Thinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Mike Bibby?
— This is the most wonderful time of the year, if you ask me. Holiday tournament basketball combined with meaningful, playoff-caliber football? Sign me up.
— Providence College’s cross-country trip to Anaheim, California, for the Wooden Legacy Tournament has been a good experience for a young team, regardless of the game results. Kris Dunn showcases his obvious talents, PC learns what it might take to be elite (with Michigan State and Arizona present), and young players can make mistakes without the red-hot spotlight of the Big East beating down their necks.
— Providence’s win over Evansville could be one of those that will look better as the season progresses. With Wichita State’s early struggles, the Purple Aces may be a real player in the Missouri Valley this season — certainly better than a CIT team in the postseason.
— Ben Bentil hit for a career high 24 (to this point) against the Purple Aces, and is capable of so much more, if he does just one thing: Calm down. Around the basket, that is. His energy level is so through the roof, it’s almost as if he has a putter’s “yips” when he gets close to scoring. A little more experience should, hopefully, provide the opportunity to learn the poise needed to be a truly dominant player inside.
— The struggle for basketball life after E.C. Matthews got started this week for the URI Rams, with mixed results in Cancun. A win over the Big 12’s TCU preceded a resounding thumping at the hands of national title contender Maryland. What does it mean? Rhody simply will need to grind, grind and grind some more to win. It won’t be aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
— Strange that the alleged postgame handshake “incident” between Danny Hurley and Maryland’s Mark Turgeon Wednesday night was reported by the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post, with direct attributions to what was said by a tournament official at the scorer’s table — and URI athletic director Thorr Bjorn reported he was satisfied that nothing was said at all. Who should we believe? As in all cases, the answer undoubtedly lies somewhere in the middle.
— I appreciate the fire with which Hurley guides the Rams program. Based on personal observation, however, there are times when he walks a tightrope on the line between energy, enthusiasm and absolute hysterics. It’s his style. And I’m quite certain it rubs other coaches the wrong way — you’ll perhaps recall Hurley and Ed Cooley shouting at each other two years ago at the Ryan Center?
— As for Maryland’s reaction to whatever was said in that handshake line, Turgeon also is known as being a bit flippant when it comes to emotions — I seem to recall a few years ago as coach at Wichita State he had a back-handed slap for the Friars after defeating them in Wichita, saying his team didn’t play well in a win over Providence.
— It would be nice, however, if some coaches could learn to be humble in victory, while also remaining gracious in defeat. Perhaps the pressure to win in college basketball‘s pressure-cooker simply has become too high for maintaining a certain level of sportsmanship?
— More reinforcements for St. John’s and Chris Mullin — after getting whacked twice at the Maui Invitational but beating Division 2 Chaminade, the Red Storm will have 6-foot-8 freshman forward Kassoum Yakwe eligible for the rest of this season. Yakwe was a high school teammate of the more-heralded Cheick Diallo, who also was declared eligible through the NCAA Clearinghouse for Kansas.
— Surprise, surprise. After limping from the starting gate, Marquette may be all right after all. Wins over nationally ranked LSU (and phenom Ben Simmons) and Arizona State gave the FanDuel Legends Classic to the young but rapidly improving Golden Eagles. Good wins for the Big East.
— Not at all surprised with Xavier’s ascension into the Top 25. Minus a true point guard, however, the Musketeers are one of the more physical teams in the country, and play like it. They’re better than Butler, right now they’re better than Georgetown, and they may be as good as Villanova.
— It didn’t take long for former Friar Bryce Cotton to find his way back into the NBA, did it? After four games in the D-League with the Austin Spurs, Cotton was called up by the Phoenix Suns and signed to a non-guaranteed contract. He’ll have his chance to impress in front of fans familiar with his game as a former prep star in Tucson, Arizona.
— Ol’ ugly is better than ol’ nuthin’, anytime. But the Patriots’ win over the Buffalo Bills was especially tough to watch in several areas.
— Like the URI Rams basketball team, the Patriots have to reinvent themselves a bit with injuries playing a big factor. You can tell they’ve lost explosiveness on offense without Julian Edelman, and with teams doubling up on Rob Gronkowski more often. Add the revolving door on the offensive line in front of him, and TB12 has his hands full.
— With all the injuries, a 10-0 record sure has a pall cast over it, doesn’t it? Still, 10 wins for a 13th straight year is something to note — only San Francisco (16 straight seasons of 10-plus wins) has had more.
— As for the officiating, it’s been mediocre to terrible all season long. To me, this is a mandate for NFL referees to finally become full-time league employees, so they can properly train and study for the demands that the modern game presents each week. This isn’t the 1960s — the players are full time, year-round employees. Shouldn’t the guys in the stripes — who ultimately make the calls that decide winning and losing — be held to the same standards?
— The inadvertent whistle from Gene Steratore’s crew Monday night that potentially cost the Patriots a touchdown was one of the more egregious errors I can remember an official making. Every bit as bad as the “Fail Mary” play a couple of years ago — and that was with replacement refs.
— Sure, it’s a holiday week. But there’s something missing in the pregame buildup to the Patriots and Broncos Sunday meeting, isn’t there? Where, oh where, has your game gone, Peyton Manning?
— The fourth quarter against the Bills was the first quarter in which New England did not score a point since the opening period of the season against Pittsburgh. In between, the Patriots produced an NFL-record 38 straight quarters of scoring points. That passed the old record of 31 held by St. Louis (1999-2000) and Indianapolis (2005).
— The other item of note from the Buffalo game? Stephen Gostkowski‘s field goal streak came to an end, as he missed a 54-yarder in the third quarter. He set franchise records with 31 straight this season and 52 straight at home.
— With all of the superlatives from the Patriots offense being talked about this season, it’s time the defense and special teams stood up and accounted for themselves. Without arguably their best athlete in Jamie Collins, it’s a great example of stepping up. The D isn’t through having to step up, either.
— Through 10 games, the Patriots have allowed 182 points, the fewest of any other NFL team in 2015. New England’s defense is allowing just 14 points per game over the last four games and is allowing just 18.2 points per game on the season. Stepping up, indeed.
— Denver’s defense should prove to be the toughest test of the season for the Patriots offense, and with New England limping along on that side of the ball, don’t be surprised if the winning streak comes to a rest in the Rocky Mountains. And Brock Osweiler’s play at QB — should the Broncos win — probably becomes a major storyline for the remainder of the season.
— Unless, of course, the Patriots actually decide to give a tryout to Terrell Owens. When do the Patriots actually invite the ringmaster to participate in the circus? Actually, never. Getcha’ popcorn ready for the next show.
— Owens was on the list of Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalists released this week, and perhaps deservedly so. Ty Law was the lone ex-Patriot on the list, and he should be a solid candidate for Canton. Figure that Brett Favre is a shoo-in from that list, but out of 25 names no one really stands out above the rest, depending on your definition of what a Hall of Famer should be.
— Not for nuthin’, but hearing and reading that Dave Dombrowski wants to go hard after David Price or Zach Greinke gives me goosebumps. That’s absolutely the way it should be for the Red Sox — go all out to win or don’t go at all.
— The PawSox are offering the first-ever PawSox Enchanted Village holiday party at McCoy Stadium next Saturday (Dec. 5) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Fans are encouraged to donate a new, unwrapped toy for a child to be placed in the Toys for Tots box inside the main entrance gate. Gifts will support the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program.
— Before you get too excited over the Celtics‘ resurgent play, consider that it took an 18-3 run for Boston to beat Philadelphia this week and hand the 76ers their 26th straight loss dating back to last season.
— Hope it was a great Thanksgiving holiday for you. My buddy Statbeast sez he got a particularly good chuckle out of the day when Statbeast Junior, after listening to a story of how the Pilgrims and Indians sat down together at that first Thanksgiving, told his dad, “If we were Indians, you would be a brave and Mom would be the squawk.” Hard to top that one.
— Mike Bibby was a freshman on that Arizona team that beat Providence in the 1997 NCAA Tournament to go to the Final Four. He entered the NBA draft after his sophomore season in 1998 and was selected by the then-Vancouver Grizzlies No. 2 overall. He played for six different teams over parts of 14 seasons, ending his pro career in 2012 with the New York Knicks — the team that drafted his father, Henry, who was a star at UCLA and a coach at USC. In 2013 Bibby returned to coach his high school, where his own son Mike Jr. was a starter.
— Nathaniel (@Thanimal11) tweeted this week: Gillette isn’t the same without you, my friend. Nathaniel: Sure appreciate the sentiment. However, as is the case once or twice during the course of a season, my college basketball duties take me away from the confines of Gillette (in particular, vs. Buffalo) — and in this case the Wooden Legacy Tournament in Anaheim for three Providence basketball games was the obstacle. SoCal isn’t a bad place to be over any holiday, either. But we’re back on schedule this next week.
— 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@example.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster, and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke.
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