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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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Thinking Out Loud: Has URI basketball turned a corner? 01.06.17 at 11:14 am ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering why Chris Berman really has to go?

— Have Rhody’s “suddenly Runnin’ Again” Rams turned the corner on their season? Perhaps. But not because they hit 16 of 30 three’s in a romp against St. Joe’s. With Hassan Martin’s return to a regular role in the lineup, I’ll like their chances a lot more than without him, for sure.

— But what is URI’s remaining potential? Are they Top 25 material as the pundits predicted before the season started? It’s irrelevant. What the Rams need to be concerned with is relevancy in the Atlantic-10. And that starts with Friday’s showdown at Dayton.

— Very quietly, perhaps, URI has crept into the Top 20 in RPI, #38 at last check. Top 50/100 wins will be harder to come by in the A-10 than they would in the Big East, in terms of opportunities. The Rams need to make haste, not waste.

— Maybe we should have seen the Friars’ stumble from a 10-2 start to the year coming? After all, a team with relative youth and inexperience always finds the going tough in the Big East. This much we’ve learned in the first 37 years of league play.

— Then again, there are players on this PC team who did play bit parts, at the very least, on two NCAA Tournament teams in the past two seasons. For this team to straighten out its stumble, it’s time for the understudies to step into leading roles on a fulltime basis.

— And it’s also time for Ed Cooley and his coaching staff to keep the recruiting fires burning for shooters – for next season – even if there aren’t (apparently) any available scholarships open.

— Maybe we should have seen it coming, Part II: the aircraft used by the Friars for their chartered flights to Xavier last week and to take them home from the Butler game four days later was the same aircraft used by the Hillary Clinton for President campaign this past fall.

— We know how that turned out, don’t we? So how long do jinxes last, anyway?

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Thinking Out Loud: Reflecting on good, old days of Big East basketball 12.31.16 at 9:40 am ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering what the top local sports story was in 2016?

• For 38 years, the Big East Conference has been a cultural phenomenon within our sports world. Before Dave Gavitt got those small, relatively insignificant Catholic schools together with a few of the bigger boys in 1979, it was “to each his own” and teams were left to fend for themselves.

• But together through the years, this conference – in the past and again in the present – has helped mold the madness that we see in March at the end of every season. This year won’t be any different – in fact, it might be better. Of the 50 starting players on the 10 Big East teams, 34 of them return from last season. Yes, the play might be better.

• If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like in the south, where college football is crowned “king” every fall Saturday, the Big East’s passion, pressure and performance is on par with that kind of pageantry. Not as many in numbers, perhaps, but emotionally? It’s off the charts, just like in Alabama, or Texas, or Florida.

• I grew up in that football culture, and spent many a fall Saturday in crowds of 80,000-plus screaming maniacs. I was one of them. But those maniacs then – have nothing over today’s partisans in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Omaha or Providence.

• I would even go so far as to say eastern hoop fans are generally a smart lot, perhaps smarter than their southern football brethren as a whole, whose passion can often overwhelm their sensibilities.

• The Big East season is back with us, again, and it is just as power-packed and emotionally-charged as it has always been. So let’s just hope we’re a part of the party, huh?

• The Friars’ start was about as miserable as it can get. Overwhelmed and outperformed by a very good Xavier team – which is also in a state of transition – the younger Friars have a lot of work to do to before climbing back up the ladder within the nation’s top conference.

• Three takeaways from the 82-56 defeat at 17th ranked Xavier – one, Rodney Bullock can’t go 1-for-11 shooting the ball for this team to win; two, this team needs to learn how to rebound, or at least block out the other guys better; three, defend someone like their lives depend on it.

• Because their basketball lives this year will depend on it. Just sayin’.

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Thinking out loud: Should we be happy Clay Buchholz was traded? 12.24.16 at 10:29 am ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering why we still hate Christian Laettner.

— Are we happier that Clay “couldn’t care less” Buchholz has been traded to the Phillies because of the obvious salary dump, or because it’s more of an insanity dump? Let’s face it, every time he took the mound, it was like having a cavity filled without Novocain.

— But is there more to come in the aftermath of his departure? Our buddy Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe suggests as much, that the dispatching of Buchholz’ $13.5 million salary might – might – set the table for a big(ger) bat to enter the picture. Maybe even Ortiz’ bat?

— Edwin Encarnacion is off to Cleveland. But some bats need to appear from somewhere. With all of that pitching, to not have the offense to go along would be like giving a Porsche a tune-up, but forgetting to fill the gas tank.

— Were Tom Brady’s demons exorcised with the Patriots’ win over the Broncos in Denver? Nah. All good players have their trouble spots, and Denver certainly hasn’t been an oasis for Brady. But to the team – it felt good to slap those guys at least once, after getting slapped themselves twice a year ago.

— But is the defense really that good? Well, yes and no. The Broncos’ ineptitude on offense helped. But the Patriots are beginning to make plays – and they are better at getting off the field on 3rd downs. Execution at both ends are two trends that will need to continue for a run to Super Bowl LI.

— J-E-T-S? Just End The Suffering. That is all.

— It’s easy to say you wouldn’t sign Michael Floyd after seeing the video(s) emerge of his DUI arrest in Arizona. Bill Belichick did say this week they had seen everything they needed to see before adding him to NE’s roster. Does Floyd need some help? Sure. Perhaps some stability with his employment is part of the path he needs to travel.

— But there is a big difference in saying the right things – which Floyd did this week – and in doing them. It’s up to Michael Floyd to take the next step. No one can push him in the direction he should travel, that’s entirely up to him.

— There’s also this compensatory pick thing, if Floyd leaves in free agency, the Patriots will receive if things don’t work out with him. Shrewd is BB’s middle name.

— What is this? Someone else guilty of ch-ch-cheating in the NFL? What else would you call the New York Giants’ use of walkie-talkies during their win two weeks ago, against Dallas? It’s against the rules, no matter the situation – as the Giants had a malfunction with their headsets at the time.

— The NFL fined the Giants $150,000 and hit coach Ben McAdoo – who certainly should have known the rules, right? – with another $50K punishment.

— A fourth-round draft pick in 2017 has also been moved to the end of the round after any compensatory picks. Ok, so it’s not Deflategate-worthy, but this shows two things – one, that teams still do whatever they can to gain an edge. And two, the NFL isn’t completely biased against the Patriots. Equal opportunity punishment?

— Notice use of the word “completely” in the above sentence.

— LeGarrette Blount. Malcolm Butler. Nate Ebner. Marcus Cannon. Four Patriots’ who might have a beef over the Pro Bowl selections this week. But if you ask me, the entire team may have been snubbed with just four picks for the honor (TB12, Dont’a Hightower, Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater). Why?

— Not for nuthin’, but don’t the Patriots have the best record in the NFL (along with Dallas)? And only four guys get the nod? Maybe that’s because no one expects any of them to actually play in this farcical sporting event, held in Orlando next month.

— Did you see where the Seahawks’ Richard “Big Mouth” Sherman threatened a member of Seattle’s media this week, just because he didn’t like the question he was asked? “I’ll ruin your career,” was what Sherman told the ESPN 710 radio reporter, threatening to have his credentials revoked.

— Oh, Richard. Threatening the media is never a good idea. Quite the contrary, because in this day and age it only takes two seconds to go viral, smart guy. He later apologized, sort of, via Twitter. “I appreciate the role the media plays and they have a tough job. I let it get personal today and I regret that.”

— You know, I always thought the only dumb questions out there were the ones that don’t get asked?

— The story out there this week on the San Diego security guard fired from his job at Qualcomm Stadium because he was, uh, pleasuring himself while on the field in front of thousands at a Chargers’ game? Wrong on so many levels.

— But we’ll start with this – what could he have possibly found pleasurable about watching the San Diego Chargers? Aren’t they moving to Los Angeles, anyway? Just sayin’.

— This weeks’ “grumpy ol’ man gripe session” features two young men, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and LSU’s Leonard Fournette, who are undoubtedly talented football players with a ton of professional potential in front of them. That they’ve both chosen to sit out their team’s bowl games to “prepare for the draft” is yet but another sign that an athletic apocalypse is right on our doorstep.

— And it is the NCAA who is ultimately to blame. Sure, everyone needs to be accountable for oneself, and in today’s world of immediate gratification, why would we expect anyone in this age bracket (looking at you, millennials) to behave differently?

— When the collegiate poohbahs grabbed the dough, all right-minded, selfless thinking went out the window. And that’s what these two players are doing – giving up on team, principles, commitment, all that rah-rah stuff they’ve been taught for years – that WE’VE been taught for years – to move into the business of pro football.

— You reap what you sew. Or sow. Oink.

— You’ve heard the saying “there is no ‘I’ in T-E-A-M?” Well, there ain’t no WE, either.

— We may as well drop all bowl games short of the big-money playoffs. Bowl games, once a reward for a good season, are only so much cannon-fodder and obscure cable-channel programming these days and are barely noticed outside of the New Year.

— When do players start to quit on the NCAA basketball tournament because they need to get ready for the pros? That day is coming, because college coaches have long been able to “quit” on teams to jump to other jobs with little-to-no real repercussion.

— True amateurism in this country died in 1984, as far as I can tell, when the Olympic Games were marketed and sold like no event had been sold previously. To keep taxpayers from paying more than their fair share (a noble thought), “sports business” bought and sold our athletic souls along the way, replete with all the requisite sportsmanship ideals that are a part of our younger, innocent days. It shows that the almighty buck is the ultimate winner in these endeavors.

— We should have seen this coming.

— Before the season started, if you had told me the Providence Friars would have 10 wins (or more) before Big East play began, I would have told you to put down whatever it was you were drinking. And give me some of it.

— While PC has forged a new identity for the most part – through a thorough buy-in to defense – several individuals have also grown considerably in stature, if not in size.

— Kyron Cartwright has developed into a top-flight, Big East-caliber point guard. Jalen Lindsey is an elite defender. Emmitt Holt is tough and talented in the middle. And Rodney Bullock, as unassuming as he may sometimes appear to be, is lethal as a scorer and potential go-to guy.

— Just when we may have thought this team, this program, was a year or two away from being a part of March Madness again – they’re right back in the discussion for this year. That’s not just the mark of a good a team, you know. It’s the mark of a good a program.

— The Friars’ turning heads and potential tail-whoopin’ of foes this season should make for an interesting conference schedule, certainly. But they’ll have to go out there and earn it. The Big East has a history of eating its’ young in league play before they’re ready, in case you haven’t been paying attention.

— Talking about turning some heads, I mentioned recently the rapid descent of the once-vaunted Syracuse program – and was quickly chastised by a reader who reminded me “they were in the Final Four last year, weren’t they?” Yes, they were. I was there.

— But this year’s Syracuse team isn’t even a shell of the team on the floor last year, as I said. As evidence, I present to you a stunning, shocking 93-60 defeat to St. John’s at the Carrier Dome this week. St. John’s? Yup. Worst loss in the 36-year history of the Carrier Dome – by one of the worst teams (for now) in the Big East.

— Told ya’. St. John’s had beaten only one team with a winning record before squeezing the Orange. This Syracuse team isn’t good. All that traveling down Tobacco Road has been bad for their health.

— Our friend Edward, the women’s hoop nut, will be watching this – Fox Sports will be offering an all-access game in the Big East between St. John’s and Seton Hall on Dec. 30. The coaches will be mic’d up – LIVE – and no commercials. That’s right, no commercials, live on the sidelines, live in the huddles and even live in the locker rooms. Fox Sports Go will also stream dedicated cameras of each of the coaches with live audio.

— Will actions ever meet expectations for the URI Rams? Perhaps, now that Atlantic-10 play is at hand. But most assuredly, if Hassan Martin is able to find his way back into the lineup. His toughness and ability are a part of the Rams’ fiber. Next up, Saint Louis Dec. 30.

— Tough homecoming, of sorts, for former Rhode Island College head coach and PC assistant Bob Walsh this week. His Maine Black Bears did a lot of scrapping in a 79-59 loss to Providence Tuesday, and succumbed to a 55-point second half by Brown in an 82-77 loss to the Bears Thursday.

— More examples this week of just how tough times remain in the media business, with two familiar names (and friends) let go from CSNNE – Bob Neumeier and Sean McAdam. Word has it that more changes are coming from Comcast, partially as a result of the trickle-down effects of “unbundling” cable channels from your service. And all you’re trying to do is save a few bucks. Bet you didn’t know that.

— My buddy “Big E” sez he has a friend who is a government employee, and out of sheer boredom, decided to do some rummaging in an old file cabinet he found buried in his building’s basement. To his surprise, he found what looked like an old, brass lamp – so for kicks, he took it home.

— Wouldn’t you know, while polishing it, a genie jumped out and granted him three wishes. First, he wished for an ice-cold drink – and the genie delivered. Next, while sipping the drink, he asked to be on an island with beautiful women all lusting after him. Again, the genie delivered, with several beauties staring at him in admiration. Finally, the guy told the genie “I wish I’d never have to work again.”

— And just like that, he was back in his government office.

— Watching Duke’s Grayson Allen trip another player this week – for a 3rd time in the past year – and reading the fallout immediately set my thoughts to the most-hated Blue Devil of all time. It has to be Christian Laettner, doesn’t it? Laettner hit one of college basketball’s most iconic shots (at least before Villanova’s Kris Jenkins hit his national title game-winner last April) when he beat Kentucky at the buzzer in 1992’s NCAA Regional Finals. He had stepped on a Kentucky player during the game that started the “hate” – which still flows today. ESPN produced a 30-for-30 documentary on why he’s reviled – I Hate Christian Laettner.

— Perhaps, however, he’s hated simply because he was good? Laettner was a college player of the year, was elected into both the Basketball Hall of Fame and the US Olympic Hall of Fame, and was the only collegiate player selected for the original “Dream Team” back in ’92. Today, he’s retired from basketball, but still into fishing, real estate and youth basketball camps.

— Nick in Las Vegas, Nevada posted on Facebook this week, on the Patriots’ play without Gronk: “I, for one, am at least a little amazed that they are performing this consistently without the Gronk. I understand, at least, I thought I understood more so than anyone how watered down the league is, but we also know that it’s never easy.” Nick: Replacing Rob Gronkowski is an impossible task. That the Patriots have been able to overcome (for now) his absence is due to the overall talent the team possesses, and the abilities of the players and coaches to game plan around his absence. Would they love to have him back? Of course. Can they win without him? Of course. To say they wouldn’t is to discredit a deep and still-talented roster.

— Here’s hoping you have a very Merry Christmas holiday season! It’s not much in the way of a gift, really, but your reading, following and commenting are greatly appreciated. Exchanging views is one of the best gifts we can give each other.

— 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.

Thinking out loud: Were Patriots lucky to beat Ravens? 12.16.16 at 3:25 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to Kirk Cameron.

— Were the Patriots “lucky” to beat the Baltimore Ravens? It depends on what you consider “luck.” If luck to you is turning the ball over twice in your own red zone, giving up two easy touchdowns, blowing a 20-point lead and still managing to win – then the Patriots are certainly a little bit lucky.

— But the Patriots also have Tom Brady pitching, and guys like Martellus Bennett and Chris Hogan catching – and compared to last year at this same time, it’s a major difference in depth and playmaking ability for this team.

— The unsung hero on the offense, for my money, is LeGarrette Blount. A career year in rushing yards, but for the life of me, why does this team insist upon throwing the ball from the 2-yard line – when they surely could get two yards on four tries at pounding the line with BFT (Blount Force Trauma), couldn’t they?

— That’s on the offensive line. While improved, no doubt, over a year ago – they’re not particularly strong up the middle. It’s why you see runs bounce to the outside so often. There’s not much room between the tackles, and when there is room, it doesn’t last long enough to get there.

— Overall however, the Patriots have a much better run game (7th in the NFL) than this time last year (27th) going into Denver. The above-mentioned depth and the running game (the Denver “D” Achilles heel this year) should be enough beat the Broncos – as long as you don’t turn the ball over in the red zone.

— The AFC East is all but over, and with a win at Denver the Patriots will claim the division for an 8th straight season, and the 14th time in the last 16 years. They can also clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs with two weeks still to play. Is that a good thing for this team, or not-so-good? Discuss amongst yourselves and get back to me on that one, will ya’?

— TB12 is not only the NFL MVP for this season, he’s also the NFL (and worldwide) poster boy for sucking it up, taking your (unnecessary) medicine/punishment and then unleashing fury thereafter. Yes, if there is a true football god, he will force Roger Goodell into presenting the Lombardi trophy AND the Super Bowl LI MVP award to Brady.

— And smile while doing it.

— Our pigskin pal Kerry Byrne from Cold Hard Football Facts has laid down some pretty impressive TB12 stuff recently. Like the fact that Seattle’s Russell Wilson – who is a pretty good QB, last week’s result aside – has 61 career wins in 4 ½ seasons. He would have to average 12 wins per season for the next 13 years (through 2028) to match Brady’s current career total of 201 victories. And Brady’s not even through yet.

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Thinking Out Loud: Defense fuels Providence basketball’s early season success 12.09.16 at 5:34 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering if ad execs, TV producers and power brands ever realize that “less” actually can mean “more.”

— Don’t look now, but the Providence Friars might be one of the surprise teams this season — not just in the Big East, but in all of college hoopdom. A win over a nationally ranked URI Rams team opened some eyes in several corners of the country.

— And just why is this Friars version better than originally thought or hoped for? One word: defense. These kids take to it like a duck takes to water. Defense is all about desire, even if it takes some talent to play it well. Defensive stops lead to offensive transition, which for a team still searching for scoring options is the best option of all.

— But the shooting? Whoa. Fourteen 3’s the other night against the Bears shouldn’t be considered the norm, but it sure is a bonus.

— The road ahead for PC shapes up quite nicely, if the Friars can MTOB (mind their own business). UMass, Maine, UConn-killing Wagner and at Boston College — if all plays out to form — should have the team on or at least near the cusp of the Top 25 again (!) as the Friars travel to Xavier to open league play later this month.

— Not for nuthin’, but young teams traditionally experience growing pains. So, without big expectations, this season already has been fun to watch. It could get a lot funner from here.

— Rodney Bullock’s Big East Player of the Week honor should thrust him into the spotlight as one of the league’s go-to guys. Strange that he wasn’t considered potential all-Big East before the year began. What do these coaches look at, exactly, that they couldn’t tell this before the season started?

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Thinking Out Loud: Bryant basketball blunder puts Bulldogs in spotlight 12.02.16 at 5:39 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Bonzie Colson.

— The old saying that “bad PR is better than no PR” is applicable in the case of Bryant basketball this week. Did you catch the end of the game at Brown? You should have by now, it was all over social media — even ESPN and Deadspin picked up on it.

— ICYMI, Bryant freshman Ikenna Ndugba thought his team was leading in the game’s frantic final seconds, when in actuality his team trailed by a point. Ndugba’s miscalculation and inadvertent celebration led to Brown’s big come-from-behind 91-90 win Monday night. Ouch.

— A teachable moment for coach Tim O’Shea? Sure. Keep your head in the game, son. Keep your head in the game. And, freshmen will make mistakes. Count on them. Hopefully, not too many game-ending-in-a-defeat mistakes, like this one.

— On the positive side for the Bulldogs, sophomore guard Nisre Zouzoua (say it fast five times) was named the Northeast Conference Player of the Week for averaging 25 points per game over three games last week. So there is that. If you need an entertaining, phonetic challenge at all, just follow Bryant basketball for a while.

— URI had the chance to come up large at Valparaiso this week but came up short instead. It is true — and Rhody fans might not want to hear this — but good teams find a way to win road games. Tuesday night’s loss in Indiana was a missed opportunity. You know when the next shot is, right?

— E.C. Matthews is, indeed, struggling after missing the last year due to his knee injury. He’s not the same player he was, and that’s not surprising. Rhody fans had best hope I just jinxed the Friars for Saturday, and that Matthews has his come-to-Jesus breakout performance against PC.

— Jared Terrell is carrying the Rams right now. But he needs offensive help, and he’ll get effort from Hassan Martin in that regard. Kuran Iverson needs to stay out of foul trouble, and someone on the team needs to be able to hit a clutch shot. Win or lose Saturday, the Rams most likely will fall out of the AP Top 25 next week after a four-week run, the second-longest in program history.

— There’s plenty of time and opportunity left to be NCAA good — but it’s got to start somewhere, some time. Just sayin’.

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Thinking Out Loud: URI needs more balance to crack college basketball elite 11.25.16 at 9:05 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering what I am truly thankful for this year.

— Let’s start this week by saying I’m thankful Rhode Island has college basketball as a marquee sport in this state. Largely ignored elsewhere in New England — and I don’t consider Connecticut real New England, more like Eastern New York — high-level hoops have always been the goal, and more often than not, the reality, too.

— For a hoop-head like me, having watched it, played it and covered it for a half-century, it’s nirvana. When our teams are among the best, the games and the seasons go by way too fast.

— URI’s matchup with then-No. 1-ranked Duke last week at Mohegan Sun was a bit anticlimactic, but then again, Duke has always had a way of making things anticlimactic — by beating up on you.

— The Rams didn’t play poorly, but the Rams also didn’t play well enough to beat one of the best — even without several of their best players. Imagine what the Blue Devils will be like when they’re healthy?

— The good teams — the really good, elite teams — always have a way of picking themselves up when they’re down. Duke’s defense on E.C. Matthews was a decided factor, as the Blue Devils realized Matthews could NOT go off if Duke was to win. Mission accomplished, even if some of it was self-inflicted by Matthews.

— Rhode Island is a good team, make no mistake about that. The win over Cincinnati is a great start. But if the Rams are to challenge and beat the elite, they’ll need everyone to contribute. That’s no surprise. They also might need more of that defensive effort used to get back into the Duke game more often. Plenty of time to work on things as the season unfolds, with a big date at the Dunk looming.

— Next season the Rams will face some of the elite in the NIT Season Tip-Off during Thanksgiving week, with the tournament field announced this week. Returning to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, URI will be joined by Virginia (ACC), Seton Hall (Big East) and Vanderbilt (SEC). In order to be a big dog, you’ve got to run with the big dogs.

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Thinking Out Loud: Promising start for PC basketball 11.18.16 at 5:34 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Tawny Kitaen?

— Providence’s debut against Vermont definitely was a positive surprise. There were no “deer in the headlights” looks from the younger players, but more of a “we belong” feel to the play on the floor. Oh, they’ll have some moments this year, good and not-so-good, but they DO have talent.

— Game 2 at Ohio State was a different story. The Buckeyes are long, strong and physical, and basically punished PC in the paint during the first half Thursday night in a 72-67 PC loss. Freshman Kalif Young (6-foot-9) has ability, but he’s simply not ready — yet. And without Emmitt Holt, who was in foul trouble, the Friars had no answers for dribble-penetration from the strong OSU guards and forwards.

— We did say there would be nights like this. But Rodney Bullock (career-high 27 points) will keep his team in games, and the Friars will have their chances. A school record-tying low of three turnovers against OSU also will keep you in plenty of games as well.

— Junior guard Kyron Cartwright, who has assumed command of the team from Kris Dunn at the point, was a leader in the Big East a year ago (as a backup) in assist-to-turnover ratio. He’s averaging 10 dimes per game already this season.

— Think OSU (58K undergraduate students) and PC (3,800 undergrads) have anything in common? The only retired jersey that the Ohio State hockey program has is No. 22, hanging in the rafters of the Value City Arena where the hockey Buckeyes also play their home games with the basketball team. That No. 22 belonged to 1984 All-American Paul Pooley — who coached the Hockey Friars from 1994-2005. Pooley is currently the associate head coach at Notre Dame.

— Remember Randall Hanke, the 6-11 Friars big man who bridged the Tim Welsh and Keno Davis coaching eras at PC? After his graduation from school in 2009, and following a seven-year career playing overseas (Scotland, Spain, Denmark, Hungary, Finland, Germany, Great Britain) Hanke now is a volunteer assistant for Ed Cooley’s staff this season and considering a coaching career for himself.

— Cooley once recruited Hanke while he was at Boston College under Al Skinner (in 2003-04), losing that battle to Welsh at the time. What goes around, comes around.

— WANE-TV in Fort Wayne, Indiana, reported this week that after his 27-point, 10-rebound performance for the Mad Ants, former Friar Ben Bentil is leaving the NBADL team on a 60-day contract to play overseas — and make some quid — apparently in China. The team expects Bentil to return to the Mad Ants after his 60-day deal expires, but it first needs a formal approval from the D-League.

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Thinking Out Loud: Expect up-and-down season from young Friars squad 11.11.16 at 5:40 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud . . . while wondering whatever happened to leisure suits?

— Providence basketball fans, if you’re wondering at all — or concerned at all — about the scrimmage at Northeastern (allegedly a loss), don’t be. Well, a little bit maybe. But here’s the thing: This is a young team that is going to experience ups and downs through the entire year. Hopefully, more ups than downs. But get ready to ride a roller coaster, right through the season into March.

— Good to see that sophomore guard Drew Edwards has been cleared to return to the floor, after offseason knee surgery. He’s still “day-to-day,” but the Friars need his intensity and defensive abilities. For this team to stay in games and win a few, defense must be a constant every night.

— Vermont comes in for the opener Monday night having already played a game, Saturday against Quinnipiac. It’s a bit of a disadvantage, but hey, what can you do? The Dunk wasn’t available for a Friday opener, thanks to the brilliant idea of bringing in something called the “Rhode Island Comic Con” over the weekend. There’s irony in that very statement, so I’ll just leave it at that.

— Don’t get me started on the Dunk not being a “true” home floor for Providence basketball. Pardon my Belichick, but, “It is what it is.” PC waits until Monday with a later start while the rest of the college basketball world plays on.

— Before opening Friday night with Dartmouth, URI scrimmaged in one of those “closed” deals at St. John’s last week, which probably was a pretty good litmus test for both. According to multiple sources, the Rams took the first half by 14 points, while the Johnnies claimed the second half by one. Means nothing, of course. But it definitely would have been fun to watch.

— Speaking of fun to watch, the Mohegan Sun Basketball Hall of Fame Tourney in Uncasville, Connecticut, should be a blast. Both Brown and URI are in it this year, but all eyes are pointing to a potential final that could have the 23rd-ranked Rams facing No. 1 Duke in the final. That building should be banged out — as a “home away from home” for Rhody. Must see.

— The Rams, however, had best not sleep on Cincinnati, who they get to face in the first game at the Casino arena. The Bearcats are the preseason pick over UConn, barely, to win the American Athletic Conference and boast preseason Player of the Year candidate Troy Caupain.

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