Thinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Joey Meyer.
— Providence’s win at DePaul on Wednesday wasn’t a sizzler, but it was the kind of win that a contending team — a championship-contending team — needs late in the year against a team in the lower half of the league. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Oliver Purnell didn’t at least try a little zone against the Friars, but maybe if it’s not as good as DePaul’s man-to-man, then it makes sense.
— On the other hand, Providence’s zone was as good as it’s been in a while, and the Blue Demons had a very tough time hitting and getting into the gaps. The Friars did a superb job of cutting down and restricting the passing lanes, and extending to their shooters. Defense like that, provided there’s attention to detail when teams attack the baseline, will win a couple of tough ones down the stretch.
— LaDontae Henton is almost there. He’s 54 points and seven rebounds away from matching Ryan Gomes as the only two players in Friars history with 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. That’s extraordinary, especially when you consider some of the talent that has come through PC over the past 88 years. This week he was a national nominee for the new “Julius Erving Award,” which will be given to the nation’s top small forward.
— Speaking of the award, college basketball this season follows in the uber-popular college football postseason awards show’s footsteps (on ESPN2 April 10) by introducing awards for best point guard (Bob Cousy Award), best shooting guard (Jerry West Award), best small forward (Julius Erving Award), best power forward (Karl Malone Award) and center (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award). URI’s E.C. Matthews made the list for the Jerry West Award, but for the life of me, I’ve been searching for Kris Dunn’s name on the Cousy list and can’t find it.
— Not for nuthin’, but Matthews is on that list, too. So is UConn’s Ryan Boatright, BC’s Olivier Hanlan, Georgetown’s D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono. All worthy in their own right, but no Dunn. Kinda makes this award a joke, really, because someone is clearly asleep at the wheel. Dunn might be the best guard in the country, period. And he’s a candidate for Big East Player of the Year, but not the Cousy Award. Who looks dumb here?
— Great national PR this week for both PC and URI basketball, as Dunn was the feature subject for a Sports Illustrated piece (on SI.com) and Dan Hurley received a great write-up in USA Today. Getcha popcorn ready, ‘cuz the show really hasn’t started yet. Just sayin’.
— Seven straight losses to the Minutemen? Rhody’s win over UMass on Wednesday night was a huge step in the right direction for the Rams, who now certainly must feel like the Atlantic-10 is there for the taking. But the wins must keep coming, especially on the road. Winning at Dayton is a must for the Rams to have a shot at an NCAA at-large spot, if they don’t win the tournament title.
— But with VCU’s wounded list such as it is, the A-10 tourney crown is achievable even if the regular season falls a little short. If I’m a Rams fan, I’m grabbing tickets for the Barclays Center next month.
— Glad to read this week where URI athletic director Thorr Bjorn has had good conversations with school president David Dooley about a contract extension, as his current deal is set to expire June 30. With Bjorn’s alma mater UMass looking for a replacement as well, it’s only natural that an alumnus would at least kick the tires on a homecoming. Keep this in mind, Rams fans, when Dan Hurley’s name pops up in New Jersey if Kevin Willard’s tenure at Seton Hall should come to an abrupt end.
— Bill Reynolds was spot on about this in the Providence Journal this week, but Ricky Ledo’s life and professional basketball career just became a little more complicated with his being cut by the Dallas Mavericks this past week. We can all say “Told you so” on this one.
— And I’ll say this, too, because if you’re a Friars fan you’ve surely thought about it. The timing would probably have never worked out right, but could you imagine a Providence team with Ledo, Bryce Cotton and Kris Dunn in the same backcourt? Come on. That’s not playing fair.
— Holy moly, but Cotton is scorching hot for the NBA D-League Austin Spurs, scoring more than 30 points per game over the past seven games he’s played, hitting better than 50 percent from 3 and 94 percent from the foul line. Thirty-one contracts have been handed out to D-League players so far this year, 14 of those to lead or point guards, and Cotton can’t get a sniff? Stupid is as stupid does.
— It’s happening more and more these days — broadcasters and reporters getting moved out of their vantage points for covering games as teams (college and pro) sell their seats. Frankly, I’m surprised this hasn’t happened more often, but Bob Knight had a few words for a couple of fans that jumped in his way this past week while working an SMU-Temple game for ESPN: “Sit down, boys! Hey, either take my seat and let me sit there or sit down. We gotta see here!” Naturally, his outburst on national TV would have been complete with the actual throwing of his seat.
— Seton Hall’s fall from the Top 25 has been precipitous, to say the least. The Pirates may have bottomed out with Sterling Gibbs’ whack of Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono this past week resulting in a two-game suspension. Ironically, much of the mess came about with freshman Isaiah Whitehead’s return to the lineup after an injury. Whitehead once was considered a one-and-done prospect, but SHU voice Gary Cohen told us on “This Week in the Big East” that’s no longer a possibility, or probability.
— Think you have game? Then here’s your chance to prove it. The Big East Conference is sponsoring an open 3-on-3 basketball competition in New York during the men’s tournament week, and teams will have the chance to compete for the right to actually play on the Madison Square Garden court just before the championship game. The “Big East 3×3 Battle” tips off on March 7 indoors at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan. And the winning team in the Adult Elite Division will qualify for the USA Basketball 3×3 national tournament, and qualify for the FIBA 3×3 world tour. Whoa’¦
— Under the radar this week was former Big East member West Virginia getting slapped with two years probation by the NCAA for impermissible texts and phone calls from coaches in 14 sports. The violations allegedly began while the Mountaineers were still in the Big East, and continued after they joined the Big 12. In 14 sports? Sounds like a department-wide problem, and maybe one reason why athletic director Oliver Luck skipped out of town — ironically, to work for the NCAA.
— Bryant has clinched a spot in college basketball‘s postseason for a third straight year as a full-fledged Division 1 member. Now comes the hard part: actually winning something. The Bulldogs are in a fight for one of the four NEC quarterfinal home court spots, and the league appears wide open enough for Bryant to have a shot at dancing next month.
— Sad to hear the news this past week about “Wave ‘em home” Wendell Kim. The former Red Sox (and Giants and Cubs) third base coach passed away from complications due to early-onset Alzheimer’s at age 64. Kim, a native of Honolulu, was the first Korean-American to wear a major league uniform. He was beloved (and sometimes reviled) for his aggressive approach in sending runners to the plate for Boston from 1997-2000 (hence the “Wave ‘em home Wendell” moniker). I miss that approach, it was never boring — even if it was a bit maddening.
— Call me crazy, but I’m not feeling real good about Clay Buchholz potentially at the top of my rotation, and 40-year-old Koji Uehara as the first option for a closer. Sure hope the offense swings the bats.
— That would only change marginally if Cole Hamels winds up in Red Sox, as opposed to staying unfulphilled for a Philadelphia team ticketed for the bottom of the National League East.
— How about A-Fraud? “He Keeps Coming Back Again” could be the title to his new book, once all of the chapters are written. Alex Rodriguez‘s return to the Yankees this spring stands to be one of the most-watched stories of training camp — undoubtedly beaten into our heads by ESPN and others for weeks. Wake me up when — or if — he wins a daily gig in the lineup.
— Could someone please explain how a team — any team — like the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night in Edmonton could miss 12 (Twelve!) shots on goal in a shootout? Missed ‘em all? Was Gretzky in goal for the Oilers?
— I have no words for the current status of “Deflategate” this week, no words at all. Just a shrug of the shoulders as I wonder why anyone gives a tinker’s damn about a pound of air pressure.
— Recently hired as San Francisco’s defensive coordinator, ex-Jets coach and ex-Patriots assistant Eric Mangini has said he believes he was blackballed by the NFL after he snitched on the Pats for Spygate — because he couldn’t get coaching work and was forced into television. Forced. Into. Television. Some hardship, Eric. Wonder if the same thing will happen to current Colts GM Ryan Grigson, who blew a whistle on the Patriots to the league during the second quarter of his team’s AFC title game beatdown? Especially if it’s discovered there was no wrongdoing.
— You heard it here first. No, really, you did. Said a few weeks back the Patriots would have offensive linemen as a top priority for the draft this year, and from all indications they were plenty interested in a few of the big guys at the combine this week in Indianapolis. Considering the fact Dan Connolly is a free agent guard and Ryan Wendell is an overachieving guard, guards definitely are on the agenda.
— Want a name? I’ll give you two: Tre Jackson from Florida State and A.J. Cann of South Carolina. Jackson was an All-American for the Seminoles, the same program that brought the Patriots rookie center Bryan Stork this past year. Cann probably won’t be around for the Pats to pick, unless New England moves up to take him. Which is a rarity, you know.
— It makes even more sense the Patriots are considering bolstering the line as a top priority when you realize former line coach and associate head coach Dante Scarnecchia still is helping out his old team in retirement by scouting rookie prospects at the combine. So is recently retired special teams coach Scott O’Brien, which may or may not provide a clue as to NE’s interest in re-signing kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
— Ever wanted to be a “fly on the wall?” The Patriots are holding their annual cheerleader tryouts on Feb. 28 at Ahern Middle School in Foxboro. Registration — and securing wall space — begins at 10 a.m.
— The Patriots reported this week that last year’s cheerleading team included a biomedical engineer, a psychology and neuroscience professor, an accountant, a dentist, a social worker and a physical therapist. That’s nice and all, and it makes for good stories, but were there any with actual cheerleading experience? Rah-rah-rah, sis-boom-bah.
— My buddy Statbeast sez there is absolutely way too much violence in football. Every time he says something about the cheerleaders, Mrs. Statbeast puts an elbow in his ribs.
— Didn’t author Thomas Wolfe tell us you can’t go home again? Apparently, Kevin Garnett never read the book.
— Looking up into the rafters at DePaul’s Allstate Arena this week, it was hard not to spot the banners honoring some of the Blue Demons basketball greats from the past, including the late, great coach Ray Meyer. The Demons have had at least one active player in the NBA for each of the past 40 years, which speaks to the caliber of player they’ve had and the overall success of the program. But does anyone remember Meyer’s son Joey, who assisted for his father for 11 years and took over the program when his dad retired in 1984? Joey Meyer led the program to seven NCAA tournament appearances in his first eight years, and 231 wins over 13 seasons before fading like a comet in the stratosphere. Rod Strickland and Dallas Comegys were two of the big-time players during his successful run, but as a member of the Great Midwest Conference in the mid-’90s, the Blue Demons began a steady decline that arguably exists to this day. Meyer was fired in 1997, then coached in the ABA and more recently in the NBA D-League, winning championships in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2004 and 2005. Meyer’s last coaching job was in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with the Mad Ants in 2011-12, and he ranks as the all-time winningest coach in D-League history.
— Jeremy in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, posted this on Facebook, in response to an item in last week’s column on TV ratings for the Big East: “It’s silly to make any judgments on the Big East or their television ratings at this point. The conference needs time to grow and develop new rivalries. UConn smartening up and coming back home would be a nice addition.” Jeremy, I don’t disagree with this at all. But unless the Huskies decide to drop football or de-emphasize it, it ain’t happening. They’re too deep into the muck, too invested in the sport. The two biggest “losses” in the move from the old league to the new league were UConn and Syracuse, hands down. But football now drives the bus at those two schools, even though the decision to stay in lockstep with other football programs might not have been the wisest for the basketball teams in both places. They surely have been out of the spotlight this year, even just one year removed from a national title in Storrs. Women’s hoop success will have to suffice for the masses, and the TV money in the ACC in Syracuse will have to help heal any wounds from the basketball team’s self-imposed “sanctions” this year.
— 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 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.