Shanna Lockwood/USA Today Sports

Thinking out loud: Some Final Four thoughts

March 30, 2018 - 8:25 pm

By John Rooke

Thinking out loud…while wondering how much early-season Red Sox angst takes off my shelf life…

  • Love the NCAA Tournament, love the Madness, love the Final Four.  But in our haste to get to where the last-standing teams all hold court, it sure seems like it’s over in a hurry.  Love to be able to s-l-o-w it down just a bit, for appreciation’s sake if nothing else.


  • Loyola is a great story, sure.  The Ramblers are the 4th 11-seed to advance to Championship Weekend since the expansion to 64 teams, following LSU, George Mason (under ex-Friar Jim Larranaga) and VCU.  None of the 11’s, however, have won a game in the Final Four.  Yet.


  • Oh yeah, there’s Sister Jean, too.  And I’ll echo similar sentiments from other writers and broadcasters covering this show – I like her, I love the subplot.  In her old school, corn-ball way, she has been refreshing and even enlightening in her relationship 55+-year relationship with the Loyola players.  It’s a “love-and-respect story” worth watching. 


  • And Sister Jean seems pretty fly for someone 98 years old.  She tweets.  She gives great interviews.  She’s the real breakout star and media darling of the tournament this year.  When you consider the bad stuff that has surfaced in the college game recently, her presence can’t help but make you feel good about the game again.


  • And for those “hot takes” out there telling us why you could care less about her, do without her – or the Final Four?  C’mon, man.  Isn’t that just a tad on the ignorant side?  Just sayin’.


  • Villanova’s charge to the top of the collegiate basketball kingdom was predictable, even early in the regular season.  They can all shoot.  They have guard Jalen Brunson, who can create his shot almost anywhere against anyone, and is the college game’s Player of the Year.  They have size and athleticism.  And they showed this past weekend they have defense, when they need it.


  • It would be an upset if they don’t win it all, with all due respect to Kansas, Michigan or Loyola.  And to think Providence took the Wildcats into overtime for the Big East Championship? 


  • Makes you wonder a little more about the Friars this year, doesn’t it?  PC also owns one of the four losses hanging on Nova’s record.  It shows Providence really isn’t that far away from the national spotlight.


  • What will it take to get there?  Better shooting.  Consistency in defending.  Strength and toughness, particularly in the middle.  Leadership on the floor.  And a little luck, please.  Can we put those guys in bubble wrap until next November?


  • Want a sneak peek at a possible future PC opponent?  Watch the Wolverines this weekend – Michigan is in next season’s Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at Mohegan Sun November 17-18, along with the Friars, George Washington and South Carolina.  A solid bet for an on-campus prelude to the tourney would be Providence vs. Siena, at the Dunk.


  • URI’s search hasn’t been highly speculative, yet.  But if David Cox isn’t the guy, I suspect we’d hear more names being tossed about.  You?


  • Not for nuthin’, but Rhody would owe Cox $150K, thanks to a clause in his assistant’s contract if he’s not the guy.  Saw SNY’s Adam Zagoria comment on that one this week.  If true – and Cox doesn’t get the gig – what, suddenly money grows on trees around here?


  • It certainly grew for Big East Coach of the Year Chris Mack this week, leaving Xavier for double-the-dough at Louisville.  Like any Musketeer fan, sure, I’m disappointed he left his hometown and alma mater.  But – twice the paycheck size, the ‘Ville is a return home for his wife, and he has the chance to resurrect what Rick Pitino left shattered and disgraced. 


  • If I’m good at what I do, I’m challenged and energized by that.  Good luck, Coach Mack.  You may need it.


  • Not surprisingly, St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds declared for the NBA Draft, but says he won’t hire an agent – yet.  DePaul’s Max Strus will also test the waters.  Villanova’s Brunson and Mikal Bridges are all-but-gone, winding down their college days this weekend in San Antonio. 


  • Donte DiVincenzo leaving would be a surprise, Omari Spellman likewise.  But what if the Cats win it all?


  • Creighton’s Kyrie Thomas, the two-time defensive Player of the Year in the Big East, has also been mentioned as an early-entry possibility.  Wouldn’t be surprised if either Georgetown big man, Jessie Govan or Marcus Derrickson, dipped their toes into the draft waters.


  • Good luck to Friar Rodney Bullock, who has been added to the Big East all-star team taking part in the 3x3U National 3-on-3 championships in San Antonio this weekend.  Bullock will play with Xavier’s J.P. Macura, Seton Hall’s Desi Rodriguez and Marquette’s Andrew Rowsey, taking the place of Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett.


  • URI’s Jared Terrell will play for the Atlantic-10 team in this competition, too.  For cash money, homey.  Why am I surprised this isn’t an official NCAA-sanctioned event?


  • Back where he probably belongs, ex-Friar Marshon Brooks signed a 10-day deal with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies this week.  Playing for the Jiangsu Dragons in the Chinese Basketball Association for the past three seasons, Marshon averaged better than 36 points per game, seven rebounds and five assists this past year.


  • In his first game back in the NBA in four years as a member of the Griz, Brooks led the team with 21 points in a win over Portland.  It’s all about the opportunity, when you get it…and making the most of it.


  • We told you in February that long-time college referee Ed Corbett was retiring his whistle after 26 NCAA Tournaments, six Final Fours and four national title game appearances.  And no one liked him?  He was, ahem, one of the best.  And I think even Joe Hassett will miss his presence.


  • Speaking of Ed Corbett stepping down, Providence’s Mike Stephens is stepping into the Final Four, again, as a member of the officiating crew for a 4th straight year.  Who says we don’t know basketball around here?


  • While Rodney Bullock gets his 3v3 game on, Ed Cooley will get his TV face on.  Ed is to be a part of CBS Sports Network’s Final Four coverage Saturday and Monday.  With his personality and likeability, I’m amazed more haven’t called. 


  • 66-year-old Tubby Smith is now the head basketball coach at High Point University in North Carolina.  It’s his alma mater.  He did not retire after Memphis deemed him unfit and let him go.  Smith has taken five different schools to the NCAA’s but didn’t take the Tigers in his two years there.  This is a story worth watching.


  • You’d never say ‘congrats’ to a loss.  But PC’s NCAA hockey loss to Notre Dame in the regionals last weekend deserves a congrats, anyway.  This was a bonus year for the Friars – that they finished one win away from a Frozen Four, with a young team – puts a run to another national title squarely in the program’s crosshairs for next year. 


  • No pressure or anything, Nate Leaman.  But championship programs should welcome the pressure, and the scrutiny.  Amiright?


  • PC junior forward Erik Foley decided to pass on his senior year, and instead signed a three-year, entry level deal with the St. Louis Blues this week.  Just the third Friar forward to be named a 1st team Hockey East all-star since 2000, Foley reports to San Antonio of the AHL to lace ‘em up as a pro for the first time.


  • Who knew the School by the Sea could play hockey?  Salve’s 3-2, double OT loss in the D3 title game to St. Norbert was the first-ever national championship appearance for the Seahawks’ program in any sport.  First-year coach Zech Klann had the Hawks as one of the highest scoring teams in postseason college hockey. 


  • The fact that the title game was played at the same rink as the 1980 US Olympic team, when they won gold in Lake Placid, was cool enough.  But to have “Miracle on Ice” Olympic hero Mike Eruzione’s nephew Danny on the team, too?  Can’t make this stuff up.  Five of their top six scorers were either freshmen or sophomores, so the deck is still stacked.  Cool story.


  • I don’t see where the NFL has really helped itself with the latest rule changes.  Has the catch rule been simplified and improved, or has it been dusted off, fiddled with, and put back up on football’s shelf for further scrutiny?  I’m thinking the latter.


  • I’d feel better if the rulebook said simply, “if it looks like a catch, it’s a catch.” 


  • As for the spearing and targeting rule – stupid is as stupid does.  Every defensive move a player makes on the football field leads with the head.  And you’re telling me these officials will be able to tell what is and isn’t targeting – and whether there was intent to injure? 


  • Tweet of the Week, from @chatham58 (former Patriots LB Matt Chatham): “Tackling paradox NFL created recently started w/their ‘take the head out’ initiatives, which predictably caused more lowering of heads on contact – turning & trying to lead w/shoulder at full speed MAKES HEADS DROP. Inertia, bitches. NFL created the f****in’ head drop. Duh.”


  • We can’t even tell what a catch is and isn’t.  This “head first” rule defies all laws of sensibility.  So, they want to take spearing out of the game, but won’t do anything seriously toward addressing concussion issues from the past?  No one ever accused the NFL of being sensible.  Or logical.


  • Really?  Johnny Football a possibility in Foxboro?  Just. Say. No.


  • I have zero against comebacks or giving someone a second chance.  But when the Patriots build their rep on professionalism, citizenship, maturity and a lack of circus activity surrounding the Big Top, bringing in a ringmaster (and alleged girlfriend abuser) like ex-Heisman winner-turned-NFL-flop Johnny Manziel for a look-see at QB is only inviting the circus into town.


  • Or do you not remember Tim Tebow around here?  How did that work out?  And he was a good guy. 


  • Wait, wait.  Didn’t the Red Sox have the best record in baseball during spring training?  File this under “as worthless as teats under a boar.”


  • Honestly, how in the world do Joe Kelly and Carson Smith turn in THOSE performances on Opening Day?  No emotion?  No pride?  And no sense of direction?  Don’t give me the ‘it’s only one game’ crap-ola. If those guys can’t get just a little juiced for the opener and pitch with some fire and emotion in this game, I don’t want ‘em.  You shouldn’t either.


  • Now, here’s a good deal.  I mean, a really good deal.  The Pawsox are partnering with CVS to enable kids 16-and under to attend most Monday-through-Thursday night home games at McCoy Stadium for free. 


  • Yup, you heard right.  A free general admission ticket with a paying adult ticket during most weeknight home games, excepting July 2-3.  26 of them throughout the season.


  • Another part of my youth passed this week with the news of former Met Rusty Staub passing away.  As iconic a New York Met as there ever was, I had the pleasure of meeting him years ago before I moved to the northeast. 


  • Staub was larger than life, friendly, gregarious even.  “Le Grand Orange” was nice to everyone he met, or at least he appeared to be, even during his time in Montreal.  He still holds the major league record-tying mark of 25 career pinch-hit RBI.  Staub also holds the ML-tying record of eight straight pinch hits, and he’s the only player in baseball history with 500+ career hits with four different teams.


  • Best wishes for future successes to Channel 12’s Mark Dondero, who is moving on from Providence with his career.  Dondero took some heat from media-types around here for his oddball questions posed at press conferences – most notably to Bill Belichick – but I understood what he was doing.  Or at least trying to do.  Keep being you, Mark.  It’s better than trying to be someone else.


  • And the same to the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe, who departs the Patriot beat.  Young, aggressive guy who knows how to cover a team without missing a step.  Breaking stories, without being wrong.  That’s an accomplishment these days.


  • These are tough times in Storrs, CT for the UConn Huskies – despite their hiring of Dan Hurley.  As the regular season ended, Joe D’Ambrosio and Wayne Norman closed the books on 26 years together as the Husky radio voices on WTIC, with the deal moving to ESPN 97.9 next season. 


  • It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway – can smarter heads prevail and figure out a way to keep these two together on a new signal?  With so much upheaval in that athletic department, does it not make sense (or even cents) to keep familiar, calming voices of reason around?


  • Kids today, I tell ya’. My buddy “Big E” sez he was going into the grocery story this week when he saw a young boy sitting on the curb outside the front door, eating several Snickers’ bars at once.  He told the kid, just like his mother probably told him years ago, “you shouldn’t be eating all that candy, it’ll rot out your teeth!”  The boy looked up at him and said, “my grandfather lived to be 95 years old. What’s it to you?”  Big E replied, “Did he get to be old by eating all those candy bars?” 


  • “No,” the boy said.  “He got to be old by minding his own business.”  Well then.


  • Boston isn’t the big-city, world-class sports market you think it is.  At least, not if listening to local sports talk radio is how you gauge that measurement.  The NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 and Elite 8 played at TD Garden last weekend – and while the excitement and crowds were big-time inside, outside on the airwaves the event wasn’t just small-time, it was non-existent.


  • No one talked about it in Boston – even though you had 103.7 on it Saturday.  The newspapers covered it, but almost as if they were forced into it.  Sorry, sports fans – but until know-it-alls in the Hub realize there’s something else besides Sox, B’s, C’s and Pats outside of their myopic, New England purview, fuhgeddaboutit. 


  • Funny thing is, New Englanders should OWN college basketball, what with the history of PC, Holy Cross, UConn – and even BC and the Ivies to an extent.  Oh, and that Hall of Fame-thing in Springfield, too. 


  • College hoops = one thing Rhode Islanders do right.


  • @BobbyWarrenWMG tweeted this week: “Johnny Manziel caused problems in Cleveland when Brian Hoyer was the starter and the only Browns QB with a winning record since they came back into the league. Not sure how Hoyer would react to a signing.”  @Bobby: Funny thing is, probably about the same. Wouldn’t Manziel be here to compete for playing time – especially in the preseason – with Hoyer?  Hoyer has another year on his contract here.  This simply does not make any sense, at least not good sense.  Unless, you can rehab Manziel to the point where he’s a tradeable commodity.  Fat, meet chance.


  • 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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