Thinking out loud … while wondering why I can never find my glasses when I need them.
— The Friars’ drop to 20th (17th in the coaches poll) is predictable. Two losses without winning in a week will do that, even if one of those losses was to the new No. 1 team. The DePaul loss was crushing, however, and shows how fleeting good fortune can be. I blame myself. That’s the first — and only — game when I missed the pregame shootaround on the road this season.
— I’ve had several conversations with Friars fans who have asked if I’m disappointed with the team’s performance lately. Sure, you always want to win, but disappointed? Absolutely not. First of all, I’m enjoying a great ride watching this team play, and these coaches coach. Plus — a little secret here — this PC team isn’t really a top-10 team, so get over it. That’s not what this team is.
— Are the Friars still good? They probably have the two best players on the court at any given time that Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil are together. But as we can all observe, these Friars need a third or fourth wheel to consistently perform in order to be really good, and the candidates are underclassmen still learning to play at the highest level in the sport.
— Top-10 good is questionable, at best. But still pretty good, and good enough to beat a lot of other pretty good teams around the country. No. 1-ranked Villanova knows how good the Friars can be. So don’t sweat the rankings, they’re fun, but they’re also ultra-subjective. Bring on March Madness.
— Oh, got my tickets this week for the NCAA Tournament first and second rounds at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. And then realized I may not be there if the Friars make the field of 68. Teams can’t play at home (right, Dayton?) so that’s a good problem to have, I suppose.
— Admittedly, the Marquette loss in double overtime this week was very frustrating. Ed Cooley was despondent afterward, but by the time the team landed back in Providence in the wee hours of Thursday morning, sights already were set and focused on Georgetown. Development is still a key factor here, and the problem is it isn’t happening fast enough for anyone’s liking.
— Bentil’s 42-point, 12-rebound performance was eye-popping wow. Only one other player in the country has put together a 40/10 double-double this season — freshman phenom Ben Simmons at LSU (43 points, 14 rebounds vs. North Florida). If the Friars can make any kind of a run in the final six games of the regular season, he’s a legit candidate for Big East Player of the Year, with all due respect to his teammate Dunn.
— An interesting, somewhat conflicting sidebar to the Friars’ trip to Milwaukee — my son, Austin Rooke, was on the Marquette student radio broadcast for the game. Father and son, on competing broadcasts. Normally, I’m rarely distracted during work. Wednesday night was a difficult one for this very proud father. While I’m pleased he’s making his own way into this crazy business, there’s another part of me screaming “Nooooooo!!!!! Don’t do it!!!!” on the inside.
— Villanova is the Big East’s first top-ranked team since the current incarnation of the league came into play three years ago. With two teams in the national top five (along with Xavier) and three teams that have been consistently ranked in the Top 25 this season (including PC), it’s a good step. Now the league depth needs to improve, and the staying power in March needs to develop.
— Why is Villanova No. 1? You certainly can make an argument for Oklahoma at the top, since the Sooners own a win over the Wildcats in non-conference play, but Villanova is an astounding 83-11 over the past three years. Consistently, night in and night out, the Wildcats come to play. What they have, that PC doesn’t right now, is consistent shooting. And when they don’t have it, their defense can still win a game for them. This is still a WIP (work in progress) for the Friars.
— Just what the Friars needed — catching a Georgetown team on an offensive roll. Three Hoyas scored more than 20 points in blasting St. John’s earlier this week, and the team shot a season-high 54 percent from the floor.
— The mark for the Friars is 70. Score more than 70 in a game, they’re good — 14-3 good. Give the other guys less than 70, and they’re better than that. How about 13-0?
— The Providence College Athletic Hall of Fame induction this weekend is a real “Who’s who” of former Friars greats. Ten sports are represented by some names you should remember well — former All-American Ryan Gomes (men’s basketball), former Major League (and Red Sox) infielder John McDonald (baseball), New Zealand Olympian Kim Smith (cross-country) and current NHL executive Brian Burke (men’s hockey) are among the 14 Friars gaining their small slice of immortality on campus. Little school on Smith Hill? Maybe, but this little school is producing some big-time grads.
— Creighton proved Tuesday night it deserves to be in the postseason discussion with its win over Xavier. There’s still work to do for the Blue Jays, but Boston University transfer Mo Watson is the engine that drives that team. The Musketeers had a very Friar-like 1-for-21 performance from 3 that night.
— Butler has jumped back into the mix, too. Big road win for the Bulldogs at Seton Hall on Wednesday. There’s something very cannibalistic about the Big East this season, with the exception of Villanova at the top and St. John’s at the bottom. If the Friars can simply figure out a way to win one here, the end-of-season schedule sets up to get them on a mini-run into the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden in March.
— In case you’ve been wondering — and I have — Keno Davis has his Central Michigan Chippewas back in contention within the Mid-American Conference after some midseason stumbling. CMU was a preseason league favorite, then lost six of 10 before MAC play began. Off to a 6-3 start in their conference, the Chips have lost their last two (to Akron and Eastern Michigan) with seven games remaining in the regular season.
— Louisville‘s self-imposed postseason ban was a quick-strike remedy for an ailment that is pervasive in college athletics — not owning up to your own actions. Catch the “NCAA police” off guard before they can catch you, and maybe they’ll take it easy on you. Look, if you do the crime, you should expect to do the time. Deep down, I think Rick Pitino knows this, and knows something unseemly happened inside Billy Minardi Hall.
— The climb continues for the Johnson & Wales Wildcats — up to 14th nationally in Division 3 this week. At 21-1 (with a 21-game win streak), and 15-0 in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference, the ‘Cats can clinch their first regular-season title since 2004 Saturday with a win at Albertus Magnus. Former Boston College Eagle Jamie Benton is in his 12th season leading the program, and was named the National D3 Coach of the Week last week.
— The Wildcats lead the nation — in all divisions — in scoring margin, beating opponents by nearly 29 points per game. In addition to 2,000-point scorer Quarry Greenaway, a familiar name for Rhode Island hoop fans also is a huge part of this team’s success — Tom Garrick. The son of former URI star Tom Garrick was first team all-GNAC last year and probably will be again this year.
— Nice bounceback for Rhody earlier this week, beating George Mason 81-63. Four McGlynn finally had a “Four McGlynn” kind of game with 25 points and six 3’s, and as I’ve maintained all along, Jarvis Garrett makes this team go, facemask and all. The Rams had just four turnovers against the Patriots. Really like Garrett as a player, and wondering how he missed Marquette’s radar since he’s a Milwaukee native. Glad to have him in Kingston, though.
— You can thank me for the news last week on Dante Scarnecchia’s return as Patriots offensive line coach. See what you miss when you aren’t paying attention? As ex-Friars coach Pete Gillen once told me, “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then.”
— Scarnecchia’s track record of developing talent is strong, but it’s his past ability to recognize where the improvement needs to be in order to create continuity that is his hidden talent. Russ Hochstein, Joe Andruzzi and Stephen Neal are three of his prized pupils from Super Bowl lines in the past. The hope is he can do the same in developing the current players up front.
— Part of me was disappointed in the Super Bowl this year, won by Denver 24-10 over Carolina’s Panthers. Ho-hum. But another part of me — the “old school” part — loved it. Dominant defense is back in the game, in the midst of the spread/no huddle/five-wide revolution we’ve seen take over on offense. The Broncos D was fun to watch. And don’t think for a second the Patriots weren’t taking notes on how to beat it.
— C’mon, Cam. Put on your big-boy pants and admit it, you were wrong to pout through your Super Bowl postgame news conference, then get up and walk out. So you lost a game? Big deal. If you’re any good, you’ll be back. Newton’s sorry performance in the aftermath of Carolina’s loss to the Broncos highlights everything that is wrong with pro athletes — who often are petulant and spoiled and have no sense of the real world.
— Here’s a little tip for ya’, Cam. Media demands, especially after you lose — they’re part of your job. Grow. Up. This ain’t Auburn here, where everyone kisses your feet.
— My buddy Statbeast sez there’s a reason adults always ask kids what they want to be when they grow up — because they’re looking for ideas.
— And my buddy “Big E” tells me that nature has many laws that always hold true. Baby apes always grow into apes. Baby baboons become adult baboons, and baby jackasses (or donkeys) grow into adult jackasses. So why is it that adult women are always saying that young men may grow up to be any one of these?
— Booing Tom Brady may be one of the most misguided actions a true fan of the NFL could take, but I get it. First of all, it was a partisan Denver Bronco crowd doing much of the booing. Second, the Patriots are the bad guys, remember? Deflategate or anything else comes in after that, and it’s an afterthought, really.
— The jeers, however, still are dumb. Why would you boo a guy who almost pulled off beating you by himself? It only demeans your accomplishment, and your team just won the Super Bowl! It’s like college fans yelling “overrated” at opposing teams and players. Never, ever get that. Why would you cheapen your own performance? Stupid is as stupid does.
— If it were up to me, I’d start a cheer with “underrated!” before anything else. Pump up my guys, and make that two-point, close-call win seem better than it really was.
— What was wrong with the Super Bowl halftime performance? Other than a couple of extra lb’s on Beyonce’s hips (hey, it happens), I rather enjoyed Coldplay and Bruno Mars. Thought they hit it hard. I’m thinking of asking Bruno to teach me some dance steps. Dude can move.
— Not for nuthin’, but this is at least two years in a row I’ve been disappointed in the Super Bowl commercials. What, we can’t count on some creativity for a few million bucks?
— Although, I did like the spot with the bears chasing their “victims” back to their car, and then lamenting their near “miss.” It took a serious, almost frantic tone and turned it into something comedic in a span of about two to three seconds. That’s hard to do.
— And “PuppyMonkeyBaby” may have been the most inane TV commercial ever created. Pure stupidity, but unfortunately, I remember it. Because it was stupid. Damn.
— The story this week that Liverpool supporters walked out on a home match last weekend in protest of ticket price increases was a shocker — only in that the tactic actually worked. Liverpool is struggling on the pitch, and after two years of running the team, the Fenway Sports Group (yes, that’s John Henry and company) jacks up prices? Henry and Tom Werner issued a public apology to the fans and promised they would rescind the proposal, freezing general admission ticket prices for two years.
— So, what I want to know is, should we all band together and walk out of Fenway Park when the Red Sox are mired in last place again this summer? There’s a track record here, and it worked in England. Just sayin’.
— After the sweep at Maine, Providence’s hockey Friars climbed back up to fifth in the national polls this week. This makes 80 consecutive weeks for the Friars in the rankings, which is downright Duke-like. I’m mixing sports metaphors here, but you get the idea. A home-and-home with UConn is on tap this weekend — what are the chances we see that scheduled in basketball anytime soon?
— Slim and none. And Slim just left town. Before too long, however, Kevin Ollie and the Huskies will need the schedule strength a game with Providence would provide — if not the cost relief for making a bus trip over another long plane ride. UConn now takes regular trips to Tulsa, Dallas and New Orleans for conference games.
— Probably should talk more about them here, but the Providence Bruins quietly are in the midst of a very strong run within the AHL’s Eastern Conference. Coming into the week, the P-Bruins were fourth overall in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the conference, but had nine wins and four OTs in 13 games.
— We mentioned Frank Vatrano a week ago, and while he continues to put up scoring numbers (17 goals in 16 games since getting sent down from Boston), he’s getting help from former Friar Noel Acciari. The product of Johnston, Rhode Island, often is on the same line as Vatrano (the Italian Stallion Line?), and the P-Bruins are developing some depth. Will it bode well for the big club?
— A freak occurrence has shelved goaltender Malcolm Subban, who took a puck to the neck last weekend during pregame warmups and fractured his larynx. Yikes. Following surgery this week, he’s out indefinitely, but Zane McIntyre has stepped in and performed admirably in his place. The P-Bruins (I hate the “Baby B’s” reference) are in a stretch playing five out of six games away from the Dunk, with the next game at home not until Feb. 26.
— Another perfect example of why Rhode Island politicians are viewed outside of the Ocean State as corrupt, small-minded individuals. For the Governor and the legislators who rammed the truck toll bill (aka “RhodeWorks) down their constituents’ throats and passed it into law this week, every one of you deserves to be voted OUT of office for ignoring the wishes of the people. At the very least, you could have given the public a chance to vote on the issue, but no, even though a majority seemingly believes it’s a bad idea for the state, you stick it to the people anyway. Rhode Island ranks last in this country in business climate for a reason — you.
— If you’re anything like me — and I’m truly sorry for the comparison — you lose things every day. Lately, it’s been reading glasses, which I covet like a wino who needs his Manischewitz. Either I break them, misplace them or try to read my computer screen (and my cell phone) without them. They’re like socks in the dryer — where do they go? Do they have legs and get up and walk away from me? My solution has become a simple one — spread as many of them around me as I can. Everywhere. Desk drawers, briefcases, tables, in the car, in the kitchen, in the bathroom. I figure if I just inundate my surroundings with reading glasses, I’ll be able to survive. Oh, and I’m buying stock in Dollar Tree stores. Might as well, I’m one of the company’s best customers when it comes to $1 eyewear.
— Chip from Phoenix, Arizona (@cscutari) tweeted this week on the current state of affairs in Friartown: Loss of Alex Owens (not qualifying) + Paschal transfer is showing. No. Friars doing their best w/limited talent. Chip: I don’t think it’s a question of having limited talent. Sure, Owens and Chukwu would have given this Providence team depth in the front court, no question. But they have talent, just not enough of it. Elite college teams have more depth. And what PC has, needs more time to develop. I would argue that with Chukwu and Josh Fortune on this team this year, the Friars could be a legit national contender. Unfortunately, this is on the coaches, and on the process involved with recruiting 17-year-olds and hoping you can get a really good one to come to you. And when you get one, having him change his mind and leave your program in a bind because he doesn’t like his surroundings? It’s not a very fair way to make a living, I must admit.
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