Thinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Tawny Kitaen?
— Providence’s debut against Vermont definitely was a positive surprise. There were no “deer in the headlights” looks from the younger players, but more of a “we belong” feel to the play on the floor. Oh, they’ll have some moments this year, good and not-so-good, but they DO have talent.
— Game 2 at Ohio State was a different story. The Buckeyes are long, strong and physical, and basically punished PC in the paint during the first half Thursday night in a 72-67 PC loss. Freshman Kalif Young (6-foot-9) has ability, but he’s simply not ready — yet. And without Emmitt Holt, who was in foul trouble, the Friars had no answers for dribble-penetration from the strong OSU guards and forwards.
— We did say there would be nights like this. But Rodney Bullock (career-high 27 points) will keep his team in games, and the Friars will have their chances. A school record-tying low of three turnovers against OSU also will keep you in plenty of games as well.
— Junior guard Kyron Cartwright, who has assumed command of the team from Kris Dunn at the point, was a leader in the Big East a year ago (as a backup) in assist-to-turnover ratio. He’s averaging 10 dimes per game already this season.
— Think OSU (58K undergraduate students) and PC (3,800 undergrads) have anything in common? The only retired jersey that the Ohio State hockey program has is No. 22, hanging in the rafters of the Value City Arena where the hockey Buckeyes also play their home games with the basketball team. That No. 22 belonged to 1984 All-American Paul Pooley — who coached the Hockey Friars from 1994-2005. Pooley is currently the associate head coach at Notre Dame.
— Remember Randall Hanke, the 6-11 Friars big man who bridged the Tim Welsh and Keno Davis coaching eras at PC? After his graduation from school in 2009, and following a seven-year career playing overseas (Scotland, Spain, Denmark, Hungary, Finland, Germany, Great Britain) Hanke now is a volunteer assistant for Ed Cooley’s staff this season and considering a coaching career for himself.
— Cooley once recruited Hanke while he was at Boston College under Al Skinner (in 2003-04), losing that battle to Welsh at the time. What goes around, comes around.
— WANE-TV in Fort Wayne, Indiana, reported this week that after his 27-point, 10-rebound performance for the Mad Ants, former Friar Ben Bentil is leaving the NBADL team on a 60-day contract to play overseas — and make some quid — apparently in China. The team expects Bentil to return to the Mad Ants after his 60-day deal expires, but it first needs a formal approval from the D-League.
— Through games of Wednesday night this week, the Big East was out to a national-best 18-1 start to the season. As the Gavitt Games matchups with the Big Ten draw to a close, pending St. John’s game with Minnesota on Friday, the Big East is assured of no worse than a 4-4 draw for the second straight year.
— It’s early, but the Big East is the No. 1-ranked RPI conference in the country through the first two weeks of the season. The Atlantic 10 is sixth, ahead of the SEC and Pac-12.
— URI climbs to No. 21 in this week’s AP Top 25, but only draws 4K fans to the Ryan Center? And before you say “it was only Marist,” Friars fans have been guilty of similar transgressions in the past. When fans learn to show up, regardless of stature, that’s when you know you’re big time.
— Brown gave the Rams some difficulty this week, before falling 79-72 at the Ryan Center on Wednesday. Top 25 denizen Cincinnati, and perhaps No. 1 Duke, are on the horizon this weekend at Mohegan Sun. We should know more about Rhody’s game after this weekend, for certain, with this upcoming challenge.
— The early returns on once-injured stars E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin are all good. That’s a credit to their work ethic after season-ending injuries a year ago — and a credit to the Rhody training staff. With those two returning to previous form, URI should be able to compete, and beat, most anyone.
— Think Dec. 3 is shaping up to be a battle at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center for the Rams and Friars? If you don’t already have your tickets, you might not find them. Unless you’re willing to pay a premium.
— The Big East regular-season soccer champ Friars hosted Delaware in a first-round NCAA Tournament game Thursday at Anderson Stadium on campus, and they blitzed the Blue Hens 2-0. Their reward is a Sunday trip to the No. 1 overall tourney seed, Maryland, for the second round.
— UConn? Losses to Wagner and Northeastern to start the season, then a nail-biting, 65-62 win at Loyola Marymount? What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on here? Shooting, or a lack thereof, seems to be the primary culprit at this stage. Too many bad 3’s, and not enough good 2’s.
— The Friars cross country teams, men and women, also are in the NCAA championships this weekend. Coach Ray Treacy won the award for top Northeast women’s coach of the year — which happens to be named after him. The Ray Treacy Northeast Women’s Coach of the Year. You know you’re good when you can win a trophy that already has your name on it, right?
— The women’s team won its third straight Big East title, and fourth NE Regional crown in the past five years this season. They’re ranked third nationally (the men 30th) going into the NCAA meet.
— Mea culpa? Or a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then? The URI football team, two weeks after a disastrous 84-7 loss to James Madison, won at Elon last Saturday. And won big, 44-14, for its second victory of the season.
— The win for the Rams also snapped a 23-game road losing streak over three seasons. Whoa.
— Not for nuthin’, but the Patriots did not play particularly well against Seattle and yet, were within a yard of potentially sending the game into overtime last Sunday. Don’t you just wish that if they were going to tease us like that, they’d just go ahead and stink up the joint instead?
— Overall, it was a very entertaining game, even if you were pulling for the home team. The NFL hasn’t been able to produce many marquee matchups for the TV cameras this season, but this one didn’t disappoint.
— What did disappoint was the play of New England’s defense. Maybe they missed Jamie Collins, and maybe they didn’t. But Collins didn’t cover receivers for most of his living, and the Seahawks were getting behind the Patriots corners.
— The lack of upfront pressure — not necessarily a pass rush, per se, but overall QB pressure — is telling. This defense is much too fixated on keeping athletic QBs in the pocket, and these ath-a-letes are beating up on the secondary. They’ve got tons of time in that passers pocket.
— Or as my friend Eldred in North Carolina likes to call them, the “suckondary.” Hard to argue with that one right now.
— The monster hit Rob Gronkowski took on from Earl Thomas punctured a lung? Or almost? If you want to solve some problems in that suckondary, find a couple of safeties that can do their own lung-puncturing. That should solve a problem or two.
— Yes, it was a good no-call on Kam Chancellor against Gronk in the end zone at the end. My problem was with the play call by the Patriots in the first place, not with the refs swallowing their whistles.
— Suddenly, I feel as if I can sympathize — at least a little bit — with Seattle fans over the decision to throw it instead of run it at the end of SB 49. There will be no trade of the results, however.
— Can a lousy defense win a Super Bowl? The Patriots aren’t exactly lousy — they’re simply not living up to expectations. They’re underperforming, and not because Collins is gone
— Statistically, they may give up yards and need to keep improving on third down (just get off the field!) and in the red zone. But they still lead the NFL in “bendability,” the term Kerry Byrne at Cold Hard Football Facts stuck on them a few weeks ago.
— The Patriots D will have the chance to improve — at least statistically — with games against San Francisco, the New York Jets and Los Angeles Rams coming up. Just sayin’.
— And in the “No Matter How Bad You Think You Have It” department, how bad must the J-E-T-S be when a prime-time game against New England is flexed OUT of the spotlight and back into the afternoon?
— What? Sunday Night Football doesn’t need TB12 to bail it out? Must be bad if they don’t think Brady and the Patriots are a big enough draw for fans to watch, anyway.
— Hate the fact that the Rhode Island Interscholastic League will now have two Division 1 state football champions. Trophies for everyone? Please. That may work with little kids in soccer, but with high school athletes? What are we teaching them here?
— Call it what it really is — Rhode Island has decided to have a public school champ and a private school champ. Yeah, that’ll make things better. That’s what you get when you let certain adults interfere with kids’ games — a bigger mess than the one you had before.
— Don’t like the private schools (Hendricken, LaSalle) dominating play? Then do something about it. Either beat them at their own game or legislate them out of it and eliminate their ability to recruit. Because that’s what they do, and they do it very well. It’s one of Lil’ Rhody’s dirty lil’ secrets.
— Of which there are many. I will write the book, someday.
— Congrats are in order, however, for Hendricken star Kwity Paye, who is headed to Michigan to play for Jim Harbaugh. Paye was selected this week for the Under Armour High School All-American game Jan. 1 in Orlando, Florida. Nothing dirty about that, and his ability may not be a secret for long.
— The Vinny Paz movie “Bleed for This” has been released, playing at a theater near you. Around here, we know Paz’s story pretty well and it is a good one. It’s also cool to see the story told to a worldwide audience. But several of the early reviews are less-than-flattering, if only for the fact that boxing movies have “been done before.” They’re a cliché, and because of that bias Vinny’s real guts (and glory) are somewhat overlooked.
— Kudos to former Boston College baseball captain Pete Frates, who will be honored in January with the NCAA’s 2017 Inspiration Award. Frates, you will recall, was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, and introduced the Ice Bucket Challenge to millions in 2014, as part of his dedication to finding a cure for the neurodegenerative disease. The Challenge raised more than $220 million for research.
— When it comes to the Major League Baseball general managers meetings, they’ll grab my attention if the Sox can swing a little of the talk their way in a possible deal for Chicago’s Chris Sale. They’ll grab everyone else’s attention, too.
— Mookie Betts didn’t win the American League MVP award, instead finishing second to Mike Trout. As much fun as it was to watch him play this past season, and as doomed as the Red Sox might have been without him, I don’t have a problem with the voting. You?
— So, Kate Upton has a problem with Rick Porcello’s claim of the American League Cy Young award? Shoot, she’s only standing up for her man — Detroit’s Justin Verlander. Sweetheart, let me tell you somethin’. Your guy didn’t have the overall year Porcello did. But most males wish we could have someone standing by their man like you do, don’t we?
— I actually agreed with some of Upton’s tweets to Major League Baseball, even if they were a bit, um, personal. Hey @MLB, I thought I was the only person allowed to **** Justin Verlander?! And, @MLB keep up with the times and fire those writers.
— She’s right, even if there’s a little too much information there. It’s the BBWAA that does the voting, and it does indeed have its share of reporters who don’t know a curveball from a slider. But apparently do know how to **** Justin Verlander, according to Ms. Upton.
— In this case, isn’t it about wins, really? Verlander was 16-9, Porcello 22-4. ERAs were about equal. But Porcello also had better run support, which led to those wins.
— Upton’s fight for her man got me to thinking about a rather notorious, attractive female actress who was once married to a baseball player — Tawny Kitaen. Now 55 years old, she once was married to Whitesnake singer David Coverdale. Kitaen also (allegedly, if you read the tabloids) had an affair with O.J. Simpson while he was married to Nicole Brown. And if that’s not good enough for you, Kitaen — while married to former Angels pitcher Chuck Finley — actually fought her man, beating her husband, and she was charged with domestic violence in 2002. Three days later Finley, who is the Angels’ all-time winningest pitcher, filed for divorce. Apparently, looks really can (almost) kill.
— My buddy “Big E” a few years ago met a woman who had just turned 40, and she told him she was only willing to marry someone who had never been with a woman before. “E” told her she should take out a personal ad, and wouldn’t you know it, she got a response from a good-looking guy in Australia who had lived his entire life in the Aussie Outback. Yes, they ended up marrying. And on their wedding night, while she was preparing for the evening, she was stunned as she returned to their room to find all of the furniture stacked in one corner. Naturally, she asked, “What happened here?” The guy said, “It’s true love, now I’ve never been with a woman before, but if it’s anything like a kangaroo we’re going to need all the space we can get.”
— Jay from Delray Beach, Florida, posted this week on Facebook, about the Patriots’ current defensive struggles: The best thing I can say is they are much better playing man on man … play man to man. Zone will kill you. Jay: You see it. I see it. Armchair quarterbacks (and defensive backs?) throughout Patriots Nation can see it. We all need to ask ourselves exactly WHY Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick don’t see what we see? Because it gives them the best chance to win? Perhaps, but in reality they’re making snap judgments we don’t (or can’t) make. It also tells you they’re doubly concerned with being beaten “over the top” by giving receivers too much cushion. DB, once again, will jump up on the “to do” list for the offseason.
— 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.
— Don’t forget to tune in to 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.