Thinking out loud … while wondering just where in the world Marshon Brooks might be.
— Not really certain what it means, but up until Tuesday night it seemed like the Providence College basketball team couldn’t win at home all of a sudden. One thought to this perplexing problem — visitors have a tendency to “gear up” mentally when they know they’re going on the road to play a nationally ranked team. PC, for all of its’ obvious talent, isn’t mature enough yet to match that intensity.
— Double-teaming Kris Dunn has become a staple of the opponents’ game-planning for the Friars. It’s slowing down his offensive effectiveness and forcing more mistakes. Just another speed bump on Dunn’s ultimate drive toward success. But he’ll need to learn not to force things, so he doesn’t handicap his teammates. The recent spate of foul trouble he’s had is an example.
— Yes, it was a big win over 18th-ranked Butler at the Dunk on Tuesday, no question. Facing the gauntlet of No. 4 Villanova (away), No. 5 Xavier (home) and traditional Big East beast Georgetown (away) all in succession over the next week made beating and sweeping the Bulldogs imperative.
— The Friars are 3-1 against nationally ranked teams this season, at the present time. It’s a good calling card to play when it comes to consideration for a postseason tournament invitation.
— Speaking of Villanova, can anyone beat the ‘Cats? Twenty-two straight Big East wins — including three in the run to a tournament championship last season, one against the Friars — are on the line Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Nova knocked off Friar-killing Seton Hall Wednesday in Newark by a single point.
— And the Saturday to Sunday postponement thing? No big deal, so bring on the snow. However, it does make game-planning and preparations a bit more difficult for sixth-ranked Xavier on Tuesday night at the Dunk. One less day to prepare for the next top-five team the Friars will face.
— Philadelphia is at the center of Winter Storm Jonas and the capital of the college basketball universe this weekend, as the last remaining unbeaten team in the country — SMU — plays at Temple on Sunday at noon. They also had their Saturday game pushed back a day due to the weather, as did 16th-ranked Providence and fourth-ranked Villanova.
— SMU, of course, isn’t eligible for the postseason. But the Mustangs’ alleged infractions, brought on by Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, apparently have given them focus with nothing to really play for.
— How about not lying to NCAA investigators, so your team could be eligible to play in the NCAA Tournament? That also would be something to play for, wouldn’t it? Just asking the question.
— They don’t mean much right now, of course, but it’s still fun to look at all of the pre-tournament bracketology that’s out there. Providence still rates anywhere from a possible 2 seed to a 6 or 7 seed in projected NCAA brackets, which is great news. The public perception is that the Friars belong, period. And why wouldn’t they? The resume is a pretty good one again this season, even at this moment. There’s still more season to play, too.
— Officials calling “soft” fouls on players are one thing, but calling them on the game’s best players? That needs to stop. And Big East supervisor of officials John Cahill told me as much this past week. The current crop of referees does need to have better awareness of why people come to games — and that would be to see the “stars” play. Not to see the refs blow the whistle.
— Congrats to Brown’s Cedric Kuakumensah, nominated as one of 30 senior players nationwide for the men’s Senior CLASS Award in college basketball. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.
— Can we have a do-over to the beginning of 2016? Too many pieces of my age-group’s past are crumbling like my Aunt Ethel’s pound cake. I think we should go back to Jan. 1, before the Bruins lost to the Canadiens at Gillette Stadium, and start over again.
— For instance, the news of Glen Frey’s death, and another “New Kid in Town” in heaven this week. There’s definitely a “Heartache Tonight,” I know, for many fans of the Eagles’ co-founder, singer, songwriter and actor. I share the sentiment, as the Eagles’ “Hotel California” Tour in 1977 was the first big concert event I ever attended.
— Frey and the Eagles’ music has become so much of a fabric of our lives over the past 40-plus years, it’s really incredible to think back on their influence on each of us, individually. I mean, isn’t an Eagles song somewhere in the memory banks of almost every significant event you might have had in the last four decades? It is for me, and I trust it’s the same for many of my generation. Life in the fast lane.
— Face it, JR. You’re old. There’s nothing left anymore to learn the hard way. My supply of brain cells is now down to a manageable size. And don’t expect me to run — anywhere.
— Excuse me, but wasn’t it just two years ago that “12 Years A Slave” won best picture, and Lupita Nyong’o won best supporting actress? Boycott the “white” Oscars? Be my guest. That’s right, don’t be a part of the solution, if one is actually needed. Contribute to the problem instead. Racism is racism, no matter how you look at it.
— Never really saw the Kansas City Chiefs as a “threat,” per se, to the Patriots’ run toward another Super Bowl appearance. Sure, the Chiefs could have won, but missing their big play threat with receiver Jeremy Maclin hobbled, they simply couldn’t stretch the Pats defense like they needed.
— The running game was a factor for them, however. Say what you want about New England’s ability to not need a running game, but KC’s ability to run and control tempo kept the ball out of Tom Brady‘s hands.
— The story out this week about Darius Fleming kicking in a window to save a woman from a smoking car? Can’t make this stuff up. He took 22 stitches in his leg and still played against the Chiefs. And didn’t want his act of heroism out there as a distraction before the game. That qualifies as a “whoa.” And a perfect example of what “The Patriot Way” can personify.
— Fleming’s tale was refreshing, and the fallout repugnant all at the same time. Why is it that we have to be so incredibly full of doubt these days? Why can’t a story — a really good story about a privileged athlete saving someone from a dangerous situation — be believed?
— I suppose I’m naive here, but what bothers me most is that The Boston Globe’s beat writer, Ben Volin, is supposed to know something about the players he covers, isn’t he? I don’t know Fleming well, but I know enough to think it would be out of character for him to lie about a tale like the one he told this week. And that to find the proof, either to exonerate or accuse, was relatively easy to locate. Except that, apparently, Volin couldn’t.
— I’m not saying he shouldn’t have fact-checked. Volin is a good reporter, has great sources, and writes interesting stories. But in his haste to “be first,” he apparently overlooked and missed his proof. And herein lies the problem with 21st century journalism in the age of social media. I’d rather be last with a story and be right than be first and be wrong. The next time he covers something controversial, or tweets something purported to be fact? I’m doubting it. And that’s credibility lost.
— The other side of this, is of course, is the pure entertainment factor that Rob Gronkowski provides. After hearing Broncos defensive back Chris Harris Jr. say on ESPN that in order to tackle him, “You gotta hit him low man, hit him in his knees … take his legs out,” Gronk fired back.
— Tweet of the Week, from @RobGronkowski: Heard their whole team is good at giving low blows. Buh-dump-bump. He’ll be here all week. Try the veal.
— Another one bites the dust. Jerod Mayo‘s name was added to the injured reserve list for this season after he suffered a shoulder injury against Kansas City. His play of late had been solid, if unspectacular, because that’s what his linebacking role requires. An already-thin area defensively takes another hit, as Mayo becomes the 21st player to be placed on a season-ending list this year.
— Which, by the way, leads the NFL. And the Patriots still are in the final four. Culture doesn’t count for something?
— Good note this week from long-time NFL scout and analyst Gil Brandt: Tom Brady is 3-0 in the playoffs when facing a No. 1-ranked total defense (as the Broncos are for 2015). And the Patriots have averaged 31 points in those games.
— It’s not quite as simple as this, but sure, if New England had beaten Miami in the regular-season finale, this week’s AFC title game could have been held at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots also could have faced Pittsburgh in the divisional round, too, which means KC could have been the team in here this week, instead of NE having to travel to Denver.
— What? The refs forgot the kicking footballs and air gauges and left them at their hotel before the Chiefs game in Foxboro on Saturday? Yeah, air pressure matters. Hey NFL? I got your quality control, right here. Just sayin’.
— I don’t know about you, but we should expect Peyton Manning‘s best Sunday. Forget the fact he’s one of the greats. Forget the fact he’s as professional as they come. The Los Angeles Times reported this week Manning is due a $2 million bonus if he wins Manning vs. Brady XVII, and another $2 million if he leads Denver to a Super Bowl win. Money usually is a pretty solid motivator.
— Not for nuthin’, but money ain’t everything, of course. As we all know, and the numbers will show, Manning hasn’t been the greatest playoff QB in his career — especially when compared to TB12. While Brady is 11-5 in head-to head matchups, Brady also has 22 playoff wins as a starting QB — the current NFL record. Manning has 13 playoff losses — also the NFL record for QBs.
— It’s no joke. Rex Ryan‘s hiring of Kathryn Smith to become the NFL’s first full-time female assistant coach is a great story. Smith is a former St. John’s basketball manager who graduated from SJU in 2007 with a degree in sports management. She spent 12 years working in various roles for the New York Jets and served the last couple of years as administrative assistant to the head coach in Buffalo. Now she’s a pioneer.
— Have a need for more football right about now? It’s coming, although not right away. A story on CBSSports.com this week indicates that apparel manufacturer Nike is preparing to launch a national 7-on-7 league, with five cities initially involved. No one in New England yet, but if there is any success with the model, you know that could change.
— Sports business continues to grow at a rapid pace. That a major brand like Nike is getting involved in establishing its own “sports” to control the brand and showcase its products shouldn’t be surprising. Or as vaunted former shoe executive Sonny Vaccaro said, “The world has changed. There are no more virgins. The virginity is over now.”
— My question now is, were there ever any virgins, even in collegiate sports, to begin with?
— As we embrace for the next Snowmageddon event (ho-hum), my buddy Statbeast sez the only time weather gets his attention is when he steps outside, and the first thing that comes to mind is a profane word, with an exclamation point attached at the end.
— Speaking of which, there was a funny story running around on the web this week about a BBC meteorologist’s forecast in England, when she was asked what the weekend weather would be like. “Cold as f***” allegedly was her on-air answer, for which she was not suspended. Why? Because she was right. True or not, it’s a funny tale.
— Our weather folks might not be as vulgar, but they sure could use a kick in the accuracy department. Honesty is, after all, the best policy. And it is cold as, well, you know.
— My friend Edward from Johnston, Rhode Island, won’t be thrilled with this — but the tennis scandal surrounding the Australian Open this week? Good for business, even though cheating and match-fixing are alleged. Eight unidentified players taking part in the year’s first major tournament are alleged to have lost on purpose, for money. Now, aren’t you at least a little bit curious as to who they might be, to see if they do it again?
— There you go. Instant interest in an event on the other side of the planet, up against the NFL playoffs and college basketball.
— More than 70 players are suspected of throwing tennis matches for guarantees, but apparently the majority will not be punished because the alleged offenses took place before an anti-corruption rule was put in place in 2009. Really? Tennis needs an anti-corruption commandment? Thou shalt not lose on purpose in return for receiving large sums of money? Stupid is as stupid does.
— World No. 1 Novak Djokovic says he was offered $200,000 in 2007 to throw a first-round match in Russia. Why would he take that? He’d make five times as much by kicking everyone’s a**, and get in a good workout during the week as well.
— Our friends at Cox reported this week former Friar Marshon Brooks is tearing it up on the basketball floor — in China. The one-time Celtics first-round draft pick, who is playing for the Jiangsu Dragons, is scorching the nets for 34 points per game, second in the CBA. He’s also shooting 41 percent from 3-point range. PC fans know that current Friars grad assistant coach God Shammgod is a former star in the CBA. As we reported a couple of months ago, one of Brooks’ current teammates is former NBA No. 1 overall draft pick Greg Oden. Last year in Italy, Brooks scored about 13 points per game before traveling further east. Maybe Chinese food is better fuel for his fire?
— Noah — @BeanTownBoi — tweeted at me this week after PC-Butler: Great finish. Team needs to work on inbounding though, biggest weakness. Noah: That really is strange, because I was just thinking the same thing. In the first couple of Ed Cooley’s seasons as coach, the Friars had great inbound plays that usually led to (relatively) easy baskets. This year, for some unknown reason, they’re struggling. Best guess is there’s too much reliance on getting the ball into Kris Dunn’s hands first. Forget that, if you must. Because it almost cost Providence a badly needed win this 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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