Thinking out loud … while wondering if the Round Mound of Rebound ever faced the weight-watching onslaught that Kung Fu Panda is experiencing.
— Feeling a case of “sweaty palms” coming on? That can only mean one thing for college basketball fans at this time of year — you’ve got a case of March Madness. It’s the only explanation. And there is no known cure, except to sweat it out.
— Oh, there might be a cure for Friars fans, at least a temporary cure, if the team can find a way to fix its current predicament. It goes to show you, we just can’t have nice things around here, can we?
— Maybe some of the players were sick. Or, maybe some of the players have forgotten how to shoot. It’s really as simple as that, after watching the pasting at the hands of Seton Hall on Thursday night. The Friars have turned into the “gang that can’t shoot straight” after missing an astounding 30 of the final 40 shots they took from the floor.
— Want some mo’? How ‘bout this: In nine of the past 13 games the Friars have managed to shoot less than 40 percent from the field. In those nine games they are a mere 1-8. I gotta lotta mo’ just like that one, but will hold the rest for the sake of having some common decency. This could go downhill real fast.
— If you play defense every night in the Big East, you’ll stay in every game with a chance to win. For the Friars, the defense just isn’t consistent, as the team has a tendency to play in spurts or stretches. The 2-3 zone is OK, man-to-man has its moments but usually succumbs to mental lapses. Streaky defense with no offense is not a combination that will win games in this league, and we’ve known this for 30 years. Nothing has changed.
— The most frustrating part of watching this team lose five of six has been to see repeated mistakes. Mistakes that are made over and over again. Turnovers. Poor decisions. Lack of intensity at key moments. Other teams are making the plays the Friars made earlier in the year. It’s caught up to them.
— Now it’s “backs to the wall” time. At home against DePaul and Creighton and then on the road to finish at St. John’s. For the Friars to dance, when it seemed all but certain a month ago, winning these three can still seal the deal. Short of that? All bets are off.
— Got asked this week, “When’s the next Ed Cooley radio show?” Good timing for the question. It is Monday night, at Audi Warwick on Bald Hill Road (Route 2). Show begins at 7 p.m. on 103.7 FM, and it is free and open to the public.
— Not much on the recruiting front to get excited about — yet — but it was interesting to hear this week PC commit Maliek White was named conference player of the year in his Virginia high school league. It’s the second straight year for White to take the honor, and he’s expected to challenge Kyron Cartwright for time at the point next year after Kris Dunn moves on.
— Xavier’s depth was as much a factor as any reason for its play in beating No. 1 Villanova 90-83 Wednesday, its first-ever win over the Wildcats since joining the Big East. Nova’s foul trouble proved as much. Both teams hit shots, both teams missed, but the Musketeers managed to scrap their way to a lot of second-chances.
— The X-Men (as Fox’s Gus Johnson somewhat nauseatingly calls them) have a lot of options. They’re not a perfect team, by any means. But they’re good enough to beat anyone, anywhere. And they just might.
— The Musketeers’ Myles Davis (the guy who looks like he’s 40) is making a late push for postseason honors. Triple-doubles will do that for you.
— And it might be heresy around here, but X’s Edmond Sumner — just a redshirt freshman — could very well be the next Kris Dunn in the Big East. Only, Sumner doesn’t turn the ball over. He’s long, lean, uber-athletic and quick. Sumner had a behind-the-back dish to teammate James Farr in the second half against the Wildcats that could best be described as “French pastry,” it tasted so good.
— And the pass left Farr laughing. It was that good.
— With PC’s stumble down the stretch this season, it puts the Big East in a perilous position when it comes to at-large possibilities for the NCAAs. Seton Hall now should be good for a spot, and if the Friars can hang on, they’ll make it four. Creighton and Butler most likely are battling for a fifth spot, but only if Providence can find a way to pull out of this tailspin.
— Or, make a shot. Let’s start with that.
— Overheard in conversation this week was a fan’s obvious displeasure with Butler sharpshooter Kelan Martin’s initial desire to come to Providence. This is a story confirmed with Ed Cooley in December, and talked about on his coach’s show as the Friars readied to open the Big East against the Bulldogs. Instead, PC opted for a higher-rated Jalen Lindsey at the time, when it came to recruiting both players. No one ever said recruiting 18-year-old kids was an exact science, did they?
— Martin is a terrific player and definitely can bury the ball from deep. Lindsey has had trouble with his confidence, more than anything else, but has learned to contribute in a few other ways. Hope he gets the swag in his stroke back, but until he does he still can be very valuable on the glass and on defense with his length.
— URI’s loss of Hassan Martin to knee troubles this week is a rather inglorious, unexpected end to the Rams’ season. There still are games to play, and the Atlantic-10 tournament in Brooklyn is coming up, but does anyone really believe there’s anything to play for?
— Obviously that’s overstating things a bit. Sure, there’s potential postseason — wherever that might be — to play for, as long as you win a few more. But after losing E.C. Matthews in the season opener, and now Martin, the despair and hard luck emanating from Kingston is palpable. Your two best players gone? Time to rest, relax, regroup and rehab. We’re on to 2016-17.
— Jim Donaldson wrote about it recently in the Providence Journal, but I tend to believe he did it as a preemptive strike from feeling too poorly about his Notre Dame Fighting Irish having been beaten — twice — last weekend at the hands of the fifth-ranked PC hockey Friars. That is, that these Friars could very well be in a great position to repeat as national champs again this year.
— Nate Leaman has said it. He thinks this team may be more skilled overall, but last year’s champs were the ultimate grinders. If this year’s team could find a little of that je ne sais quoi, watch out.
— These Friars have had an offensive-minded defense most of this season, and junior goaltender Nick Ellis has proven he can control a game from between the pipes. Ellis was Hockey East’s Defensive Player of the Week, stopping 54 of 57 shots against ND last weekend. Health, as it usually becomes, is a huge factor in the stretch run to the postseason.
— Words Unlimited, Rhode Island’s statewide organization of sports writers, broadcasters and sports publicists, will be holding its 70th annual awards banquet this weekend at the West Valley Inn in West Warwick — with a decided Friars flavor. The men’s hockey team will be honored as the R.I. Team of the Year, while last season’s national championship goalie, Jon Gillies, will receive Male Athlete of the Year. Cross-country superstar Emily Sisson takes Female Athlete of the Year, and longtime golf coach Joe Prisco takes the Amby Smith Award for service — after serving 60 years on the PC campus.
— I’m sorry, but what’s the fuss over Pablo Sandoval’s fat? Shouldn’t the real criticism here be pointed toward management, which signed him to a big, fat contract in the first place? Just sayin’.
— Realizing, of course, the gentlemen who pulled the trigger on this heist no longer are with the team. But John Henry and Tom Werner certainly had a right of refusal, did they not? Look, I get why they brought Sandoval in. They needed a third baseman, he does have charisma, he had great postseasons in San Francisco and he’s generally considered a likable guy.
— Loved the feigned indignance from Werner this week on WEEI at spring training, as if he were being fed a scripted line from the on-air devil himself, Kirk Minihane. He was disappointed in Sandoval’s “shape” on arrival? What did he really expect? If Werner is now the Red Sox‘ de facto PR mouthpiece, stepping in for Larry Lucchino, this should be some ride this summer.
— And entertaining, too. After all, that’s Werner’s business, isn’t it? That’s En-ter-tain-ment!
— Not for nuthin’, but there is a reason why Sandoval has the nickname “Kung Fu Panda.” As in, panda bear. A bear is large, and loves to eat. So does Pablo. Should have been a little more due diligence done in this regard, methinks.
— This being said, as I was one of those who believed his arrival was a good thing and not a reason to hide the women and children from his expanding waistline, let’s let the spring play out. Sports radio is making a mountain out of a, well, a rather large molehill. That’s what sports radio does. But isn’t spring training for getting into shape?
— Round is a shape, I know. Some guys are just big-boned, or barrel-chested. Maybe the Panda is one of those guys, with both of those, um, attributes?
— But get ready, Travis Shaw. first base, third base, it may not matter. There’s another problem on the other side of the diamond, and Shaw could be an answer for both.
— My buddy Statbeast sez Sandoval is not the heaviest player he’s seen out on the baseball field lately. But if he had to name five of the fattest people he’s seen playing, Panda would be three of them.
— Hanley Ramirez and first base? I will believe it when I see it.
— Clay Buchholz and 200 innings? I will believe that after I see that.
— The Red Sox and the American League playoffs? I will believe — oh, forget it.
— The new baseball rule for this season I like? Timed mound visits at 30 seconds. What else needs to be said to the pitcher — either, “Throw strikes,” or, “We’re making a change.” That’s it.
— Is there anything in sports more overblown (other than Pablo Sandoval’s waistline, sure) than the NFL combine? The testing, timing, prodding, measuring, pinching, poking of prospective pro football players in tights has me thinking we’ve got a few priorities out of whack.
— And you watch this stuff? Some sure do, watching televised tape-measuring live on NFL Network. It’s the “Underwear Olympics,” as the combine has been referred to. Wake me up when there’s some football-related drills going on that might actually mean something on a football field. On second thought, nah, never mind.
— What do the Patriots need to prioritize in the offseason? Running back, offensive line and possibly wide receiver. Although, finding another player to put in the mix as a cornerback on defense would be welcomed, certainly.
— From this vantage point, however, the defense may have been better — top to bottom — than the defense from the previous year’s Super Bowl champion. A pass rush will do that for you. But another talented corner to work into the mix in the backfield could be super-good, too. Expect the Patriots to kick a lot of tires in free agency. Those that have tread, may travel to Foxboro.
— On the offensive line, the thought is next season’s starters — if healthy — already are in place. Depth certainly can be addressed, through the draft or through free agency. Hope they don’t put too much of a burden on Dante Scarnecchia’s once-retired shoulders. That’s one reason he retired a couple of years ago in the first place.
— Wide receiver? Is there a field-stretcher out there not named Calvin Johnson who might be available?
— Rhode Island prep football legend Liam Coen is headed to a new job, as offensive coordinator at the University of Maine. Coen, who prepped at Rhode Island’s La Salle Academy then became a record-setting quarterback at UMass a decade ago, had been the passing game coordinator and QB coach for Mark Whipple’s current Minutemen.
— Well now. The Revs have arrived. Gillette Stadium will be imposing the clear bag restrictions on fans entering the facility for soccer matches this spring and summer, just as the stadium does for Patriots games in the fall. Gotta keep those vuvuzelas out of the building.
— The PawSox tell us Mondays at McCoy this season will be “My Hero Mondays,” recognizing local heroism and also recognizing the unrecognized. It’s a great idea. Fans are asked to submit their nominations by email to email@example.com, or by completing a submission form online at pawsox.com.
— Who remembers the “Round Mound of Rebound” in the NBA? It was none other than “Sir Charles” Barkley, who continues to confound and entertain audiences with his, um, unique basketball analysis on the NBA for TV audiences. Soon he’ll undoubtedly begin working his magic/logic for the college game as well, when the NCAA Tournament gets started. At 6-foot-6, Barkley was the shortest player to ever lead the NBA in rebounding — and he even refuted that measurement in his autobiography, “I May Be Wrong but I Doubt It,” when he said he’s only 6-4 in his stocking feet. What he lacked in height he more than made up in weight, once topping the scales at 252 pounds, thus the nickname “Round Mound of Rebound.” Barkley, despite his girth, was on the 1992 Olympic Dream team with Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. He was named All-NBA first team five times, made 11 NBA All-Star Game appearances and was named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players. If Barkley ever had any trouble with fans and media calling him “fat,” he’d probably agree with them, then simply let his play speak for itself. Pablo Sandoval would be wise to follow suit. If he can fit into the suit.
— Chris (@chrishoags11) tweeted at me this week: I’m done. PC went from fun overachievers to a team that bought into their clippings. Bentil is only 1 that brings it 100%. Chris: I won’t try to convince you this season isn’t over, because clearly you believe it is. That’s unfortunate. I share your frustration, but the current problems the Friars are experiencing are multiple in nature. Personally, I don’t recall a season-ending spin-out quite like this, unless you go back to Ryan Gomes‘ senior year. That team, however, didn’t start out with the promise like this one did. This team teased us, getting up to eighth in the rankings, sure. What bothers me as a fan: little to no apparent adjustment offensively with the way this team is shooting (or not shooting) the ball. Live by the 3? Die by the 3. And 0-for-14 from deep (before Bentil hit four against the Pirates) should tell you all you need to know.
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