Thinking out loud … while wondering what’s happening with former Friar Billy Donovan.
— From ESPN.com on Kris Dunn: “I’d like to see him value the ball more,” an NBA executive said. “But that will happen when he gets to the NBA, or else he won’t play.”
— Kris Dunn not playing for the Friars won’t ever happen. At least not until he decides to relinquish his eligibility over the next few months. But for this Providence team to travel to the NCAA Tournament in two months and have any success? Dunn needs to value the ball more, now.
— I also would argue he needs to recognize which of his teammates has a hot hand — if any — and simply not force a situation. Look, if no one can hit a shot, make something happen yourself. Get into the paint, create contact and get to the line.
— Speaking of not hitting a shot — or any. That pretty much sums up the Friars’ performance at the Dunk on Tuesday night against seventh-ranked Xavier. For my money, the Musketeers are the best team in the Big East this season, and certainly the most balanced. Providence is right there, but the Friars just don’t have the kind of consistent depth that X has. Nor do they have the shooters X has.
— Villanova has streaky shooters, and the fact that the Friars nailed eight 3’s and shot 46 percent from the floor in their Philadelphia win last weekend simply shows you what they are capable of doing when they make shots. Four of the past six games, the Friars have been in the high 20s, low 30s in shooting percentage. It’s hard to beat Marquette and Seton Hall with those numbers, much less knock off top 10 teams.
— Xavier’s potential is unlimited — the Musketeers are a true national title threat with their balance, depth and strength. When ‘Nova connects on its shots, it’s right there with the Musketeers. When Providence hits shots? It’s better, potentially, than both — thanks to its star players in Dunn and Ben Bentil.
— The trouble right now is the Friars are having a hard time hitting the broad side of a barn with a bale of hay.
— Or as my high school coach once said about me: “Rookie, you couldn’t hit a bull in the ass with a bass fiddle.” Thanks for the positive reinforcement, coach. I’m not sure I would actually want try your suggestion, but you did give me something to remember for the rest of my life. So there’s that.
— The Providence Journal’s Kevin McNamara poked the bear this week with a story on college players, their eligibility and “trying out” for the NBA draft. Bentil is blowing up on a national stage (second Big East Player of the Week honor this week) to the point where this might actually be a consideration — for this year.
— But before your agita sets in, Ben himself has had little to no interest, yet, in turning pro. He can kick the tires if he wishes and still come back to the college game next year.
— Ben there, Dunn that?
— It’s all about fit, and matchups, in the pros. Bentil still has a lot to work on with his game in order to reach the draft potential of his current running mate Dunn. But his potential is through the roof. Don’t fret yet. Let’s see what happens with these last two months of this season. He likes college, he loves his teammates, just like Dunn does.
— The trip to snow-encrusted Philadelphia last weekend had its moments for the Friars. Three days in a hotel with no travel (except by bus to practice) and no TV (satellite troubles at the hotel) force you to learn about each other — whether you like it or not. Bowling was a big hit. So was eating. I could not keep up with either.
— Straight outta Compton, sophomore Kyron Cartwright loves to bowl, and it showed. Could the PBA be in his future, more so than the NBA? He rolled a smooth 246, kicking every teammates’ behind in the process.
— Love or live to hate the refs? Love what the Mid-American Conference did to two clueless officials who failed to blow a whistle at the chaotic end to a double-overtime game between Eastern Michigan and Ball State. Not one but two violations were committed, and the confused referees swallowed their whistles and bugged out of there. To which the conference said their actions “must be met with swift and firm disciplinary action.” They’ve been suspended for two games and won’t work the conference tournament.
— Holding officials accountable? Novel idea, that. John Cahill of the Big East, are you paying attention? I’d simply like to see consistency on both ends of the floor in calling physical play, which has been very hard to find this season.
— Not for nuthin’, but Xavier’s Myles Davis looks like he’s 40 years old. It’s a compliment, really. Savvy player, strong shooter. He’s actually 22 and still has a year of eligibility remaining after this season. But wow, did the Dunk lights shine brightly off of his, um, dome Tuesday night.
— Hard to believe Tuesday’s game was the first in the 44-year history of the Dunkin’ Donuts Center for two top 10 teams to square off. Just shows you the power and relative influence of what the Big East Conference has meant to Providence, after all of those early years as an Eastern independent. It also shows you, to an extent, how far the Friars have come in the last few years as a regionally if not nationally relevant program.
— PC’s hockey Friars have been nationally relevant for a couple of years now, but they have shown lately they can’t win ‘em all — like the basketball team can’t. The Friars, having spent eight weeks as the nation’s No. 1 team, were No. 3/4 this week before a 3-1 loss at UMass Lowell. Offense, like their basketball brethren, is at a premium right now.
— The longest-serving mayor in Providence’s history, Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci, was quite the character, to be sure. In my interactions with “Hizzoner,” during my time in politics and in sports, I discovered there was always a “good Buddy” and a “bad Buddy.” In no way do I mean to disparage his memory with negativity. Cianci just had a way about him that made you want to like him, and maybe even do things for him, which is part of what caused some of his troubles in the first place.
— Two years ago, Buddy was selected for induction into the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame with some controversy — not so much for his talk show work on WHJJ or WPRO, but for his personality. His magnetism. And his ability to attract attention for worthwhile causes. He also had pretty good ratings, too, because he was “Buddy” to everyone.
— Buddy certainly was passionate, if nothing else. If you look up the term “bully pulpit” in the dictionary, Cianci’s picture should be there. Rest in peace, Mayor.
— UConn lost athletic director Warde Manuel this week to the University of Michigan, his alma mater. Can’t blame anyone for being lured by their previous passion to a school they once called home, but considering Manuel leaves Connecticut during a perceived low point in popularity on the national scene, it is curious.
— While the UConn men are in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament this year in the American Athletic Conference, the women’s team continues to dominate the world, and the football team did reach a bowl game after a 2-10 fiasco last season, the Huskies have made it abundantly clear they would jump ship from the AAC if the Big 12 or ACC ever called. In other words, they’d love to grab some of that Power Five $$$. The phone isn’t ringing.
— Turning the page on the Patriots and the NFL season that is/was 2015 — it was time. Time to end the year, time to refresh, retool, rethink, relax. Patriots fans, as well as the players, have been through a 12-month meat grinder physically, and emotionally.
— As to the actual football issues, yes, the offensive line was horrendous. Yes, they nearly had Tom Brady pummeled into the Denver artificial turf like so much crumb rubber. Yes, Stephen Gostkowski picked an awful time for his first PAT miss after an NFL-record 523 consecutive successful kicks. And yes, even one field goal on either of the missed fourth-down tries in the fourth quarter could have led to a win, as bad as things were.
— The point here is to point out there may not be much of a reason to blow anything up. Was this team 10-0 at one point this season? New England was a Super Bowl champ last year and returned to the AFC title game this year with 21 players on a season-ending eligibility list of some sort. That was more than any other team in the league. The Patriots should be back, health permitting, in much the same situation next year, too.
— Who remembers the 50-burger hung on Jacksonville? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
— As to the failed fourth-down tries for first downs or touchdowns? I thought after the first one, kick the second one. Overall, there’s little issue with trying to put the ball in TB12’s hands to win a game, right? But the way the defense played — limiting the Broncos to under 100 yards in the second half — why not give those guys a chance to perform and win it for you, too?
— Dave DeGuglielmo’s dismissal as offensive line coach certainly appeared to be a knee-jerk reaction to the end of the season. Which was decidedly not “The Patriot Way.” Name the last Patriots assistant to be fired from his job. No, former linebackers coach and defensive coordinator Dean Pees technically was not fired — he accepted another position.
— Additionally, strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash is receiving his release. So all of the injuries are on him?
— Since when do politicians admit mistakes? Same thing in the sports world. True accountability, as we all should know, is hard to come by.
— Sometimes the emperor forgets to wear his clothes, as I’ve stated previously. Bill Belichick doesn’t care what you think, or what I think. He only does “what’s in the best interest of the football team.” In Coach Googs’ case, his contract was up and his moving on apparently was a mutual decision. But it sure looked like, “Line stinks, coach needs to go.”
— It would have been best, in my humble opinion, to let this offensive line issue breathe a little bit and not react to it one day after the season ingloriously ended in the Rocky Mountains. Even if you had decided weeks ago to make this move, this looks scapegoat-ish. Petty. Immature. Maybe even unfair. Again, not exactly the “Patriot Way,” based on what we’ve seen transpire in the past.
— Overall, hats off to the Broncos. They earned their trip to the Left Coast to face the Carolina Panthers. They might wish they hadn’t, based on the roll the Panthers are on right now. Just sayin’.
— Whether you like his dabbing or not, Cam Newton has the chance at a storybook finish to this year. If the Panthers win the Super Bowl, Newton becomes the first QB ever to win a national championship at the NJCAA level (Blinn JC, Texas), the NCAA level (Auburn) and the NFL level.
— On the other side, the scenario does give us a chance at another Hollywood, storybook ending with Peyton Manning‘s chance to go out on top. That’s great and all, but who says he’s retiring? My guess is he never liked fairy tales as a kid, anyway.
— Never been this lost before. Pa-tri-ots are going home. Epic comeback starts right here. Retirement home is not for me. Yeah, makes you want to go out and buy that Nationwide insurance policy, huh?
— Three areas the Patriots need to address before training camp opens next summer: 1, the offensive line. 2, wide receivers who can stretch the defense. 3, running back. And the offense was the best part of this year’s team?
— If the Patriots figured out a way to pry a disgruntled Calvin Johnson out of Detroit’s hands, I might be tempted to run naked on I-95. Megatron with Minitron? Whoa. Make of that whatever you will.
— And as for the seven Patriots players who declined to attend this weekend’s Pro Bowl? They can afford to go to Hawaii on their own. But play and risk further injury in one of the most meaningless spectacles the sport has ever concocted? Nope. And just why would they do the NFL the honor of participating in such a farce after the NFL just dragged their hearts, minds and souls through a year’s worth of lies, deceit and treachery?
— The Elias Sports Bureau reports there are 133 players who have received Pro Bowl “honors” this year as replacements for those original honorees opting out. Kinda like learning that fake Gucci bag you have really is made from rat skins. Eww.
— Remarkable career, really, that Abe Vigoda had in Hollywood. Passing this week at the age of 94, Vigoda is best remember in the vastness of my mind for two significant roles. First, he was wry, dry and witty Detective Philip Fish of the 12th Precinct on the mid-‘70s to early ‘80s sitcom “Barney Miller,” starring with Hal Linden. But I came to a later, greater appreciation for his character wit through his performance as Sal Tessio in “The Godfather” movies.
— “Tell Mike it was only business,” was Tessio’s response to Corleone consigliere Tom Hagen (played by Robert Duvall) before being led away to a certain mafia execution in “Godfather II.” Betraying “the family?” Maybe the first and only time I felt sorry for a criminal, make-believe or not. How could they “off” the likable, lovable Fish? That’s cold-blooded.
— My buddy Statbeast sez his church priest has been getting strange donations lately from the same old woman, usually $1,000 or more. When the priest asked why she was donating, she replied, “I get money from my son every week.” The priest replied, “Wow, your son must be very successful. What does he do?” The sweet, old lady answered, “Why, he’s a veterinarian in Nevada. He owns two cat houses in Las Vegas and one in Reno.”
— I actually like the idea of the NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge, pitting the U.S. vs. the World. Cool idea, and it’s always great to get an international “Olympic” feel to any competition. Sure to bring global interest, especially in an Olympic year. The Celtics‘ Marcus Smart will rep the U.S. I might even watch.
— Former Friars guard and Florida coach Billy Donovan has been enjoying success in his first season as a head coach in the NBA, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder (and stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook) to the third-best record in the Western Conference as we near the All-Star break. This week he returned to Madison Square Garden to coach his team against the New York Knicks — not just his boyhood rooting interest but also the team he played for, briefly, after he left PC in 1987.
— Former Providence coach Rick Pitino told the New York Post this week that as he contemplated releasing Donovan from his scholarship after two years on Smith Hill, he made him a deal that turned into a storybook ending. Donovan confirmed as much. “Coach Pitino told me, ‘I can’t promise you playing time,’ ” he told The Post. ” ‘The only thing I can promise you is if you do what I ask you to do, work at the level I ask, this will be the greatest experience of your life.’ ” Things have turned out pretty well for “The Kid” since then, haven’t they?
— Charles from Houston, Texas, posted this on Facebook last week, before the AFC title game kicked off: I have been surprised how confident Pats Nation has been this week. It feels like the Ravens championship game when Ray Lewis was retiring. I know Manning has looked bad but I don’t trust our secondary and Sanders and Thomas will be too much. The Broncos defense will be too much for the Pats horrible offensive line and unfortunately Broncos win. Charles: Take me to Vegas with you, please?
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