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Thinking Out Loud: Providence basketball getting hot at right time

03.03.17 at 5:53 pm ET

Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering what Keno Davis is up to?

— Providence’s unlikely surge into the postseason has become a small tidal wave. With a win Saturday at St. John’s, which will be no easy feat, the Friars could finish as high as the 3rd seed. Incredible, really, for a team that was picked ninth in the pre-season by the Big East coaches.

— It also keeps alive a streak of the Friars finishing higher than their preseason selection in each of Ed Cooley’s six seasons as head coach. Don’t be shocked to see his name mentioned in off-season coaching searches over the next month or two.

— Five straight Big East wins last happened three years ago, during the run to the tournament championship led by Bryce Cotton. Six in a row? Last occurred in 2004, before an NCAA flop to Pacific. Let’s just say – it isn’t a common occurrence in this league.

— St. John’s whipped the Friars at home to the tune of 91 points with an all-freshman backcourt at the end of January. Better that it’s PC with something to play for than the Johnnies at this stage of the game – but don’t discount St. John’s next week. All they need is a crack in the door.

— As for handicapping the Big East Tournament next week – I’ll take Villanova. It will be hard for Butler to beat them again if they reach the finals, having won twice against the Wildcats already. Sleeper? Marquette, if not the red-hot Friars. Those guys can light it up.

— What are PC’s NCAA tournament odds? Going into Saturday, they’re solid. 11 Top 100 wins, six Top 50 wins in the RPI beats all-comers at the Friars’ end of the spectrum. But Providence has been snubbed before, so a word of advice – don’t leave the dance invite in the hands of the chaperones. Earn it, by finishing strong.

— And that, in itself, is truly an unexpected pleasure coming from this college basketball season. While Ed Cooley is very much deserving of Big East Coach of the Year, my bet is on Butler’s Chris Holtmann, if not Villanova’s Jay Wright.

— Another pleasure this year – the home crowds at the Dunkin Donuts Center. While overall attendance is down from last year’s Dunn & Bentil pro show, the Big East attendance averaged nearly 11,000 fans per game. The student section was one of the best, if not THE best, I’ve seen in 29 years.

— Winning attracts crowds. Who knew? But the marketing department has also stepped it up, big time.

— Maurice Watson’s tale has turned south in a hurry. After tearing his ACL in January and ending his collegiate career at Creighton, the Boston University transfer has been charged with sexual assault on a fellow student. Watson maintains his innocence. The alleged incident took place two days before having surgery to repair his knee in early February. And he presently sits in an Omaha jail.

— Georgetown’s dilemma is a tough one. There is little question John Thompson III’s time is running short, but how short? The very large presence of his father, Hall of Famer John Thompson, Jr., has literally scared some in the Hoya family from speaking out in fear of retribution. Best guess – one more year to get it right. Then, a boot into an administrative role, unless the Hoyas can win big again.

— URI’s late-season push, at the very least, gives them the double-bye in the Atlantic-10 tournament next week in Pittsburgh. The win at St. Joe’s Wednesday HAD to happen. Not coincidentally, Jarvis Garrett’s return and rounding back into shape also HAD to happen.

— As for the Rams’ possible inclusion into the Big Dance, don’t hold your breath. URI will need to avoid a quick exit in Pitt to reach the field of 68. How about a PC-URI First Four match in Dayton? That may be more likely than last week’s suggestion of an all-Ocean State NIT encounter.

— Bryant made its fourth post-season appearance since becoming Division I eligible five years ago, but ventured on the road in the NEC Tournament for the first time. And were promptly popped right out of the Madness with a 100-78 loss at St. Francis (PA) Wednesday.

— Sophomore guard Nisre Zouzoua became the fastest Bulldog in the DI era to reach 1000 career points (in 61 games) and was also named to the post-season all-NEC 1st team. Freshman Adam Grant was selected to the NEC all-rookie team after leading all freshman scorers in the league with 13.9 points per game.

— Brown falls short of playing a role in Ivy League history, missing out on the first-ever Ivy post-season tournament. The first four finishers in the regular season standings play next week at The Palestra in Philadelphia. The Bears wrap up their season at home this weekend against Columbia and Cornell.

— But good news for the Bears’ Steven Spieth, who was named a Division I academic all-American this week by the College Sports Information Directors Association. Spieth was chosen for the 3rd team, and is currently third in the Ivy League in scoring at 16.7 points per game.

— The 10th ranked PC hockey Friars get an immediate rematch with UMass as the Hockey East playoffs open this weekend. PC now has recorded four straight 20-win seasons on the ice for the first time since 1988-92. The Friars finished 15-3-3 over their last 21 games, and just two points out of first place after starting 1-6-2 in league play.

— Like their basketball brethren, the skaters are on a roll. High times in Friartown, indeed.

— And don’t forget the Dunk hosts the NCAA Ice Hockey regionals March 24th and 25th. Hosted by Brown, it is possible in this NCAA tournament for PC to play at a “home away from home.” At least the Dunk shouldn’t have problems with the ice surface melting and bleeding through the basketball floor, amiright?

— Count me as one that’s a little disappointed that Jimmy Garoppolo is apparently staying with the Patriots. Not that I don’t like him – quite the contrary. I just like the chance to significantly upgrade the talent level overall by dangling him as trade bait to an underachieving wannabe who will overpay for a QB.

— Step up, Browns, Bears, Texans and Jets. Make an offer the Patriots can’t refuse.

— I just don’t see the sense in keeping Jimmy G. through his rookie deal and losing trade or contract leverage at the end of next year. Could they place the franchise tag on him then? They could. Maybe the team expecting TB12 to take a powder at some point? That’s a mighty chance-y – and potentially expensive – insurance policy.

— Maybe this is just a way to drive up the interest in ya’ boy. Perhaps no one was offering a first-round pick? Nah, standing pat here doesn’t pass the smell test. Something’s up.

— I think Dont’a Hightower is a good linebacker. Great? Maybe. And that’s the problem. Someone is likely to overpay for his services, and you know it won’t be the Patriots. That’s how they go with the flow.

— A move the Pats should make – sign Malcolm Butler to an extension and a new deal. He’s earned it, and his position is imminently more valuable over the long haul than a linebacker.

— A move the Pats will make – see above. Wave good-bye to Boomtower.

— A move the Pats could make – trade Tom Brady. Heresy, you say? Nope, just business. Out with the old, in with the new has happened countless thousands of time before, it could happen here, too. Couldn’t it?

— Chris Long, thanks. Good luck with being a go-to guy somewhere else. You were perfectly suited for your situational role in New England. Hope you find that fountain-of-youth.

— Sometimes a new look and a different perspective are all that’s required. Case in point, the Boston Bruins are 7-2 under Bruce Cassidy as head coach, as of Friday. Had the players tuned Claude Julien out? Seems obvious, doesn’t it?

— No need to re-invent the wheel. Although ask a few die-hard Bruins fans, they’ll tell you the wheel is sporting a couple of broken spokes on it, lately. Just sayin’.

— Did the Celtics swing and miss on Andrew Bogut? Or did Bogut swing and miss on the C’s, by signing with the Cavs instead? He wouldn’t have been a cure-all for the Celtics’ rebounding issues, but he would have helped.

— Kevin Durant’s injury at Golden State doesn’t just affect him – it affects a lot of others, too. Not the least of which will be his teammates, Warriors’ fans, the players who get his time and shots on the floor – AND the entire Western Conference. The pathway leading to an NBA title this season just found a crack in the foundation.

— Which makes Boston’s relative inactivity prior to the trading deadline more frustrating to take. But I get it. There’s a plan, stay the course. Even if everyone else wants to win right now.

— Not for nuthin,’ but all sure seemed eerily quiet on the Red Sox’ spring training camp front. Then, BANG! Thursday we get the news on David Price’s elbow soreness and a second opinion coming from Dr. James Andrews.

— Would the three-word phrase “Doctor James Andrews” be the scariest three words in all of baseball? In all of sports, for that matter?

— Seven years, $217 million. That’s Price’s tag, and he could be on the shelf for a while. Don’t feel too bad, the Sox might actually have pieces in place to fit this rotational puzzle. Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright could be inning-eaters themselves, if healthy, and Rodriguez did start the spring well in his first mound outing.

— In other news, Fenway Franks are going to cost 10 bucks this season. Hey, it could happen.

— And I know it’s spring, and I know guys have their own pace of play and getting into shape, but the bullpen and 2nd line pitchers – potential Pawsox, if you will – they’re largely getting hammered like a nail in early spring games. But nothing to worry about, right?

— It’s already the Lenten season? My buddy Statbeast sez “Lent is when I figure out what addictions I may still have some control over.” Ain’t that the truth?

— Friar fans like to ridicule, but I always got along well with former Friar head basketball coach Keno Davis. Did his three-year tenure at Providence turn out like anyone hoped it would? Of course not. But then again, I would argue that Davis probably wasn’t ready for the Big East, or the spotlight and level of play that comes along with the responsibility of coaching in this league.

— PC was behind the 8-ball on making a splashy hire after Tim Welsh was dismissed in 2008, and when first choice Travis Ford opted late for Oklahoma State over Providence, Keno was low-hanging fruit for the Friars to pluck, coming off of his National Coach of the Year season at Drake.

— Ford, of course, is now at Saint Louis, after having been summarily dumped by the Cowboys in the Big 12 after his initial success at UMass. So that probably worked out just as well, too, as Providence may never have had the chance to bring Ed Cooley home if Ford had come to Rhode Island instead. Funny how these things work out.

— Davis spent a year as a TV analyst for the Big 10 Network before taking the head coaching job at Central Michigan, currently completing his 5th year at the Mid-American Conference school. After two rough seasons to start his tenure in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, Davis led the Chippewas to back-to-back MAC West Division titles and two post-season appearances, but this season his team is in the midst of a six-game spin that has all-but-extinguished post-season hopes, at 16-14 overall.

— CMU’s Marcus Keene leads the conference in scoring and is one of the national leaders at 29.4 points per game, but in a 109-81 loss to Eastern Michigan this week, EMU’s Ray Lee popped the Chips for 50 big ones. Ouch. Any “D” left in Davis’ arsenal?

— Ciaran from Ireland (@CiaranHeneghan) tweeted this week on NFL free agency: “Do you think the Patriots will have any interest in (Brandon) Marshall after his release from the Jets? He wants to go to a contender.” Ciaran: Actually, I’d love to see the Patriots take a flier on Marshall. Size, speed, athletic ability, he still has some gas in the tank. It’s all about the money, however. Would he be willing to play for a little less than what the market might bear, in exchange for a shot at a ring? Some guys are more than willing, others are not. I tend to believe he’s in the latter category.

— Big East basketball fans – we’ll have daily coverage next week on of the 35th anniversary Big East Championship at Madison Square Garden in New York. Beginning with a tournament preview on Tuesday, and daily recaps through the title game, you will find the updates on’s college blog, under the home page “National” tag.

— 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 We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, …

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