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Thinking out Loud: Can’t get much better than March Madness 03.17.17 at 11:58 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering what happened in that second half in Dayton?

— Madness, you say? I’m not sure there’s any other explanation for what gets witnessed at this time of year, seemingly every year. It’s four of the best sports days, consecutively, on the calendar every March. Heck, throw the First Four into the mix too, while you’re at it.

— We avoid getting any real work done. We all pretend like we’re experts in bracketology, even if we don’t know the difference between a Tiger and a Tar Heel. We exult in correct predictions and victories, and agonize over the misses and defeats. Yes, the public goes mad at this time of year. Friar fans might be madder.

— I’m not sure that’s entirely fair, however. Friar fans also know their team this season was full of relative inexperience and imperfection. They could be brilliant at times, like in the first half against USC in Dayton Wednesday night. And they could be maddeningly careless and unemotional, like in the second half against USC in Dayton Wednesday night.

— So, yes. Wednesday night was a microcosm of the entire season for Providence. Potential and failure right there for everyone to see in all its raw, emotional splendor – including a national television audience. Painful? Absolutely. Promising? Equally so. Just sayin’.

— I’ll step out on a limb right now – PC has the chance to be special next season, with everyone returning for Ed Cooley, save for walk on senior Casey Woodring. And with the addition of two freshmen big men (6-11 Dajour Dickens, 6-8 Nate Watson), the Friars have a chance to return the inside punishment that USC put on their rear ends in that second half in Dayton.

— How special? How about Sweet 16 special? How about Big East regular season title special? For anyone feeling this could be a reach, why dream if you can’t dream big? Of course, this also puts pressure on a team that didn’t handle it very well at times this year.

— Time to get better. Time to address team needs, and they are – in no particular order: Strength. Toughness. More Shooting. Rebounding. Taking better care of the ball. Free Throws. Mindset. Attitude.

— There are few particulars from Wednesday night’s First Four Flop worth holding onto, except for one – the feeling the team left the floor with to go into the locker room. If there is any heart, any soul, any competitiveness in those players, they’ll let that feeling drive them through the summer right into next fall. And they’ll be ready.

— Four straight NCAA appearances is big to build on. It’s never happened before in the storied, 90-year history of Providence College basketball. PC is also now one of 17 schools in the country that has reached four or more consecutive Dances.

— And with the hockey team anticipating an NCAA invitation of their own, Providence could be just the 4th school in history to send BOTH hoops and hockey to four straight tournaments in the same four years.

— Huzzah’s and kudos to the City of Dayton and their organizing committee. The First Four is complete class, first rate, and now a big part of March Madness overall. After doing it for 17 years, they’ve got a handle on running a successful event, and their fans turn out regardless of who’s playing.

— Not for nuthin’, but a note to the NCAA – the same could be had if you give some cities the chance to organize and host EVERY year. Like Providence and the Dunkin Donuts Center? C’mon Dan Gavitt, you could make this happen, amiright?

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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
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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?

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Thinking Out Loud: Providence basketball getting hot at right time 03.03.17 at 5:53 pm ET
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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.

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Thinking Out Loud: Friars making run at NCAA Tournament 02.24.17 at 3:01 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to Dougie McBuckets?

— Nothing like making it difficult for the decision-makers, at least when it comes to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament (aka March Madness). Here come the Friars, charging hard from the outside.

— Providence’s win at Creighton Wednesday night in Omaha was exactly what PC’s tournament resume needed – a road win against a Top 25 team (also a Top 25 RPI team), and another mark in the left-hand column that gets the Friars closer to .500 in the Big East. But it ain’t over yet.

— Kyron Cartwright’s aggressive offensive play = Providence is a pretty good team. No less an expert on good teams than UConn’s Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun told myself and the Journal’s Kevin McNamara as much this week. So, is that why the current Huskies keep ditching the Friars on future schedules?

— The Friars DO have six Top 50 RPI wins this season, which as we’ve been told recently, is at the TOP of the selection committee’s wish list – Top 50 RPI victories. They also DO have two bad losses, to Boston College and DePaul, that smudge the current resume.

— The only cure for that – is to keep winning. If Providence can do that, and get to a .500 minimum in league play, a school-record 4th straight NCAA tournament is in play. And if the Friars keep winning, this year may be Ed Cooley’s best coaching job in the six seasons he has been at PC, when you consider pre-season expectations.

— Villanova failed to clinch a record 4th straight regular season Big East crown, as Butler (Butler?!?) beat the Wildcats for a 2nd time this season, and the Bulldogs are now responsible for two of Nova’s three defeats. Whoa.

— The Big East now has a legit seven teams in position for post-season play in the NCAA field of 68. That’s an astounding 70 percent of your conference membership. The league, lest we forget, also produced last seasons’ national champ in Villanova. Those who once thought the Big East dead a few years ago, are looking a bit foolish today.

— Or, they’re just plain dumb. Stupid is as stupid does.

— URI’s win over LaSalle Tuesday night was big on two fronts – one, it avenged an earlier, somewhat surprising loss to the Explorers at the Ryan Center; two – the Rams showed some defensive strength that will be needed, if not required, to make a serious push into the post-season.

— While it is true the Rams have only managed to have their pre-season starting five available for 11 of the 26 games (through midweek) they’ve played this season, injuries and illness are a part of every team – every year. Some are luckier than others. Those that aren’t as fortunate need to find other ways to succeed – and in URI’s case, it starts with defense.

— Is late better than never? Or will it not make a difference for Rhody?

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Thinking Out Loud: Will Friars get into NCAA Tournament? 02.17.17 at 2:42 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering where John Cahill, Tim Higgins and Jim Burr have gone?

— Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble. A friend asked me this week about the NCAA Tournament – “the Friars’ aren’t good enough to get in, are they?” Are they as good as they’ve been in recent years? Maybe not. But are they good enough to get in this year? They might be.

— You’ve heard about the “soft bubble” surrounding mid-majors and mid-level high major conference teams this year – a .500 record or even a game below might just get consideration for the Field of 68. Why?

— It’s cyclical. Not enough Cinderella-types out there at present. Star players leave early, experienced players transfer to get more time elsewhere, younger players get forced into the mix for playing time before they’re ready.

— And if you schedule well for the non-conference slate – PC did this, and they’ve done a very good job of it in the past few seasons – it’s a combination of these things in college basketball this year that has formed the perfect storm – and the perfect opportunity for teams who appear less-than-worthy.

— Not for nuthin’, but I’ve seen some pretty good Friar teams get left behind over the past 30 years without a dance invite. So, if PC eventually gets a freebie here, who’s going to complain?

— Is Providence worthy? Does that question matter? After dispatching Xavier Wednesday night, two straight Top 50 (Top 17!) RPI wins will get noticed. All that really matters is what the selection committee thinks, and they’ve got 68 slots to fill, with 36 coming from at-large picks. Top 50 RPI wins matter most. They are “found gold” at this time of year.

— And if you can’t get them, you win your conference tournament. That’s precisely where Rhode Island’s chances now lie, with Rhody’s flat tire performance against Fordham this week. Rams’ players and fans were undoubtedly down after dropping a home game last week to Atlantic-10 favorite Dayton, but to not show up against Fordham?

— It starts at the top, and at the top is the head coach. He sets the tone, the tempo and the attitude. The Rams need to win what few games they have left with cache (VCU is one), and at least reach the final of the A-10 tournament in Pittsburgh. It’s do-able, but there is no more margin for error as the regular season winds down.

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Thinking Out Loud: Still trying to figure out how Patriots won Super Bowl LI 02.10.17 at 2:19 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering what happened to Tom Brady’s jersey.

— After several days of careful contemplation, I still find myself at a loss for words when it comes to finding a reasonable explanation for the Patriots’ comeback in Super Bowl LI. How about “One for the Ages?”

— Since an overtime game had never happened in 50 previous Super Bowls, since no team had ever come from more than 10 points down in a game like that – I’d say Sunday in Houston qualifies as one for the ages. You?

— Let’s see. I’ve been accused of being a homer for “my Patriots” this week, and also called out for being overly critical, based on my now-four decades’ worth of observations of the team and franchise, and having actually worked for the franchise longer than the Kraft’s have owned it. Hmm. Maybe it’s possible I’ve finally figured out how this is supposed to work?

— New York radio gadfly Chris “Mad Dog” Russo told Kirk & Callahan on WEEI last week that America is sick of the Patriots? Then America is sick. But we knew that already, amiright?

— James White’s performance Sunday was definitely MVP-worthy, and I certainly understand the sentiment for giving him the award. But one question – who threw him the 14 passes he caught in the game? Just sayin’.

— TB12 did give him the truck he won for taking the MVP trophy, ICYMI. So there is that. Not that either guy really needed it, but it’s the thought that counts.

— Thought it was appropriate that the Patriots’ Boston-centric parade ended with a rally at Providence’s Dunkin Donuts Center. Actually, kudos to the Governor for getting Rhody into the celebratory mix. All too often, some Massholes forget Roe Dyelanders love and support New England’s teams, too.

— I got the feeling, after reading and hearing about the local “celebrations” around campus at PC and URI, that both were cases of “monkeys see, monkeys do.” Everyone else acts a fool after winning championships, so why can’t we?

— I’m no expert in pop culture or music, but I thought Lady Gaga pretty much killed it at halftime. She is a bonafide entertainer, pure and simple, whether you like her music or not. She is this generations’ Madonna, for lack of a better equivalent.

— Guess the haters might be hating for a while longer. The Patriots have plenty of room under the salary cap to re-design or re-tool, if they need to do so. Sure, there are tough roster decisions to make. But New England has more than enough cap space to stay at the top – more than their fellow AFC East brethren have, combined.

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Thinking Out Loud: Thoughts on Super Bowl LI 02.03.17 at 12:38 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering where Roger Federer might now have taken his tennis talents.

— Got a ticket for Super Sunday? Chances are, it cost you (or is worth more than) $4800. The average for the previous four Super Bowls? $3334. Somebody is making out, and it ain’t me.

— Super Bowl week, for the media, can be a drag. I know, I know. Sure, you think you’d like to be there – and while the circus has its moments, like when the big clown (i.e. the commissioner) comes out of the tent to entertain the masses, the rest of it can be a little tedious.

— Adding to the media misery this week – Houston’s size. It’s a big city, and not just in population. Having family and several friends who still live there, they know it’s tough with traffic to get anywhere you need to go in an expeditious manner. My media friends are learning things the hard way on Houston’s very long and mean streets. Time is a precious commodity.

— Leave now, if you want to get to NRG Stadium in Houston before the kickoff. Seriously. Especially if you’re IN Houston already.

— The send-off rally at Gillette Monday was energetic as much as it was cold. Kudos to the hundreds of fans who began lining up at 3:30 in the morning for the best spots up close to see the Patriots off – at 10:30. What? Does anyone work around here?

— Media day was its typical ho-hum affair. I appreciate NFL Network turning it into a prime time special, because after all, it is show biz. But I’ve had enough of guys in wedding dresses and others trying to be super heroes. Do we really need these people to appeal to “non-fans” of the game? Stupid is as stupid does.

— The cost of one 30 second Super Bowl ad this year? $5 million. Or more. And that figure is up 110 percent since 2007.

— Who knew? Tom Brady’s challenging year, from an emotional standpoint, could have choked a horse. But here’s a guy who kept his mouth shut, his eyes straight ahead, and put his team’s needs ahead of his own. For real? If it was possible, he’s earned even more respect from me.

— Why? Because I don’t know if I could have kept my own mouth shut through all of what he’s gone through – from the false persecution and incredible scrutiny of his personal and professional life, to his mothers’ illness. Guy can’t even go down the street and grab a beer at a bar. Think about that. Yeah, he makes more money than God. But he’s not God.

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

— 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.

Thinking Out Loud: There’s nothing like playing No. 1 team in nation 01.20.17 at 11:42 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud, while wondering whatever happened to Tom Garrick.

– There is always a little extra giddy-up in your step – a little extra juice in your morning mojo – when you get ready to face the No. 1 team in the nation. Providence gets that chance Saturday, playing Villanova at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. But for many Friar fans, this is becoming an old-hat experience.

To begin with, it’s a benefit of playing in the Big East Conference – if there is such a thing as a benefit to playing No. 1 on any given week. The Big East has long had its share of top-ranked teams in a league as strong as it has been through the years, and in the 38-year era of the Big East, 10 of the 15 occasions the Friars have faced Number One have come during the league’s existence.

That certainly had to have been the hope of one Dave Gavitt for PC, when he founded the conference in the late ‘70’s. But be careful what you ask for. Just sayin’.

– Having never been ranked No. 1 themselves during their 90-year history (close in 1973, amiright?), in those 15 games against No. 1 Providence has managed two significant victories. The first came in December of 1976, an 82-81 double OT win against Michigan at the Providence Civic Center in the old InBank Classic, which later became the Fleet Classic.

The second came in February of 2009, during Keno Davis’ first season as head coach, when the Friars jumped on then-Number One Pittsburgh at the Dunk, 81-73. What do I remember about that game? Not much, since I wasn’t there.

At the time, I was also broadcasting primarily Big East games for ESPN, and that night there was a scheduling conflict for an ACC game at Boston College. The network asked me if I could make the trip to Conte Forum since I was the closest announcer they had. My bosses at PC allowed me to switch to TV and attend – leaving radio and the Friars behind for just one night.

And that one night, the Friars pulled off a win for the ages. Stupid is as stupid does, right? Right. I deserve that.

The ESPN producers in the TV truck at BC that night kept giving me updates, teasing me mercilessly until they sensed my growing displeasure with myself every time they hit a button to give me a score update into the headsets I was wearing. But I was happy for the Friars, though.

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Thinking Out Loud: Tough week for Providence basketball 01.13.17 at 11:49 am ET
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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.

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