Thinking out loud … while wondering what I’m really thankful for these days.
— Was it a good Thanksgiving week in California for Providence College? Let’s see — you left home after a narrow, who-are-we-really win over NJIT and came home as a Wildcat-conquering, Spartan-scaring Top 25 squad. Yup, good week.
— The Wednesday win over Hartford was one of those “gotta play it” games on the schedule that every team has. In other words, get through it, learn something and move on. What did the Friars learn? Some of the young guys have a lot of work to do to improve, and the Big East won’t be the place for that to occur.
— Kris Dunn’s second career triple-double? Ho-hum. That seems to be a prevailing attitude among some fans, as only 5,100 showed up at the Dunk on Wednesday night. You’re missing something special if you don’t get out to watch this young man play. He is a legitimate national player of the year candidate.
— So where are the students at these games? Practically non-existent at the Dunk, and I’ve had several people tell me they even leave hockey games early. WTH? Is this current generation of students simply numb to the emotion and school pride that college athletics can create? And what’s at the center of this “numbing”? Partying, booze or fixation with their cell phones and the electronic world around them?
— Whatever it is, it’s lame.
— As for the Top 25 ranking this week, it marks the second straight season for a PC basketball team to reach the national polls. And that’s the first time this has happened for the program since 1977-78. You can’t get pumped for that?
— How about this one? The only school ranked in the national Top 25 for hockey and hoop? Providence. Hockey remains No. 1 for a fourth straight week, basketball ranks 23rd in the Associated Press poll, 24th in the coaches’ poll. The smallest school enrollment-wise in a power league (with 3,800 undergrads) has it rolling right now, despite lacking in student passion.
— I will say this, however. Love the PC pep band. Talented kids who certainly show their passion and energy every night. They rolled out “Low Rider,” a mid ’70s classic by the band War, the other night. Keep ’em coming.
— For all of the current momentum, will the Friars face their comeuppance Saturday night in Kingston?
— It’s either the 126th meeting between the schools in men’s basketball, or the 128th, depending on whom you believe. It’s just one of the reasons to love this annual affair — no one can agree or get along on anything. And the Friars’ current five-game win streak in the series is nothing. Rhody once won 13 straight in the ’40s, and PC has a couple of seven-game streaks in the mix.
— PC and URI have a fantastic history, and I have been more than privileged to observe quite a bit of that history over the past three decades. For all of the Lamar Odoms, Bryce Cottons, Tyson Wheelers and Ryan Gomeses who have left their mark, I tend to remember guys like Ken McDonald (from North Providence and CCRI) and Tom Garrick (West Warwick) who meant so much to their respective teams in gaining favor in this rivalry.
— After a long drought, it’s great to showcase this unique, often times “untamed” in-state rivalry by giving it the national attention it deserves with ESPNU’s TV coverage. Just sayin’.
— Expect the Rams and their fans to be loud, raucous and rude. And I say that with great appreciation and admiration. A dose of delirium is good for the soul. Friars fans, those who sit on their hands at the Dunk, should take notice.
— Sure wish E.C. Matthews was playing. The matchup with Kris Dunn would have been a special one to watch. How far can energy and emotion carry the Rams in this one? That will be the Friars’ task — matching URI’s E&E from the outset.
— Kuran Iverson’s double-double Wednesday night in the Rams’ win over Holy Cross tells me he’s ready to assume a “go-to” role in Matthews’ absence. That’s good news for a team that will need scoring options as the season progresses beyond just this weekend.
— Ed Cooley says this isn’t a rivalry? He’s just fanning the flames, and the interest in the game. He knows better. Remember, Cooley was on the URI staff under Al Skinner 20 years ago — well before the Ryan Center was built on campus. It was big then, and it’s still big now.
— Ben Bentil is Robin to Kris Dunn’s Batman. Or is it the other way around? Having one or two good games is one thing, but scoring 20 or more four straight games, three of those performances against teams like Evansville, Arizona and Michigan State? That’s big time. Big East, beware.
— Think we could ask the Monmouth bench to choreograph something slick for the next time we get a “wow” moment at the Dunk? Just as long as former Friars assistant King Rice keeps his Hawks starters out of the Dunk (they’ve beaten UCLA, USC and Notre Dame) at the same time.
— Brown and Bryant, somewhat in the shadows this weekend, also square off against each other on the basketball court. The Bears’ Cedric Kuakumensah tied the Ivy League career mark for blocks against Central Connecticut, and he should own it himself after meeting the Bulldogs.
— To start the season, Big East teams are on a similar pace against non-conference opponents as they have been in their first two years following the league’s reincarnation. That is, they’re winning at an-almost 80 percent clip. The first measurable conference RPI, after everyone has played a half-dozen games or so, has the Big East at No. 1 or No. 2.
— Not for nuthin’, but the Atlantic 10 also rates pretty well early, coming in fourth and ahead of the ACC, Pac-12, SEC and Big Ten.
— A real test of mettle should come next week, when seventh-ranked Villanova gets fellow top-10 denizen Oklahoma in Hawaii. And Georgetown plays Syracuse this weekend, renewing a rivalry that should never have faltered, even with SU’s departure for greener pastures in the ACC. Big measuring-stick games.
— Congrats to an old friend — and I use that term with great care — Rich Chvotkin. The Syracuse game is his 1,300th broadcast as the voice of the Hoyas in his 42nd season, and there simply isn’t a nicer guy in this business. A pal, a confidant, a peer. And a pro.
— In case you were wondering, Joe Hassett and I have been together for Friars radio broadcasts over 27 seasons, and 900 games, counting exhibitions. The program has played 2,318 regular-season and postseason games, by my count, in 89 years. Add another seven years as a player and broadcaster to Hassett’s total before I arrived on the scene, and Sonar has been a part of almost half of every PC game ever played. Whoa.
— Tweet of the Week, from @franfraschilla: Average possession length in college games, so far according to @kenpomeroy, is 17 seconds. So, 30 second shot clock virtually no factor.
— Hey, Johnny Football. Get a clue. When Austin Davis is named Cleveland’s starter over you, it’s time to find another profession.
— Framingham, Massachusetts, native and Fox Sports 1’s Katie Nolan was spot on this week when she told Boston.com her thoughts on the current state of the NFL: “Really, the bad guys are the billionaire owners who shove [Roger] Goodell out there and are like, ‘Go dance, rodeo clown, distract them and we’re going to do all this shady [expletive],’ And what’s really scary is, when you speak out against it, how angry football fans get.”
— Really now, who is surprised the Patriots lost at Denver? Before this season started, you had that one penciled in as an ‘L,’ if you’re being truthful. I did.
— Yes, it was the way they lost that was surprising, no doubt. Giving up (hacking up, coughing up) a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter was simply un-Patriot-like. Yes, the refs were abominable. But the Patriots didn’t lose because the zebras ran wild.
— They lost because the defense failed to adjust in stopping the Broncos running game, after Dont’a Hightower went down with a knee sprain. Pretty simple, really.
— Have the Patriots given up on the run themselves? At last check, New England was 29th out of 32 teams in average rushing yards per game. I realize when you have TB12 still throwing darts, that’s one thing. But when you have no one to catch them? Time to knock the rust off of LeGarrette Blount and let the big dog eat.
— Six. Six offensive pass interference penalties called on Rob Gronkowski this season — more than 31 teams have had called on them all season. No, that’s not targeting him at all, is it? Good piece by the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe pointing that out this week. C’mon NFL, you’ll have to be more subtle with your “getting even” with New England than this.
— Picking up the pieces against Philadelphia this weekend shouldn’t be hard to do. One, the Eagles are a mess. Two, the Patriots undoubtedly are angry with themselves over losing in Denver. Three, there’s plenty of motivation left with the Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals primed to pounce on the AFC’s top seed.
— One reason why the Patriots shouldn’t lose on Sunday: After a loss Tom Brady is 40-8 in his career. The Patriots haven’t lost on consecutive weeks since 2012, and only four times since 2003. They shouldn’t this weekend, either.
— As an added side attraction Sunday in Foxboro, referee Pete Morelli’s crew will be present to call the Patriots-Eagles game. It’s the same Morelli-led crew that was pulled from this Sunday’s prime-time game (Colts-Steelers) for numerous mistakes made in last week’s Cardinals-49ers tilt. Oh, the joy. Oh, the horror. Oh, NFL. You shouldn’t have.
— Honestly, could the National Football League be any less obvious with its dislike for all things Pat Patriot?
— A real eye-opening story this week from Sports Illustrated describes in great detail the downfall of an NFL lineman (former Jacksonville OL Eben Britton) trying to stay in the game thanks to the use of the league’s dirtiest little secret — Adderall. It made me think the league cares not one bit about its players, or the game itself.
— Outstanding that the Red Sox decided to go after David Price to lead their starting rotation next season. I care not one whit about the money — it’s not my money. With no salary cap, why would anyone care if John Henry is paying him $31 million a year for seven years?
— That’s a bagful of cash, no question. But really, how much is too much? You pay what the market will bear, and clearly the Sox can handle it. Besides, with an opt-out after three seasons, if Price lives up to the now-large expectations, he’ll be gone after the team has paid out $93 million — and maybe the Sox have another title?
— Or at least a couple of playoff appearances, right? Last place sucks. With a payroll hovering at or above $200 million annually, last place should never happen in Boston.
— Does the Price signing signal a new philosophy on player decisions and contractual negotiations in the organization? It damn well better. Two last-place finishes in a row means something has to change, otherwise why not stay with Ben Cherington as the GM? You go, Dealer Dave.
— And as for Price’s frosty relationship — if you can call it that — with Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, that will melt into something near harmonious and happy by the time pitchers and catchers report to spring training in February. Bank on it. Big Papi wants to go out a winner.
— Adding Chris Young to the Red Sox outfield also was a very prudent move, as Boston continues to play it out on younger guys like Rusney Castillo and Jackie Bradley Jr. Young hit .327 against lefties for the Yankees last season — so I’ll wager he’ll see some time out there, especially if the young guns start out with popguns in their arsenal.
— So now the younger members of the “millennial” generation have taken to calling themselves “the Founders”? Sorry, I missed that memo. What exactly are these people starting and building here? I’ll take them a lot more seriously if they’d just pull up their pants.
— Britney Spears turned 34 this week. That sobering bit of news should make you feel old. You are really old if you don’t know (or remember) who Britney Spears is.
— I also keep seeing and hearing that 40 is the new 25. Let’s see, if I do my math correctly, that would make me about 41? Which would then make me 26. I already act like I’m 12, so I’ll take that.
— My buddy “Big E” sez he got a rude awakening at the doctor’s office this week. He walked in and was asked how tall he was. He told the nurse 6-9, and he measured out at 6-7. Then, the nurse asked how much he weighed, and “E” said “240.” The scale choked out “275” when he stepped onto it. After the nurse took his blood pressure, she scolded him for it being too high. “Well of course it is,” he told her, “because I came in here tall and slender. Now, I’m short and fat!”
— Yes, I am very thankful I have the opportunity to share my thoughts and my (sometimes warped) knowledge here each week. I’m thankful for my health, my families’ health and love, and thankful I have great people to work with in everything I do. I’m thankful that even in these troubling times we live in — and the shootings in San Bernardino, California, are another example this week — people manage to care about one another. Yes, it’s well past time to do something about this epidemic of terror that has gripped us all, and past the time for mere lip service on the subject. But in the face of stress and adversity, I’m thankful that many of us try to rise above it all, knowing that humanity is better than this. We are better than this. I try to live that way, every day.
— @KINGNICK_GQ sent an interesting tweet this week: Our team is SOFT! #Patriots no “tone setters.” Nick: Do you really believe this? Or were you caught in a moment of pique over the way the team coughed up a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter at Denver? Look, I can almost understand where you’re coming from, but “soft” is something this particular team is not. “Young,” I can buy. “Relatively inexperienced” I can buy. “Still learning” I can accept. It remains one of the youngest rosters in the entire NFL. The Patriots are hurt. Soft, otherwise indicating they’re not physical or tough, they’re not.
— 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.
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