Thinking out loud: What to make of Providence basketball

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Thinking out loud…while wondering why we always have to mess with a good thing…

·       In a word, it was ugly.

·       In another word, déjà vu.  We’ve seen this before.  The Friars’ trip to Asheville, NC for the Maui Invitational this week was the basketball equivalent of banging your head against a brick wall.

·       It hurts now.  It might bleed pretty soon.

·       Providence knew what they needed to do to compete with, and beat, a couple of pretty good teams in Indiana and Alabama.  Defend, rebound.  Make a couple of shots.

·       They did none of the above.  But there’s talent on Ed Cooley’s bench.  Reminiscent of last season’s slow start during non-league play, these Friars just haven’t gotten the message.  Yet.

·       Big Nate Watson has, however.  But he can only do so much…and he can be a much, much better rebounder than he’s showing.  He’ll have to be.  He and his teammates really miss Alpha Diallo and Kalif Young…and this team should not be beaten up on the backboards like we saw in Asheville this week.

·       David Duke needs to expect other teams to try their best to shut him down.  He’s going to get their best efforts every night out.  David also needs to realize he should return the favor.

·       Not for nuthin’, but Bill Walton is interminable, if nothing else.  He’s a lot of other things, too – like a Hall of Fame player…and personality.  But having worked with him years ago on ESPN Radio, he hasn’t changed.  At all.

·       Still loves to hear himself go on and on about…nothing.

·       Especially this week during the Maui Invitational.  Wondering why ESPN television continues to allow him to ‘analyze’ games he has very little actual interest in broadcasting.  They actually may have cut-off his remote mic during the first half of Texas-Indiana on Tuesday.

·       Does he need the money?  Maybe he’s the ganja ‘supplier’ for the Grand Poobahs at the World Wide Leader?

·       Deep breath in now…hold it, hold it, hold it…exhale.  Whew.  Now, who gives a **** about Bill Walton again?

·       Besides, Ernie and Marvin would have kicked him to the curb if they’d had the chance back in the day.  Walton used to tell me that he heard from Friar fans weekly – 30+ years after the ’73 Final Four – about how Marvin Barnes would’ve kicked his *ss if Barnes hadn’t wrecked his knee against Memphis State and PC had faced his UCLA Bruins.

·       For the record, Walton was never amused by that, as he reminded me every time we spoke about the subject HE always brought up first.  No matter what we were talking about.  On the air or off, the conversation always escalated (or degenerated, depending on your POV) into the Friars and Marvin Barnes.

·       Excellent rebound in the early going for URI, getting a win in Kingston against Seton Hall this week.  That’s three straight wins for the Rams after two losses, and the best news is – they didn’t mishandle a marquee opportunity to score potential NCAA at-large points.

·       Ram fans, you’ll need to rah-rah for the Pirates the rest of the way, don’t you know?

·       Rich-wha?  Richmond beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena this past week.  The Atlantic-10 has a new heavyweight.  Somewhere, Coach Carter – and maybe Samuel L. Jackson, too – is smiling.

·       Bryant got its’ first win on the road at New Hampshire, without head coach Jared Grasso who was sidelined with a bad back.  The Bulldogs also scheduled a quick trip to Bubbleville for games with Drexel and Quinnipiac that weren’t previously scheduled, but hey, it’s 2020…and now, they’ll settle instead for a game at UMass-Lowell next week.

·       The NEC announced this week a plan for fall sports to play abbreviated schedules this spring – including football.  Bryant will play a four-game conference schedule beginning March 5-7.

·       It is a nutty, crazy time throughout college hoop’s first two weeks.  As of mid-week this week and only one full week into the season, at least 39 programs (at last count) are on a full-length ‘time out’ from practicing or playing, including Vermont (opening Dec. 19) and Northeastern (Dec. 9).

·       That total does not count the entire Ivy League shutting down, along with most of the Patriot League until conference play (except Army and Navy).

·       And Navy just beat Georgetown at Georgetown.  Bully for the Middies…playing a, well, bully.

·       The Big East has had a wild scramble in the scheduling department, too.  Villanova stuck around in Bubbleville at Mohegan Sun to pick up an extra, previously unscheduled game.  Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard reports he had Covid.

·       St. John’s played BYU in Bubbleville – and scheduled Rider for this week after a game with Fordham was cancelled due to a positive Covid test on the Rams’ team.

·       Nearly every team in the league has been affected with quarantine, postponement or cancellation and the season isn’t yet two weeks old.

·       18 Ivy League basketball players are presently in the NCAA transfer portal, including Tamenang Choh, Jake Shaper and Matt DeWolf from Brown, thanks to the Ivy decision to quit on the season.

·       Columbia’s program has been decimated, with half of its’ roster looking to leave school.

·       The CDC’s decision this week to shorten mandatory quarantine time for close contact with positives should be a major step forward in college athletics playing – and maybe completing – its’ football and basketball seasons.

·       Contact tracing has magnified many of the issues within athletic departments.  For anyone testing positive, the quarantine and isolation time is now 10 days, rather than 14.  We’ll see if conferences (Big East, hello!) figure out a way to adjust.

·       What’s working if anything?  The new Name-Image-Likeness rules are already working – if you’re a cheerleader.  It’s because that organization is not governed by the NCAA, so cheerleaders have already been signing lucrative deals with companies to represent them in the social media world.

·       They’re called “cheerlebrities.”  I did not make that up.  And some cheerleaders make up to $5K per social media post for major brands.

·       Looks like it pays to ‘rah-rah-rah’ for more than just your school these days.

·       Speaking of rah-rah, PC-BC are on the ice this weekend in a home and home.  Old school Hockey East – and the season openers for the Friars, who return eight of their top nine scorers from last season.  BC swept a two-game set with UMass opening their season last weekend.

·       If you’re thinking/hoping things return to normal in the sports world soon, you might want to rein in those thoughts.  Dr. Anthony Fauci this week told Yahoo Sports full-capacity stadiums are unlikely to return in 2021.

·       But we might see a sense of ‘normalcy’ with some fans in the stands by the summer.  And likely with masks.  Fauci told Yahoo any return to ’normalcy’ by late in 2021 depends upon the public’s willingness to get vaccinated.

·       The NFL scheduling frenzy this week, giving us our first taste of “WNF” (Wednesday Night Football!) was over-the-top nutty.  Never let it be said the NFL lacks for flexibility.  Or insanity.

·       The 49ers were kicked out of their own stadium thanks to Covid regulations in Santa Clara county.  They’ll relocate for a couple of weeks to Arizona, infect some Arizonans and play the Cardinals while they’re waiting out their return.

·       Wait, wut?

·       Have zero issue with the NFL forcing the QB-less Denver Broncos to play, and subsequently lose to New Orleans last week.  When you can’t (or don’t) follow the rules, like the Denver QB’s didn’t by not wearing masks, you suffer the consequences.

·       There’s already too much entitlement in our world today.  We certainly don’t need it in the sports world, where pro athletes are allegedly PAID to follow rules.

·       Amazon continues to move into and ingratiate itself with a younger crowd in the NFL.  Trying to shake off Amazon-owned streaming channel Twitch’s ‘video game’ reputation, the league’s average audience on the service is up 45% over last year – and two-thirds of that audience (17.5 million daily visitors) is under the age of 35.

·       All this yada-yada about Patriots’ pathways to the playoffs?  C’mon man, time for a cliché – one step at a time.  And let’s not count chickens before they’re hatched.  You can lead the horse to water, but can’t make it…ok, that’s enough.

·       The three-game roady beginning this weekend in Cali (against the Chargers, Thursday against the Rams, then at Miami) will be the deal-maker or deal-breaker for any alleged pathway.

·       This un-Patriot-like year ain’t all Cam’s fault.  If I’m pointing the fickle finger of fate at anyone, it’s karma that deserves the spotlight.  Sometimes the breaks, turnovers and opportunities just don’t go your way…after 20 years or so.

·       But GM Bill < Coach Bill.  Just sayin’.

·       Tweet of the Week, from @Chatham58: “There are crackheads who hate the first days of recovery less than some #Patriots fanz irrationally hate N’Keal Harry. And they’re still on their parents’ insurance.”

·       Ok, so it appears the Matt Patricia branch of the Bill Belichick coaching tree has a little root rot in it.

·       CBS is having trouble selling out all 42 minutes of commercial time for SB LV.  Not that they won’t, but the travel and movie industries have been hardest hit by the pandemic…and they normally are big buyers.  An ad slot has doubled in cost – to approximately $5 million – over the past decade.

·       It does seem mad, I’ll admit.  As of the end of last weekend, there were more than 100 FBS games cancelled or postponed due to the continuing struggles with Covid-19.

·       Most postponements have happened due to contact tracing protocols that require a 14-day quarantine for high-risk contact.

·       Perhaps that will ease somewhat with the newer CDC guidelines and suggested quarantine time frame.  But it will still be up to conferences to decide what protocols member schools must follow.

·       Florida State is not playing for a 3rd straight week.  The Big 10 schedule is a mess.  Florida, Missouri, Houston, Memphis, Baylor, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Virginia Tech, Arkansas State, Charlotte, Rice, Texas A&M, Arizona State, Miami and Wake Forest have all experienced multiple postponements or cancellations.

·       There are already away too many bowl games, we know.  But a tradition like the Sun Bowl in El Paso, TX – played every year since 1935 – is different.  And now, postponed for the first time in 85 years…cancelled by the effects of the pandemic in West Texas.

·       Went to two Sun Bowls during my time as a student at Texas in the late 70’s and early ‘80’s.  I don’t remember much.  Except for the dog track, the roaming mariachis, $1 highballs and 10-cent tequila shots.  I was told about those last two much, much later.

·       No Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium or Fenway Bowl in Boston either, ICYMI.  This year will be the lowest number of bowl games since 2008.  Nine post-season games have so far been called off, and 34 holiday classics are still scheduled – for now.

·       Best part of the Sarah Fuller story, smashing the college football power program barrier for women last week?  She gets to kick again this weekend as Vanderbilt’s placekicker – against Georgia.

·       Besides playing for an interim coach (the head coach was fired last week after Fuller’s debut, but not because OF her debut), how else do you get interest in an 0-8 program?  That’s some Must See TV right there.  Whoa.

·       Girl Dads, and their daughters across the country, have to be Vanderbilt Commodores’ fans, amiright?  Fuller’s NIL possibilities are through the roof – her following on Twitter grew by 17,000% - and a good example of what these soon-to-be-available rights might do for college athletes.

·       As the late, great Slim Pickens once said in “Blazing Saddles” – “What in the wide, wide world of sports is-a-goin-on here?”  ‘Cuz the New England Revolution is a hard XI (that’s eleven – soccer term from the hardos) to figure out.

·       Mostly underachieving in their 25-year existence, the Revs are knocking on the door of elitism once again on the American pitch.

·       Two words:  Bruce Arena.  He’s changed the franchise culture, and their immediate future by playing in the MLS Eastern Conference finals this week with two playoff road wins.  They hadn’t had a postseason win in six years.

·       Win at Columbus, and they can change the culture a bit more, by getting the Oh-fer off their backsides.   The Revs are the Buffalo Bills of MLS, having lost title games in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2014.

·       This’ll make my buddy Edward in East Providence happy.  Thanks to the Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit,” sales of chess sets have grown by 87% since the show premiered.

·       And chess has also increased in popularity on Twitch (yes, people WATCH chess online), with more than 41 million hours watched from March to August this year.

·       Don’t you people have something else better to do?

·       Michigan is joining the sports betting rush, and Canada may not be far behind.  Estimates in Canada say legalized sports gambling could raise $1.1 billion in revenue for Ontario alone over the next five years.

·       Hey Mass legislature?  Shouldn’t you join the party before it’s over?  Even Rhode Island figured that out.

·       Did you see where there’s a new Minor League for MLB’s top-level prospects?  The MLB Draft League will consist of a five-team, 68-game schedule, coinciding with the usual early-July draft time.

·       Teams will be placed in cities where they previously lost a team to contraction.  Why not Pawtucket?  There’s a stadium in place, waiting for someone to utilize it.

·       The Red Sox would have to give permission to another organization impeding on their territory.  And that Ain’t.  Gonna.  Happen.

·       Minor League Baseball is shrinking from 160 affiliated teams to 120 this offseason.  MLB and MiLB teams will move from a franchise model to a licensing model, with MLB taking over merchandising, broadcast and sponsorship rights, and splitting net revenues 50-50 with the minor league clubs.

·       The Lowell Spinners are currently in professional purgatory, if you will, hoping to remain a viable club in some affiliated capacity.  The Connecticut Tigers (now the Norwich Sea Unicorns) and Vermont Lake Monsters, also in the soon-to-be reconstituted New York-Penn League, are also in flux.

·       The NYPL could become a summer college wooden-bat league, rather than a short-season Class A league of major league-affiliated teams.

·       Leave it to the Celtics, finally scratching something out of Gordon Hayward’s departure so as not to have egg all over the parquet floor – to set a trend the NBA is now scowling about.

·       The player-trade exception could – could – allow the C’s to bring in another big-salaried player.  Which isn’t really what the system is supposed to allow…as league GM’s are grumbling, sez Forbes this week.

·       Tatum.  Brown.  And?  Perhaps another iteration of the “Big 3” is still out on the horizon.

·       Hate the Celtics’ new ‘banner’ uniforms.  Don’t mess with perfection.

·       But I kinda like the new Miami ‘Vice’ uniforms. I dunno.  Maybe I just have a little Sonny Crockett in me.

·       Ted from Providence sent this interesting, and ominous email: “With NYC almost assuredly headed for another lockdown, what do conferences like the Big East and A-10 have as backup plans for their postseason tourneys if they’d still be under lockdown or severe restrictions come March?”

·       Ted – those plans are changing every day.  Right now, both leagues hope to play out their conference schedules as close to normal as possible, allowing for some time to periodically make up games that might be postponed along the way.

·       Alternate league championship sites outside of NYC are being considered.  In the Big East’s case, you might recall they had an insurance policy last year that allowed them to recoup much of what they lost at the Garden, or about $10.5 million.  That policy is, as I understand it, still in effect for 2021.  And, 2022.

·       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 jrooke@weei.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here!  Would appreciate the follow on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and join in on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Cordischi and Coit!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.