Thinking out loud … while wondering if ad execs, TV producers and power brands ever realize that “less” actually can mean “more.”
— Don’t look now, but the Providence Friars might be one of the surprise teams this season — not just in the Big East, but in all of college hoopdom. A win over a nationally ranked URI Rams team opened some eyes in several corners of the country.
— And just why is this Friars version better than originally thought or hoped for? One word: defense. These kids take to it like a duck takes to water. Defense is all about desire, even if it takes some talent to play it well. Defensive stops lead to offensive transition, which for a team still searching for scoring options is the best option of all.
— But the shooting? Whoa. Fourteen 3’s the other night against the Bears shouldn’t be considered the norm, but it sure is a bonus.
— The road ahead for PC shapes up quite nicely, if the Friars can MTOB (mind their own business). UMass, Maine, UConn-killing Wagner and at Boston College — if all plays out to form — should have the team on or at least near the cusp of the Top 25 again (!) as the Friars travel to Xavier to open league play later this month.
— Not for nuthin’, but young teams traditionally experience growing pains. So, without big expectations, this season already has been fun to watch. It could get a lot funner from here.
— Rodney Bullock’s Big East Player of the Week honor should thrust him into the spotlight as one of the league’s go-to guys. Strange that he wasn’t considered potential all-Big East before the year began. What do these coaches look at, exactly, that they couldn’t tell this before the season started?
— Here’s hoping URI’s Hassan Martin is a quick mend. But the Rams need not look behind in the rearview mirror at Providence, or even themselves. This is a good team. Stay the course. Get healthy. Play with abandon. Talent is there to win more than its share.
— Also have been impressed with Brown’s ability to score, and Steven Spieth’s improved overall play — even if none of it translated well against the Friars this week. If the Bears really want to improve defensively, after PC almost hung a hundred on them, just let assistant coach John Linehan run rampant through a few practices. That should learn ’em.
— Spieth was the Ivy League Player of the Week, and freshman Joshua Howard — son of Juwan “Fab Five” Howard — earned Freshman of the Week. The Bears don’t look to be an eighth-place Ivy team — and an appearance in the first-ever Ivy League postseason tournament is a realistic goal.
— Bryant is struggling a bit out of the gate, at 3-7 heading into the weekend against an improved New Hampshire team. When the Bulldogs gain a little more experience, perhaps they can learn to hold on to 25-point leads and actually win. Which is what they didn’t do at Navy this week.
— Elsewhere in Big East, through Tuesday the league was winning at a 79 percent clip against non-league foes, and either No. 1 or No. 2 in the conference RPI ratings. It all bodes well for national recognition and eventual dance invitations come March. But the bottom line? Big East teams win big games.
— I watched Syracuse and UConn play this week at MSG, and thought the 1920s had come roaring back. Poor execution. Raw, even mediocre talent. I looked for peach baskets on the baselines. Tsk, tsk. In Syracuse’s case, Big Tobacco has all but crushed any resemblance to the former iconic East Coast/Northeast powerhouse. What the Orange have or get from here may be on pure reputation alone.
— Hope that football money keeps you warm in that Dome, Cuse. ‘Cuz hoops ain’t hot like they used to be.
— Maybe the College Football Playoff got it right in your mind, but I don’t think it did. There’s something wrong with a system that says a team that wins the Big Ten can’t get into the final four, when a team that didn’t even PLAY for the Big Ten title did.
— You want answers? Move to an eight-team playoff. Of course, if they ever do — and only if enough $$$ is dancing about — someone will immediately start screaming about 12 or 16 teams. Hogwash. Major conference champs should earn a slot automatically, and leave the door ajar for at-large teams, other conference champs and/or league runners-up to make things interesting. Eight Is Enough.
— Happy for Matt Rhule (Temple, going to Baylor), Tom Herman (Houston, going to Texas) and Willie Taggart (USF, going to Oregon) as I’ve had the privilege to get to know these college coaches a little bit the last few years. Having on-field success is what it’s all about. But for the American Athletic Conference to lose three coaches to bigger-monied/Power Five programs?
— It won’t help the perception that the AAC is little more than a high mid-major in football.
— As a member of the Football Writers Association of America, I get a vote for Coach of the Year. While I selected Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck as my choice (team was 13-0 in the Mid-American Conference and is going to the Cotton Bowl), don’t underestimate the year-in and year-out job Nick Saban does at Alabama. I’m simply trying to spread the wealth.
— Got Heisman? I’ll take Clemson’s DeShaun Watson as a slight favorite over Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, based on the season’s body of work and team results. But one guy who got snubbed for an invite to the party was the nation’s leading rusher, Texas’ D’Onta Foreman — the one standout player on an underachieving team that ended up sending coach Charlie Strong packing.
— Have you seen the new ESPN “30 for 30″ film short on former Holy Cross Heisman candidate Gordie Lockbaum? It manages to tell a great story — not just about an old-school, two-way player who finished ahead of guys like Thurman Thomas and Emmitt Smith in the ’87 Heisman vote — but also about how tragedy has a way of etching its presence into historical tales. Stuff I never knew.
— Sometimes television (when well done) can still be an amazing experience. Like you were right there. I like to bag on the so-called World Wide Leader in Sports from time to time, but not this time.
— Hendricken over LaSalle? Again? Like death, taxes and chants of “Yankees suck,” it is an inevitability within our current landscape. Congrats to the Hawks and coach Keith Croft, though. They get the credit. I get to YAWN.
— Worcester native Dan Doyle was convicted on seven counts of embezzlement this week, through his fraudulent dealings within the non-profit Institute for International Sport — which called the URI campus in Kingston its home. Doyle has maintained his innocence from the start, but I don’t know how a paper trail of $1.14 million from the Institute is made from purely altruistic means.
— The Institute’s mission was to “use sport and the arts as mediums to forge meaningful ties on a global scale, and address critical societal issues.” You mean, like thou shalt not steal, and stuff like that?
— My buddy Statbeast sez he heard a story about three nurses reaching the Pearly Gates of Heaven, and St. Peter asked each of them why they should be admitted. The first said she had worked in an emergency room and saved thousands of lives. The second said she had worked in an ICU and also had saved thousands of lives. The third told St. Peter he had been a managed-care nurse and saved thousands of dollars for insurance companies. St. Peter replied “OK, the first two can go right in. The third? You can go, too, but you can only stay three days.”
— Dealer Dave! The Red Sox’ Dave Dombrowski jumped into the pool and made a big splash at the winter meetings this week, which was fun to see. Love the Sox as a movah, and as a playah. Beats being in Kansas City, or San Diego, or Milwaukee.
— Yankees GM Brian Cashman called the Sox baseball’s version of the Golden State Warriors — stacked at every position, with Chris Sale standing in as Kevin Durant. So now we’re the evil empire? Awesome. But I do have some questions in the wake of Sale, Tyler Thornburg and Mitch Moreland moving to Fenway Park.
— One, have you mortgaged the farm for the foreseeable future? What you gave up to get? It’s not necessarily a bad thing, per se, but let’s hope there’s a World Series or two to celebrate in the next three years. Because after that, it could get ugly around here.
— Two, Pablo Sandoval. He’s still around, and still under contract. So we’re counting on him to return from his “injury,” to do the job at third base, and not eat himself into a prolonged slump? That’s an awful lot of faith in a guy whose nickname is “panda.”
— Three, you good with the back end of the bullpen? Craig Kimbrel seems to have a great disinterest in “team” things. I don’t think he “gets” Boston and New England, where we sometimes live and die with every pitch. Can he get a four- or five-out save if called upon? Can he get a “hold” if asked to do so? He’ll “get” plenty of reaction around here if his on-again-off-again talents and interest display themselves next season.
— But the starting rotation certainly stands today as the best in the bigs, so the Hot Stove already is aflame. Cool. Buy your (wallet-stretching) tickets now.
— Whither Edwin Encarnacion? Wasn’t he supposed to move in at DH for David Ortiz, who basically endorsed him for the position? Now the Sox are looking for more of a bargain? Well, did anyone see Ortiz’s Instagram message this week? If he’s serious about another go, I’d take a trip on that train.
— Moreland’s numbers last season: .233/.298/.422 with 21 doubles and 22 home runs. Yes, I know he won a Gold Glove at first. Chicks — and most fans, really — dig the long ball. Or runs scored. Runs would be good. Just sayin’.
— There is good and bad about Bud Selig and his selection for baseball’s Hall of Fame. Do I believe he belongs? Well, maybe the fans in Washington or Milwaukee think that, but just because a guy is commissioner, does that automatically make him Hall-worthy?
— Selig repeatedly turned a blind eye to the steroid issue that helped knock baseball off its former national pastime pedestal 20 years ago. But as I’ve suggested previously, a Hall of Fame is a museum, so history should recognize the good — with the not-so good.
— I’ve seen Selig compared to a used-car salesman. That’s about right. Do they have a Hall of Fame for those guys? He’d fit right in — and that’s with all due respect to actual used car salesmen.
— Former Red Sox and PawSox pitcher (and Milton native) Rich Hill signed a new deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers last week, buried in the avalanche of Red Sox signing news.
— And to see that the Yankees brought reliever Aroldis Chapman back into pinstripes gladdened my heart. Now, I have another reason to hate on the real “Evil Empire” again.
— Remember the sexy “owner” of the Cleveland Indians in the movie Major League? Margaret Whitten was a big reason for the film’s success (“Give ’em the heater, Ricky!”) as the devilish diva attempted to move her team to Miami but couldn’t do so because it kept winning. Whitten passed away this week at age 67.
— As consumers, LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers teammates have every right to make their own arrangements to stay in a non-Trump-owned hotel in New York, like they did this week. But it certainly wasn’t because the hotel was too pricey. And if they believe their “protest” will do anything but make them look petty and foolish? Well, stupid is as stupid does.
— Golden State’s Klay Thompson scored 60 points in less than 30 minutes of floor time last week. Remarkable, until you recall Wilt Chamberlain once scored 100 points in 48 minutes, during the 1962 season. Still, Thompson is the first NBA player to top 50 in a game in less than 30 minutes during the shot clock era.
— Chamberlain’s feat is one of those “unbreakable” records that get talked about fairly often. Let’s throw in Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak and Tom Brady’s 201 (and counting) career wins as a starting quarterback and call it a day?
— TB12’s record is made more remarkable due to the fact he has 31 fewer losses than Peyton Manning in 30 less games played. Brett Favre? Sixty-two fewer losses in 60 less games played. Joe Montana? Brady has more wins than Montana has in total games played.
— So for this significant, historical accomplishment, the NFL Grand Poobah can’t at least fake it and send a congratulatory tweet to Tom Brady? Of course he can’t. Roger Goodell couldn’t spell c-l-a-s-s if you handed him the “C” and the “L.” Wait a sec, maybe he could?
— The last three weeks have been a mere warmup for the last-month push by the Patriots. Starting Monday night, Gronk or no Gronk, we’ll find out if this team still is Super-worthy. The margin of error is smaller, but this corner sez the Patriots are.
— W2W4: The Ravens have the second most interceptions (14) in the league, behind San Diego’s 15. If Baltimore pulls it off in Foxboro, it will need to pull off one or two of those on Brady.
— Yes, ex-New England defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Dean Pees runs that show in Baltimore. Yes, John Harbaugh harbors hatred for the Patriots, thanks to his less-than-stellar recognition of the rules (and Brady’s calling him out on it) a couple of years ago. So yes, in my eyes, the Ravens are every bit the Patriots’ top rival these days — right there with Denver and the J-E-T-S.
— In the Jets’ case, however, you need to win every once in a while to call it a true rivalry don’t you?
— I’m not sure who to root for if the Pats can clinch a playoff spot and perhaps even a first-round bye this week. One thing the Patriots don’t need to do is start resting guys with three weeks left. Anyone remember what happened at the end of last season?
— The definition of insanity — repeating the same things over and over again, expecting different results to occur. Right, Rhode Island?
— You don’t own me, Toyota. Anyone else sick of the earworm that some of the television commercials leave us with after they’re played dozens (and dozens!) of times during network sports events? The “You don’t own me” spots, for which Toyota apparently has purchased time ad nauseum within NFL telecasts, are a takeoff on a very popular song recorded back in the early ’60s by Lesley Gore. Great tune, but if I never hear that song again, it will be too soon.
— Don’t ad execs realize that by playing these things over and over, most right-minded people are TURNED OFF by the ad and the product? Apparently not. I’ve always believed that there’s a right time and place for everything, including ad campaigns and their frequency. But beating us over the head with this idiot stick? Toyota sales must be good, I guess. I will never buy a Toyota. Never. And this commercial is the nail in that coffin.
— Brittany from Temecula, California, posted on Facebook this week, on the Patriots’ potential to clinch early: I hope that we do not clinch a bye this weekend! I think TB12 plays his best when his back is up against the wall. I hate the complacency and think that will get us in trouble in the long run. Brittany: Interesting observation. I must admit, I’ve thought much the same way throughout this week, even though both Miami and Pittsburgh would have to lose for the Patriots to have the chance at actually clinching a bye this week — with three weeks left to play in the regular season! Complacency is a championship-killer. Sitting players when they’re able to play just so they don’t get hurt — I’ve never understood. Football players play football. Dallas’ Jerry Jones said it best when asked a similar question about the Cowboys clinching an early postseason spot: “Business as usual.” For once in my life, I agree with him.
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