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Thinking Out Loud: Providence should still be all set to get into NCAA Tournament

03.10.17 at 11:01 pm ET

Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to a member of the “Brady Six,” Chad Pennington?

— Maybe he should have been selected by his fellow Big East coaches as the COY. The job Ed Cooley has done with this Providence team is easily his best effort in the six seasons he’s been the head coach of the Friars. Preseason picked for ninth? Finished third? Lost two players to the NBA draft? Cultivated another Most Improved Player in the Big East? Just sayin’.

— While Butler’s Chris Holtmann is also very deserving, a media straw poll conducted in New York this week gave Cooley the nod as Big East Coach of the Year. Fitting that also thought likewise.

— Regardless of Thursday night’s result against Creighton, the Friars should be all set for Selection Sunday. A month ago, they were all set to watch everyone else get invited. Now, it matters little where they’re seeded, or who they play. You want a gravy game? A gravy year? This is it.

— But what a time to throw a stink bomb into the NCAA party. It was as if the Friars hadn’t played a game in a month, or worse yet, hadn’t seen a basketball in a month, either. Thursday night’s mess against Creighton was as self-inflicted as hoop wounds can get – turnovers and missed free throws. You control those, the other guys not-so-much.

— Providence, right now, is still the better team. And that’s not dumping on the BlueJays. The Friar defense is good.

— But if they reach the NCAA’s, they’ve got to remember they’re the better team and play like one. Or it will be a very short stay, wherever they play.

— Good move by CBS to shorten the selection show by 30 minutes, and get the brackets released in the first hour of the program. Last year’s production was abominable in the way it unfolded, and interminable with the interviews prior to the entire bracket being announced. Now, the key to true success is in the execution of the new plan. Somebody needs a quick finger on Charles Barkley’s microphone.

— In the Big East’s opening round Thursday, who else thought they were caught in a 1985-time warp, when Georgetown Hoyas suddenly surrounded St. John’s’ Chris Mullin? Emotion? You could cut it with a knife at that moment.

— That PC’s Kyron Cartwright earned 2nd team all-Big East honors wasn’t a surprise. Most Improved Player? Absolutely. But Rodney Bullock’s honors seemed to surprise some – except for right here. Bullock’s numbers were consistently in the league Top 10 throughout the season. Maybe the surprise was in the expectation?

— Cartwright is the 3rd PC player in the last six years to win the Big East’s Most Improved award. But Ed Cooley isn’t coach of the year. Stupid is as stupid does. Looking at you, Big East coaches.

— Looking ahead to next year already, a change has been made for next November in New York. Saint Louis has replaced Indiana in the 2K Classic, with the Billikens joining PC, Washington and Virginia Tech. With all due respect to an SLU team expected to be good, I think we all need an extra draft choice in that deal.

— Sports fans of a certain age certainly recall when college hoops ruled New York City. They always have, really, even though St. John’s has been more down than up in recent years. The Johnnies will be L-O-A-D-E-D next season, and the city has been L-O-A-D-E-D this year with the ACC Tournament being played in Brooklyn.

— Funny thing, though. The media has made a big deal over the ACC being in New York, but the fans? Meh. The Garden sold out for Friday and Saturday, and the Barclays Center was selling $6 tickets for their opening rounds.

— NEXT year? The Big 10 will occupy the Garden the week before the Big East Tournament begins, and the ACC returns to Brooklyn for one more hoorah before retreating to the south. That should be some two-week period. College hoops rule supreme, again. As they always have.

— Boston College was bumped early from the ACC’s venture into Brooklyn. So was Syracuse. So much for taking advantage of (once) familiar territory.

— The media would still have you believe a move to MSG is possible for the ACC’s tournament. Pure mule muffins. That’s media talk, from guys (and gals) who wish they could spend a week in New York’s bars and restaurants.

— The Big East is nice and cozy with MSG as they’ve always been, with a contract that runs through 2026. Meanwhile, the ACC is headed back to its southerly routes after next year, returning to that teeming Metropolis of Greensboro, NC and Tobacco Road. Goober and Gomer are waiting.

— Not for nuthin’, but it’s been interesting to hear how others feel about URI’s Atlantic-10 chances, as well as their hopes to play in the NCAA’s. Put the Rams head-to-head with, say, Syracuse. Who wins? If you said Syracuse, why shouldn’t they go in ahead of URI?

— The Rams’ post-season chances lie squarely on the damage they do this weekend in Pittsburgh. Period.

— Hassan Martin, E. C. Matthews and Jeff Dowtin receiving A-10 honors wasn’t surprising. Martin leading the league in blocked shots for four straight years wasn’t either. But I thought a guy who helped carry the Rams through their tough times, Jared Terrell, might have been short-changed.

— Along with PC’s Cartwright and Bullock, and URI’s Martin and Matthews, Brown’s Steven Speith (also 1st team all-Ivy) was also named to the all-District 1 USBWA team, as was Bryant’s Nisre Zouzoua. Rhode Island can hoop a little, amiright?

— The Ivy League has announced its’ inaugural Legends of Ivy Basketball, a 16-member class of former players who have each contributed significantly to their respective programs and left a lasting impact on their schools. Brown is represented by two big names from their hoop past – former women’s coach Jean Marie Burr, and men’s all-time scoring leader Earl Hunt.

— Let’s give credit where it’s due. Brown’s women’s team will play in the 1st ever “Ivy Madness” in Philadelphia, at the Palestra. Congrats to coach Sarah Behn and the Bears, who will play #1 seed Penn Saturday, on the Quakers’ home court.

— Also on the ladies’ side, Marquette took the Big East women’s tournament title over DePaul, albeit with a slight homecourt advantage at the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee.

— And progress was made at Providence, with PC’s Yoyo Nogic named all-Big East honorable mention. 1st year coach Jim Crowley led the Friars to double their win total from a year ago – a step in the right direction in Friartown.

— And how about this step outside of Friartown? So, Bryce Cotton turns down a 10-day contract offer to return to the NBA to finish out his season in Australia. Then, he leads his team to the NBL championship, and he wins the NBL’s MVP award. The NBA now awaits your return, Bryce. Good on ya’, mate.

— Derek Kellogg’s ouster at UMass this week should have the Minutemen on the phone, pronto, with UMass alumnus Al Skinner. Think he wouldn’t mind tangling with Boston College or URI on the hardwood?

— And I’m hearing that the opening at Quinnipiac after Tom Moore’s dismissal might be an opportunity for PC assistant Brian Blaney. He’s paid his dues, it’s time to see if he can run his own show. Wonder if his dad George would come out of retirement to lend a hand?

— PC’s Hockey Friars are in South Bend, IN against Notre Dame this weekend in the Hockey East playoffs. It’s just the second time in Nate Leaman’s six seasons as head coach for the Friars to play in the quarterfinals on the road. Providence is 13-1-1 in their last 15 games, the loss and the tie at Notre Dame last month.

— Flying in under the radar this week, before the flurry of free agent activity, the Patriots took Seabass off their menu. Sebastian Vollmer spent the entire 2016 season on injured reserve with a bad back.

— Malcolm Butler was offered a 1st round tender by the team, which is a good thing. He’ll make at least $3.9 million next season, which should also be a good thing. Except, ex-Bill Stephon Gilmore will be a Patriot defensive back at a whopping $14 million per year next season, the largest free agent deal ever for the Patriots.

— Five years, $40 million guaranteed? Doesn’t make Butler’s deal look that great, does it? It isn’t, comparatively speaking. Can’t imagine this won’t create some trouble, but for a little bit anyway, I’ll dream about that defensive backfield combination. It would be good, but I just don’t think it can last.

— Oh, and Logan Ryan? Have a good career, but have it somewhere else.

— Two 1’s for Jimmy G is the going rate? Those Patriots are shrewd. If I’m the Cleveland Browns, I’m offering the #12 overall pick and their 2nd rounder – which is as good as a 1st rounder – and the Pats should call it a day. Garoppolo should also file for a change of address with the postal service, and stay away from Instagram. I’m joking, I think.

— But how does Cleveland’s pick up of Brock Osweiler affect this possible deal? Once a mistake, always a mistake – by the lake? Seems silly on the surface, but could this also be laying groundwork for a future deal?

— So, Dwayne Allen effectively replaces Martellus Bennett on the Patriots’ roster. I’m ok with that, if he can stay healthy. I’m also ok with it if Gronk stays healthy too. Seems to me tight end health will be a big issue heading into next season already.

— You can’t play like Tom Brady. But you can eat like him, as TB12 has unveiled a new line of performance meals. TB12 Performance Meals will be kinda like those companies who send you pre-packaged and pre-prepared dinners, only these are based on his affinity for plant-based foods and health lifestyle. “Honey, wanna make a TB12 dinner tonight?” “Only if you can perform like him, know what I’m saying?”

— Hey, talk has quieted on Boomtower lately, hasn’t it? Free agency has a way of shuttling into your frontal lobes, and then cutting them out, like a lobotomy.

— Brandon Marshall’s signing with the Giants tells me two things – one, the man craves the spotlight in New York, so he’s probably not what the Patriots want (or need). Two, he doesn’t have to move his locker very far – like to the other side of the stadium?

— Tony Romo to the Texans? Tony Romo to the Broncos? The Bears? Who cares? When he can stay healthy long enough to PLAY in a post-season game, I might be concerned with facing him then.

— Love the defensive intensity brought by the Celtics at Golden State Wednesday night. But this team is not as deep as you think it is. Isaiah Thomas’ play is a bench-watermark for this team, so if I’m the Cavs (let’s say) in the playoffs, I’m thinking of putting LBJ on him and shutting him down. Or out.

— The Brooklyn Nets are really, really bad. You knew this already. But have you seen how they’re trying to get fans to come to the Celtics’ game on Friday night, March 17? By offering a $75 ticket that includes a hot dog, a pretzel and unlimited Modelo beer. Yup. Unlimited. Beer. Bring your ATM card – and an ID, kids. That ticket will pay for itself on the 2nd or 3rd round.

— Did anyone catch the Tim Tebow sideshow against the Red Sox in spring training this week? Look, I know HE’S serious about it, or so he says, but you just can’t convince me this is anything more than the New York Mets’ way of dominating the back pages of their local tabloids.

— My buddy “Big E” sez he’s got an old farmer friend, who told him recently that he and his wife were getting ready to celebrate their Golden wedding anniversary. “My wife said we should have a big party to celebrate, and that I should go out back and kill a pig and roast it for our guests,” farmer Frank said. Big E thought for a minute and told farmer Frank, “Well, I don’t see why the pig should have to pay for something that happened 50 years ago, do you?”

— You’ve possibly heard of the “Tom Brady Six,” the six QB’s selected ahead of TB12’s inglorious #199 pick back in 2000? In reverse order of their selection before Brady came Spergon Wynn (Texas State), Marc Bulger (West Virginia), Tee Martin (Tennessee), Chris Redman (Louisville), Giovanni Carmazzi (Hofstra) and Chad Pennington (Marshall). Of the six, Pennington clearly had the best NFL career with eight seasons in New York and three more in Miami. He was the only 1st round QB picked that year, and he twice won NFL Comeback Player of the Year in his return from injuries. Admirable. But man oh man, did NFL scouts screw this up.

— It’s Brady’s own fault, really. He was a part-time player at Michigan, had little true athleticism while playing (I know, I know) and had a terrible combine workout. So, understand this through your Free Agency Angst (that’s a real disease, look it up) and the upcoming pre-draft hoopla – sometimes, you find a diamond in the rough. And sometimes, even the highly-touted fall short of expectations. Pennington had a nice career (17.8K yards, 102 TD’s, 64 INT’s, 90.1 QBR), he just wasn’t Brady. After retiring in 2012, Pennington did some NFL work for Fox, started a charitable organization and presently coaches middle school football in Kentucky.

— Ray in Manassas, Virginia posted on Facebook about the Friars: “We’ve been winning by getting teams to play down to our ugly level of play. We lost because Creighton played less ugly than we did.” Ray: You’re right. But my thing is, ‘ol ugly is better than ol’ nuthin’. Creighton was definitely less ugly than the Friars Thursday night. As to the previous six wins, see my previous statement two sentences back. It doesn’t matter how you get there, just get there. No one remembers style points.

— College basketball fans – we’ll follow the Friars on the road in the post-season next week, so be sure to check in on the College Blog page on to keep up with PC through the NCAA tournament.

— 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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