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Thinking Out Loud: Disappointing seasons for Providence, URI hoops

01.27.17 at 1:22 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering what Cammi Granato has been up to?

— Growing pains. Both in a program sense, as well as in an immediate sense, but that’s what the Providence Friars and URI Rams are both experiencing right about now. And no lie here, it’s disappointing.

— The Friars teased us during the non-conference schedule. The reality is, a strong defensive effort is needed every night out in the Big East, and St. John’s ripped them apart with a very talented freshman backcourt Wednesday night at the Dunk. 91 points? Ed Cooley’s teams have never allowed 91 points at home until Wednesday.

— I really like the long-term potential of freshman big man Kalif Young. He runs the floor as well as any post player we’ve seen in years – but his hands need a lot of work. It’s one thing to run the floor and get to the basket, but what good is it if you can’t catch the ball offered up by a guard?

— One other thing? Big fella, you’re here to rebound the ball. Go grab a few. And you need to work on your free throws. Shaquille O’Neal, you’re not.

— St. John’s ability to score off the dribble was off the charts Wednesday night. Either they have extraordinary, NBA-like ability to create their own offense, or PC’s defense was putrid. Take your pick, but they’d both be a little bit right.

— And the Johnnies’ head coach is one of the 50 best to have ever played the game – Hall of Famer and St. John’s alum Chris Mullin. Maybe he can coach a little bit?

— Marquette gets “Team of the Week” honors, just in time to face the Friars in Milwaukee Saturday afternoon. The Golden Eagles beat two Top 10 teams in a week – and have never lost at the Bradley Center (their home floor) to the Friars in 12 Big East seasons. Yikes.

— In their thriller over #1 Villanova last Tuesday, the students rushed the floor – which you might expect – after the unlikely comeback win. Just the second ever for a tradition-rich Marquette program over a No. 1 team – and my son Austin, a senior, led the rush like a seasoned pro. A proud papa moment, if there ever was one.

— Butler won another tough one on the road this week, beating Seton Hall Wednesday. Suddenly, the Bulldogs – who I thought might be over-rated this year – are tied for 1st place with Villanova at the league halfway point. Mea culpa.

— Why are they tied for first? With a deeper team than originally thought, they have two transfer guards getting big minutes and showing unexpected toughness on the floor. Plus, Portsmouth, Rhode Island senior Andrew Chrabascz is a smooth, steadying influence inside. Kudos to the Bulldogs.

— As for the URI Rams, our buddy Bill Koch of the Providence Journal put it rather succinctly this week – they were rancid. He was speaking in particular about the first half of the Rams’ loss Wednesday at Richmond, where Rhody shot just 25% and scored only 18 points.

— Good adjective, rancid. We don’t use that word often enough. It stinks. It smells. It’s rotten. Sadly, it’s also perfect in this case.

— But why are the Rams in this shape? Jarvis Garrett’s absence hasn’t helped. Point guards are the key to an offense’s ignition – just ask Creighton right now about that one. Defense can keep you in games, and Rhody has been lacking there, too.

— Big weekend for the 10-9 Brown Bears, with a rematch Friday against Yale, and onto Cornell and Columbia next weekend. At 1-2 in the Ivy League, the Bears are hoping for a Top 4 finish to earn a spot in the first-ever Ivy post-season tournament. Steven Spieth hit for a career high 33 points the first time against Yale, and has been Player of the Week four times.

— It has been a struggle for Bryant, at 7-15 overall and just 4-5 in the NEC heading into this weekend. But the Bulldogs will get some TV love in their next two, at home against conference leader Fairleigh Dickinson (on Fox College Sports and MSG) and on the road at Mount St. Mary’s (on ESPN3).

— The 19th annual National Prep School Invitational has been running this week, with teams playing through the weekend at Rhode Island College. The college stars of tomorrow, playing today? Sure seems like it – the tournament has produced more than 1700 Division I players, and another 78 ended up playing in the NBA.

— PC’s hockey Friars are becoming relevant again. Or at least, they’re ranked again. Back in the USCHO Top 25 rankings at #19 this week, the Friars have won three straight and are 7-2-2 in their last 11 games. Eight of those 11 have been against teams in the Top 12 of the poll, which should play well when it comes to NCAA selection time.

— Brent Musburger’s relatively sudden decision to retire from active sports broadcasting is a bit of a surprise, but I give him a ton of credit. The “old guard” of play-by-play guys are thinning out, and his staying power in an industry that doesn’t look kindly on age and experience is a credit to his talent. From his days on the “NFL Today” desk on CBS, to his becoming a signature voice of college football (“You are looking LIVE!), Brent’s voice will be missed by many. Including me.

— I always figured Musburger to be a bit pompous, yet when I met him for the first time he was as friendly as a “big-timer” could be. He has been a gentleman of the industry, and we need more of those in a cut-throat era – not less. If he truly is going out on his own terms – and he’s apparently going to start a sports handicapping business in Las Vegas – then you go, Brent.

— RIP, Mary Tyler Moore. Another piece of childhood and adolescence gone too soon, Moore will forever be the forever-cute Laura Petrie or the peppy, perky Mary Richards to a generation of TV viewers. As Laura Petrie on the Dick Van Dyke show (Oh, Rob!), she was a doting wife to a comedy writer. As Mary Richards, she was single, a news writer for a TV station, and showed women that more was possible for their lives.

— The end of the theme song to the Mary Tyler Moore Show was “you’re going to make it after all.” Remember that? MTM definitely made it, after all. I always thought that the boyfriend in her show who dumped her in Minneapolis, all alone at age 30 (the premise behind the show), should have had his man card revoked.

— My buddy Bernie sez he had forgotten the dates of a number of friends and relatives’ birthdays and anniversaries, so he decided to compile a list of those dates on his computer, and have them highlighted when he turned it on. He went looking at a number of computer stores to find software that would do this task for him, but he had no luck finding a program. Finally, he found something that looked like it would work, but as he explained his need to the store clerk, the clerk asked him outright – “fella, have you tried a wife?”

— We’re so spoiled. Since 2001, 7 Super Bowl games (with 4 wins), 3 World Series titles, and throw in a Stanley Cup and an NBA trophy. It’s almost as if we can’t feel the joy anymore, after the Patriots won their 7th AFC Championship of the Bill Belichick-era.

— The fact that these trips to the Super Bowl have come over a period of 16 years has certainly bowled us over – pardon the pun, but I’m bored.

— Want another reason why most of America will be rooting for the Dirty Birds? Forget the fact that Atlanta has never won a Big One before. Mainstreamers will pull for the Falcons because many Patriot fans have become, gulp, entitled. Like winning has become a birthright, or something.

— Just like those who depend on government hand-outs for their existence, when they are very capable of “doing their job.” Any job. Ironic, much?

— There’s really nothing worse than two weeks off between meaningful football games. It’s the worst, but then again, when they moved it up a week a few years back everything was rushed, forced and even contrived more than it is now. We need buildup, we crave anticipation, we expect to have time to plan Super Bowl parties.

— Chris Hogan is just another example of why the Patriots are the real “America’s Team.” A cast-off from another organization, picked up by New England and developed into a meaningful professional, with a nice-sized chip on his shoulder. The formula works. Maybe others should try it some day?

— A truly amazing stat, brought up by Nora Princiotti of the Boston Globe this week, proves that Bill Belichick is probably a better GM than most will give him credit for – right, Steve in Fall River? Of the 44 Patriots who played in the Super Bowl two years ago, only a little more than half (23) of them are still with the team. The roster changes over more than you think, and the team keeps winning. Why is that, Steve?

— This love/hate between Boston and Atlanta all of a sudden? Stupid is as stupid does. Drummed up, contrived talk-show fodder for the boring two weeks between the conference championships and the actual Super Bowl. Amiright, Dan Shaughnessy?

— But it works in both places, because talk shows often cater to the lowest common denominator – Hate. It’s why Hate works so well in so many places (like the political scene lately) because nothing brings people together like good, old fashioned “I’m better than you because you aren’t me, or you don’t think like I do.”

— Differences of opinion, shared objectively? Pish-posh. That never happens. My opinion is better than yours, and if you don’t agree with me, you suck. Period. I Hate You. Sound familiar?

— It’s the Dumbing Down of America. And we’re all role players.

— Which city is more racist? That’s been actual conversation this week, in both places. My argument is – racism exists, and it always will. Get over it. We’ve been trying to do that since the Civil War ended 150 years ago, give or take. Save the arguments for civics’ discussions – all I care about is if the Falcons can move the ball on the Patriots’ defense. Just sayin’.

— Familiarity breeds contempt? Maybe that explains the enmity between the regions. There’s no doubt, however, that if it weren’t for some very talented former Patriots now running the show in Atlanta (Thomas Dimitroff, Scott Pioli, even owner Arthur Blank went to Babson College) the Falcons wouldn’t be where they currently reside – in the NFC throne room.

— Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Atlanta. Oh, sorry for the “smoke” reference, as in Atlanta’s burning. Too soon?

— I know many are anticipating the big game with the hope of a Patriots’ victory, if only because Roger Goodell will be forced to award the trophy to Mr. Kraft, Bill Belichick and even Tom Brady. Who says he’ll actually be there? If he can figure out a way to weasel out of it, he will.

— Although, as John Tomase pointed out this week on WEEI.com, the Grand Poobah doesn’t really do the trophy-handing-over thing. An honorary captain technically handles the honor. But if I’m Mr. Kraft, or BB, or TB12 – I’m handling the entire bleep-show with dignity, class and grace.

— And refusing to accept the trophy unless the Poobah is somewhere in sight on that podium. “Nah, thanks, but we’re good.”

— Not for nuthin’, but Goodell certainly could have put the entire charade to sleep if he had simply had the cahones (go ahead, look it up) to face Foxboro at some point in the past year. But he avoids New England like a silly school-boy afraid to talk to a school-girl after class.

— At least one of those responsible for starting the Patriots’ Deflategate saga, the Colts’ Ryan Grigson, lost his job as GM in Indy this week. Karma is a cruel b*tch, ain’t it?

— Like the “Iceman” George Gervin once told me, as his Hall of Fame hoop career began to wind down: “What goes around, always comes around.” It sure does, Ice. It sure does.

— So, I see the vaunted, history-laden Boston Celtics broke down and sold out this week. They’ll wear a corporate logo on the front of their jerseys next year, and they’ll be the 3rd NBA team to take the money and run with it. What? They needed justification or confirmation from Sacramento and Philadelphia first, that it was okay to do this?

— I don’t know what’s worse – the actual logo on the shirt, or the fact they waited until it was “cool” to make such a move. Smh.

— And I don’t know about you – but the fact there will be a refrigerator company (ok, they rep other things too, like light bulbs) on the front of the traditional green-and-white will absolutely NOT entice me to go out and buy another fridge.

— Bob Ryan’s Boston Globe column on the BBWAA opening Hall voting to non-members this week probably didn’t make too many baseball-types happy. But he is 100% correct – how in the world is a guy like Vin Scully NOT able to vote on the Baseball Hall of Fame?

— Just because he’s not a “writer?” Preposterous. I would always argue that broadcasters, in their daily preparation for their jobs, take more time and care to actually study the teams and players they cover than anyone else. Just ask my own family about that one. I see more writers every day simply show up in a press box or on press row, glance at some notes, eat free food and proceed to ask stupid questions in the locker room afterward.

— She was born into hockey, and followed in her brother Tony’s footsteps onto the ice. You might even say that Cammi Granato is a part of hockey royalty, especially around these parts. Granato played at PC from 1989-93, and was three-times named the ECAC Player of the Year, finishing her career as the Friars’ all-time leading goal scorer. In the late ‘90’s, she was invited to try out for the New York Islanders of the NHL – which she eventually declined. Through Olympics and World Championship success, Granato was inducted as the first female into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010. It’s hard to argue against her credentials as perhaps the best female hockey player of all-time. She has since moved onto coverage of men’s (including NHL games) and women’s hockey on TV and radio, and still runs hockey camps and works for charitable causes. Granato will be honored with a jersey retirement ceremony at the Dunkin Donuts Center on February 11th, joining the Friar Legends Forever Tradition, along with several other PC greats from the past. The banquet following the ceremony will take place at the Omni in Providence. Cal 401-865-2860 for ticket information.

— William from Stephentown, New York posted on Facebook this week: “Rooke, it seems your game plan caught the Steelers off guard; they won the toss and took the ball, moved down field and scored showing they were not scared to meet them head on. You have been supporting this game plan for a few years, at least.” William: Yes, I have. I understand the principle of “doubling up” at the end of a half and receiving the 2nd half kickoff, but my thoughts have always been like this – let’s take the ball and dictate emotion and tempo. Plus, if you’re always deferring, like always throwing a fastball when pitching, you’re gonna get slammed at some point. Try a curve ball at some point, and mix it up? It worked, this time.

— 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 john.rooke@weei.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and 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 Southern New England Sports Saturday! Call in at 401-737-1287 or text us at 37937.