Thinking out loud … while wondering who this guy “Old Man Winter” really is.
— Wednesday night’s second half at Seton Hall was the best half of hoop Providence has played this season. There was a sense of urgency, and a sense of pride in the way the Friars (21-9) hung half-a-hundred on the Pirates, like a Top 25 team should be able to do. Like an NCAA team should do. Kris Dunn willed his team to the finish line, with huge assists from LaDontae Henton and Ben Bentil. Best move of the game? Ed Cooley keeping in the unit of Dunn-Lomomba-Henton-Bentil-Desrosiers and opting not to sub out, since there was a clear rhythm that the Pirates could not break with that unit.
— Thoughts on the All-Big East team next week: There are a dozen players who probably deserve first-team mention, which is a tribute to the overall caliber of play in the league this year. It’s been a great season and should be an outstanding tournament next week at Madison Square Garden. IMO, the first-teamers will feature two Friars, Henton and Dunn, for the first time, with Villanova’s Darrun Hilliard, Georgetown’s D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Butler’s Kellen Dunham and St. John’s Sir Dominic Pointer. Six get the nod, with the Player of the Year also on the squad, and that will be Hilliard.
— Coach of the Year? Butler’s Chris Holtmann, narrowly over Villanova’s Jay Wright. But that’s my choice, and the coaches may very well give the nod to Wright as the Wildcats dominated in the regular season. Pointer is the Defensive Player of the Year, and the Rookie of the Year should be Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado. The Big East coaches vote on all of the postseason awards. Let’s see how well they’ve been paying attention.
— History in the making: If Kris Dunn finishes as the Big East leader in assists and steals (he’s currently No. 1 in both categories), he’ll be the first player in conference history to accomplish the feat in a single season. Henton can become the sixth Friar in the 37-year history of the league (and third in the last five years) to lead the conference in scoring. Can you name the other five? The answer is below.
— Oh, and one more from the “Did you know?” department: Henton’s 2K/1K career marks put him in an exclusive class within the Big East as well. The only other players to accomplish 2,000-plus career points and 1,000-plus career rebounds? Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning at Georgetown, along with PC’s Ryan Gomes. THAT is great company.
— FYI, we’ll be updating the proceedings from the Big East Tournament next week at Madison Square Garden in New York right here on WEEI.com, with daily reports and posts covering the games and the stories that will make the headlines.
— I will miss my pregame strategy chats with Father Robert Morris, who passed away this week at age 91. Father Morris wore many different hats at Providence College, from teacher to executive to fundraiser to counselor to simply being a friend for Friars everywhere. He was a priest in every sense of the word, but he was so easygoing you felt like you could tell him anything. And many people did just that. I’ll remember his trying to convince me that John Thompson II, the Hall of Fame Georgetown coach who graduated from PC in the ’60s, was a good man and very much misunderstood, especially during the Hoyas’ “Hoya Paranoia” reign through college basketball of the ’80s and ’90s. And I’ll remember his telling me he thought Rick Barnes (now at Texas) would have great success — somewhere — after he left PC. He did. Father Morris always gave me a tip on what to look for before games at the Dunk, until his poor health got in the way of his regular attendance behind our broadcast location. Rest in Peace, Father. All Friars are grateful for your guidance and friendship.
— Speaking of Rick Barnes, did anyone else notice that during his 400th win as Texas coach this week against Baylor that a fight broke out between players and seven of them were ejected in overtime? The Longhorns won the game to keep their NCAA hopes alive. Physicality has always been a Barnes trademark.
— Not for nuthin’, but has anyone else noticed the officiating in the Big East get a little more, um, inconsistent toward the end of the regular season? Perhaps it’s simply a byproduct of the physical nature of play, or maybe because of the intensity exhibited by the teams on the floor? Or it could be the officials are just making some really, really bad calls.
— It’s not just happening to the Friars. Villanova’s Jay Wright dared official Clarence Armstrong to toss him from a game at Creighton this week, but Armstrong showed restraint in turning his back during a particularly heated moment. The refs are woefully inconsistent on both ends of the floor, partially because I theorize there are several who don’t have a lot of Big East experience. There’s been a slow, steady turnover toward newer faces and names on Big East crews, and as such, the caliber of play catches some by surprise. As a result, the more veteran officials tend to “protect” their younger cohorts, and we’re getting wild swings in consistency on calls. Hey, you can’t have Jim Burr hang on forever, can you?
— And there are others, like Doug Shows in the PC-Marquette game a week ago, where you wonder if he realizes he’s pulling in a nice payday for running up and down the floor with a bunch of teenagers. It looked as if he didn’t have a care in the world — and his officiating mirrored that look — to which Joe Hassett yelled during a timeout, “Hey Doug, you gettin’ paid today? Blow your whistle!”
— Sure, it’s disappointing. When you have a share of first place in your league, like URI had in the Atlantic 10 before its loss at Dayton this week, visions of grandeur are naturally going to appear. But before this season began, considering where the program has come from in just three short seasons under Dan Hurley, can’t the NIT be EXACTLY where the Rams should be? Just sayin’.
— The environment the Rams played in Tuesday night in Dayton? Loud. And electric. There’s a reason the NCAA comes back to Ohio for the “First Four” every year, because the fans know hoop and support it well. Hurley said afterward his team couldn’t communicate early in the game well enough because the crowd was so involved. The word Hurley used? “Hostile.” It’s what every home arena should be.
— Really, really good to hear that the infant son of URI’s T.J. Buchanan is doing well in his recovery of open heart surgery. Think it was a tough time for T.J.? Buchanan made a four-hour drive from Detroit to Dayton after being with his son to join his teammates in time for Tuesday’s game, then he fouled out in just 10 minutes of playing time. His son, Terry III, will remain hospitalized through Sunday.
— Beat St. Joe’s, and a top-four bye into the quarterfinals belongs to the Rams. The A-10 Tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn is wide, wide open. Dayton, Davidson and a wounded VCU are the front-runners. Rhody has as much of a shot on a neutral court as anyone in the league but will need two things (at least) in order to be a factor: one, free throws, and two, free throws. Hit your share Rams, you’ll be in it to the end.
— Rhody is in the running for 6-foot-2 former Seton Hall guard Jaren Sina, along with Michigan, Boston College, Rutgers, George Washington and South Carolina. Sina averaged seven points and better than two assists per game before announcing his intent to transfer last month, in the wake of some rocking within the Pirates’ ship. He would have to sit a year following a transfer, unless he obtains a waiver. His father, Mergin, played at both SHU and URI in the late ’80s.
— Wow. Bryant’s double-OT win over Sacred Heart was as heart-stopping as they come. And as the Bulldogs get set for the NEC semis and a shot to reach the NCAAs, senior guard Dyami Starks was named first-team all-league and senior Joe O’Shea — coach Tim O’Shea’s nephew, and the shooter who forced the first OT against Sacred Heart — was named to the third team. Sophomore forward Dan Garvin, likely the next “go-to” guy for the Bulldogs in the next couple of years, was named second team all-NEC. Bryant and regular-season champ St. Francis (N.Y.) were the only two teams to place three players on all-conference teams.
— The ABA Providence Sky Chiefs had their last home game snowed out last weekend, and they’ll close out the regular season Sunday on the road against the Jersey Express. The Sky Chiefs are 12-7 and the top team in the Northeast Division. They’ll host the ABA regional playoffs March 21-22 at Brown’s Pizzitola Sports Center.
— Open state tournament? Yes, please. In a state the size of Rhode Island, it makes perfect sense with only 50 high school teams eligible to compete. Now, the division crowns are fine and all, but our annual version of “Hoosiers” that takes place every March at the Ryan Center in Kingston is what creates the interest. And more often than not, creates the upsets. The bigger schools should hold their own, but that might not be the case this year. The North Providence boys and Providence’s Juanita Sanchez girls could be noisemakers. Stay tuned.
— Vince Wilfork‘s release this week, while stunning in its simplicity, was not surprising in reality. The Patriots were (and still are) a bit over the salary cap number for the new year, which starts March 10. He’s 34 years old, and while he had a strong season last year coming off of an Achilles injury (by most accounts), the Patriots have a solid history of knowing when to say “when” on veteran players. He’ll hit the open free agent market likely to get some interest, but all things being equal, I won’t be surprised if he ends up in Foxboro again.
— Ndamukong Suh? He’s the top free agent on the defensive line available, but with an alleged $100 million price tag affixed to his name, it’s more likely the Patriots move to Hartford than sign one of the NFL’s bad boys. One can dream, however.
— The first thought I had when it was learned Stephen Gostkowski was the tag-ee in the franchise tag derby by the Patriots was, “Really?” But when you realize the tag placed upon safety Devin McCourty would have cost the team a $9 million salary for a position in the NFL that only had two other players making $8 million last year, well, it makes fiscal sense. And cents.
— Without the tag, it leaves wide open the very real possibility that McCourty and Darrelle Revis could both be gone from the Patriots secondary next season. The team has until the start of the new NFL year, March 10, to try to strike a cap-friendly deal with either one, or both. I’m hopeful, but don’t count on it happening, however.
— Say what you want about Curt Schilling, and many of you have. But the cretins who responded to his simple “congratulations” tweet for daughter Gabby’s acceptance to Salve Regina uttered garbage so foul it could curl your nose hairs. When Schilling took to his popular 38 Pitches blog to call some of them out for their juvenile behavior, some in the media around here took to telling Curt to simply “get off Twitter” to solve the problem. It ain’t that easy, when your kids are being threatened. It ain’t that easy, when kids are killing themselves in this country over cyberbullying — which is a subject that was addressed by Schilling.
— How about walking a mile in a parent’s shoes’ first, before making an ignorant comment? Sounds like a savvy, smart thing to do, right? The trouble with that, however, is that much of sports radio has been an incubator for ignorant comments — and yet, we still listen. Stupid is as stupid does.
— Ignoring Twitter isn’t the answer, either. Twitter is here to stay, for a while, anyway. Social media is as much a part of our children’s lives as playground baseball games, pickup basketball games and riding our bikes until after dark used to be in ours. Having these conversations with your kids might actually help prevent a tragedy from happening — or maybe help keep the cretins and morons in check.
— T-shirts are fine, Clay Buchholz. But they won’t make you an ace, unless you actually go out and perform like one. Buchholz gave each member of the alleged Red Sox rotation T-shirts that read “He’s the Ace” on the front with their name on the back, and one shirt that says “I’m the Ace” and will be worn by the starter on game day. Wonder if the starter’s shirt will get washed on off-days, or if it gets yanked if the starter does, too.
— My buddy Statbeast sez he always knows it’s time to do the laundry when someone visibly writes “Wash me” on his jeans. He also says that marriage is a pretty expensive way for the average guy to get his laundry done.
— Let me get this straight: The Bruins need help, trade for Tampa’s Brett Connolly, then lose him two days after the trade to a broken finger that will keep him out of the lineup for six weeks. Is that right? Say what you will about GM Peter Chiarelli missing out on the big picture here, but the B’s karma is pretty crappy right now.
— Bribery and tax fraud. Wow, Gordon Fox. The former Rhode Island House Speaker surely helps the political naysayers in the state stay sharp — and biting — in their commentary. Will Classical High School and Rhode Island College, where you “learned” the ways of the world, ever return your calls? And will political pundits ever cut the Ocean State any slack over power and corruption in politics? Not. A. Chance. Thanks, Mr. Speaker. Now, how about the voting populace of the state step up once and for all, do the next best thing, and clean ‘em all out? Not. A. Chance. It’s Rhode Island, the “I Gotta Get Mine” state. No matter how “good” you think your state legislator may be, this brings the house down for everyone.
— The absolute height of irony in the Fox fiasco? He introduced legislation to allow voters to restore the authority and power of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission.
— The answer to the question above on the five Friars players (before LaDontae Henton) to lead the Big East in scoring: Bryce Cotton, Marshon Brooks, Ryan Gomes, Herbert Hill and Eric Murdock.
— The term “Old Man Winter” is a phrase used to humanize the winter season, which in our case in the Northeast has been a particularly tough one. Some believe that “Jack Frost” is Old Man Winter’s real name, a personification of winter’s mischievous maladies that nip at your nose, your toes and your fingers when the weather is frigid. And it’s very fitting that the great poet Robert Frost once penned “An Old Man’s Winter Night,” depicting winter’s gloom setting in. There simply has been nothing comical, humorous or mischievous about this winter, however. Record-setting snowfall around here has me thinking “Old Man Winter” is nothing more than a mean SOB. I welcome the return of daylight saving time this weekend by turning the clocks up an hour. We’re that much closer to spring.
— Rose in San Francisco sent this question via email: “A question for your grab bag: What do you think of the new rules to speed up baseball games? I personally don’t think games need to be shorter, more time to drink beer and eat snacks.” Rose, your husband is a very lucky man. However, since you asked, there’s no doubt games need to be “tightened up” a bit, and that the overall length of games has contributed to waning interest from a younger generation of fans. Last spring, a major league exec actually said he’d be interested in shortening games to seven innings! That’s simply sacrilegious, and not going to happen. New commissioner Rob Manfred thinks it’s possible to go back to a 154-game regular season, and perhaps that should be a consideration. But as far as pace of play — hitters keeping a foot in the batter’s box and pitchers being timed between throws — I can’t imagine there won’t be some grumbling from players once the season starts. I vote for shorter TV commercials and breaks between innings. That’s manageable, and could lop off 15 minutes or more from a nine-inning game.
— 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 join Scott Cordischi and me on Providence’s 103.7 FM every Saturday from 7-9 a.m. for Southern New England Sports Saturday! Call in at 401-737-1287 or text us at 37937.