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Thinking Out Loud: Tough week for Providence basketball

01.13.17 at 11:49 am ET

Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering where M.L. Carr is waving his towels these days.

— Having a hard time coming up with a more devastating defeat than the one the Friars suffered this week on the road at DePaul, losing 64-63 after a last-second miss from Kyron Cartwright. At least, not in recent memory. You’ve heard the twisted cliché “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?”

— That’s exactly what happened in PC’s final appearance at the All State Arena in Rosemont, Illinois this week. Providence’s defense gave up 20 points in four minutes, after giving up 44 points in the previous 36 minutes. That it happened against DePaul, rather than against Villanova or Xavier, is telling.

— Ironically, the old Rosemont Horizon has actually been kind to Providence through the years, with a 10-7 record in the Windy City. DePaul will move into their brand new Wintrust Arena for next season. It might be the big boost a once-proud program really needs to become relevant again.

— DePaul’s All State Arena reminds me of what the Dunkin Donuts Center was like before the renovations in the mid-2000’s. A definite dark, dank 1970’s feel to it. Which was about the last time the Blue Demons were really any good, with a guy named Mark Aguirre playing for them.

— Personally, I haven’t been as deflated from a game like the DePaul game this week since PC lost to a nationally-6th ranked Pittsburgh team by 27 points in 2004, when the Friars were ranked 12th themselves. This time though, it’s different. Both of these teams are struggling. And the Friars struggled more than the Blue Demons.

— Part of the struggles come from injuries, as both Cartwright and Jalen Lindsey are less than 100 percent. Cartwright has knee tendonitis that has become very painful at times, and he’ll need to come to the conclusion very soon that it’s simply something he’ll have to play through.

— Lindsey sprained the thumb on his non-shooting hand in a late fall against Creighton. Why that kept him out of the entire game in Chicago, against a beatable team, I don’t know. But I do know this, it shouldn’t be a surprise PC lost at DePaul without both of those players, really.

— Seton Hall brings one of the Big East’s most talented teams to the Dunk Saturday, even though the Pirates are 2-2 in league play. Similar to Butler and perhaps Marquette, SHU can put the ball in the hole, but can they defend well enough?

— Offensively, center Angel Delgado has 10 straight double-double performances, and Desi Rodriguez and Khadeen Carrington have more than picked up the slack from NBA draftee Isaiah Whitehead. This is an NCAA team, the kind you have to beat at home if you have any designs of your own, ya’ know?

— Through three weeks of conference play, no one in the Big East is undefeated. Not because they stink, but because they’re all pretty good. Creighton, to me, may be better than everyone else by the end of the season. Yes, Villanova beat them by 10 a week ago. They’re still pretty good, too.

— Don’t sleep on Marquette. The Golden Eagles have a young, talented team themselves. Coach Wojo has some athletes, and one of the best players no one yet knows about (Markus Howard) but can they stop anyone other than themselves? Seems to be a common problem in the Big East this year.

— Such a tragedy that ex-PC great Soup Campbell passed away too soon. Campbell will have his jersey retired Feb. 11th along with several other notable Friar greats, and I’ll wager he’d be proud to have seen his son Justin play so well for Rhode Island College. Justin scored 16 points and pulled down seven rebounds as the Anchormen won their first Little East game this week over Southern Maine.

— URI’s stumble at Dayton last week was the type of game that can beat you twice. So much buildup and anticipation beforehand, and when you fall short, it takes some time to build that momentum back up again. It’s as good as reason as any for LaSalle’s win Thursday night.

— But if the Friars’ loss at DePaul was brutal, the Rams’ 87-75 home loss to the Explorers was equally harsh. And surprising. LaSalle coach John Giannini said afterward he was thrilled with the win “over an NCAA team.” Not if URI keeps playing like that, they won’t be.

— Want a common thread between the respective humbling for both PC and URI? Defense. Defense. Defense. Or a lack thereof.

— Next for Rhody is UMass – a team that just popped Dayton. Welcome to the grind.

— Brown starts Ivy League play after tying its best-ever non-league slate at 9-7. The 2001-02 team also won nine games before Ivy play started and that team had a guard by the name of Mike Martin on the squad. Funny, but Brown has a head coach by the same name. Yup, same guy.

— Opening league play on the road at Princeton and Penn this weekend is the first time the Bears haven’t started with Yale in 12 seasons. Part of their success story this season? Brown has made more free throws (337) than any other Ivy team has attempted.

— A couple of other local hoop teams are experiencing success of late – Northeastern’s Huskies beat UConn earlier this year, and currently hold an eight-game winning streak after beating Drexel this week. Wakefield, RI native and Florida grad transfer Alex Murphy leads the team in rebounding and is second on the team in scoring.

— And all of a sudden, that PC loss to Boston College doesn’t look as bad as it did a month ago, does it? True, it was a painful event, much like this week’s defeat at DePaul. But the Eagles are 2-2 in the ACC, 9-8 overall, after going 0-for-18 a year ago and they gave Duke all the Blue Devils could handle.

— The Eagles are at Syracuse this weekend, and beat the Orange by 15 points at the Conte Forum on New Years’ Day.

— The Fenway Sports Group announced the return of college football to Fenway Park next fall, and Brown will “host” Dartmouth Friday night, November 10th at the home of the Boston Red Sox. It’s actually not the first time the two teams have played at Fenway – but it will be the first time in 94 years since they met each other there way back in 1923. Kinda cool.

— Four other New England college football teams will play at Fenway in the fall – UMass will “host” Maine the day after Brown and Dartmouth meet, on November 11th. Should be a challenge for the grounds crew less than 24 hours later, don’tcha think?

— And UConn will play a home game at Fenway, hosting BC on November 18th. It will be UConn’s first appearance at Fenway, but BC’s 77th. And the Huskies will be “at home?” Yes, they will. With a big, fat guarantee check making them feel right at home.

— My buddy “Big E” sez he got a text from his wife recently, on what happened to be a fairly cold morning: “Windows frozen, won’t open.” So, he texted back: “Gently pour some lukewarm water over it and then gently tap edges with a hammer.” His wife texted back 10 minutes later: “Computer really messed up now.”

— Anyone else ready for the Patriots to step out against Houston? Two weeks of prep time and talk before a playoff-pounding? That’s more than any entitled, self-righteous or spoiled Patriots fan should have to bear, amiright?

— After losing to New England and 3rd string QB Jacoby Brissett 27-0 in September, the way I see it, the Texans have two chances to win against the Patriots. Slim, and none.

— And Slim is out of town.

— In reality, it’s usually pretty difficult to whip up on a team a second time in the same season, especially after beating them up previously. Just go back to the infamous “Buttfumble” game against the Jets in 2010, which the Patriots won 45-3. New York’s revenge came in the divisional round of the playoffs, winning 28-21.

— In Houston’s case, however, perhaps we can make an exception.

— Anyone else see the irony of Vince Wilfork starting and ending his NFL career in Foxboro, at Gillette Stadium?

— Among the teams to fear, no, the Texans are not one of them. But the Steelers might be, especially if they get past Kansas City. Their two best players, running back Le’Veon Bell and receiver Antonio Brown, are probably the two best in the NFL at their respective positions.

— There was absolutely nothing wild about Wild Card Weekend, was there? Just sayin’.

— I’m not even sure the Giants’ Odell Beckham, Jr. deserves this week’s “stupid is as stupid does” tag line. But OBJ’s little side trip to ride on Justin Bieber’s yacht before stinking it up against Green Bay last week may have taken stupidity to a new level. Forget the fact that the “Biebs” is a jinx, anyway.

— The cycle of life rolls on – Doug Marrone, the one-time Syracuse and Buffalo Bills coach, has life again in the NFL at Jacksonville. Former Giants coach Tom Coughlin also has life again, as Marrone’s boss. Now if the Jaguars have success, like they once did when Coughlin coached them from ’95-‘02, think the Giants will hire him back again?

— They probably should. He wouldn’t put up with OBJ’s antics, would he?

— Clemson’s win over Alabama for the CFP championship was a great finish, absolutely. But was it the best college game ever? Nope, not even close. For a title game, it was a memorable finish. But from start-to-finish, I’ll take the breathtaking, comeback win for Texas beating USC in the ’06 Rose Bowl as the best title game EVER.

— And that has absolutely ZERO to do with my Longhorn heritage. Well, okay, maybe it does a little bit. But the Longhorns and Trojans played one for the ages, and it was called by the legendary “voice of the Rose Bowl” and “voice of college football” Keith Jackson, too. That alone separates those two games.

— DeShaun Watson and Ben Boulware, two of the Tigers’ national title heroes, can play for my team anytime, anywhere.

— Zen Question of the Week: If there are too many college bowl games these days, and few of them actually seem to sell any tickets or gain any TV attention, then how come there are at least seven bowl game executive directors who make more than $500K in annual compensation? reported this little nugget last week.

— Soccer geeks and snobs tell me that FIFA’s World Cup expansion to 48 teams in 2026 isn’t good for the sport. So, more teams, more fans, more countries involved, more money, more attention, more popularity, more people actually caring about the sport in the first place isn’t a good thing. Is that about right?

— Luxury tax? No Edwin Encarnacion because of the luxury tax? Because he would have cost the team a first round draft pick? When the hole in the middle of the lineup next summer – with all of that pitching that now appears in the pen – ceases to close itself, just picture John Henry’s happiness with staying under the luxury tax. That should keep you going until football kicks off.

— Truth be known, as the Boston Globe pointed out, the Sox would have been a 3rd time offender in going over the luxury tax threshold, had they signed Encarnacion. That would have meant a larger penalty on top of the tax penalty itself. So, an $11 beer at Fenway could have been upped to $12, or $15, right? That should have just about covered things.

— What’s with the Celtics and the 3-ball? Through last weekend, they had actually made more three’s than Golden State so far this season. Is Al Horford’s inside presence really paying off, or is this just a statistical anomaly?

— Isaiah Thomas is an anomaly, all to himself. He’s 5-foot-9. He was the last pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. He’s also tied for 4th in the NBA in scoring going into this weekend. And King LeBron James says he’s a star, so he must be.

— Not for nuthin’, but since his trade nearly two years ago to Boston, Thomas has been more than just a star. He’s developed into a franchise player. Not yet Larry Bird-like or Paul Pierce-esque, but where would this team be without him?

— In conversation about the Celtics this week, M.L. Carr’s name came up – as in “whatever happened to?” Well, you’ll recall he played for 11 seasons, starting in the ABA in St. Louis, then moving to the NBA with Detroit. Carr came to the Celtics in free agency after leading the league in steals for the 1979-80 season, and played a big part in Banner 14’s eventual hanging in the Garden rafters. Yes, he’s best known for the towel he waved from the bench to fire his teammates (and fans) up, and he later coached the team (after becoming the GM) for two rather miserable seasons 20 years ago. Has it been that long? After a foiled attempt at NBA ownership in Charlotte, Carr is still in the Boston area and involved in the food business and other entrepreneurial and philanthropic endeavors.

— Nick in Las Vegas, Nevada posted on Facebook this week: “I hate saying this, as I never want teams to be lacking in preparation, but I can safely say the Texans have NO CHANCE. N-O-N-E. They are horrible and don’t belong, just the facts, JR.” Nick: While I believe most Patriots fans like you, Nick, believe likewise – I’m reminded of a phrase that I like to lean on quite often. “Never say never.” And another one – “this is why you play the game.” Oh, and one more – “s*it happens.”

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