickens needs weight, muscle strength and to learn toughness before becoming a factor on the floor.  But he can protect a rim, no question.


  • 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 [email protected]. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, ...


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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