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Carol Anne Costa: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad March

Thursday, March 20, 2014

 

As NCAA March Madness gets underway, there is plenty of competition in RI politics as well.

Is it me, or is everyone just twisted? I am beginning to think we are taking the March Madness theme way too literally. If only it was just the basketball driving us to frenzy; but alas, it is much, much more. With each cold morning and gloomy dark day, I feel I’m beginning to morph into The Shining’s lead character, Jack Torrance…Heeere's Carol! This eternal winter is growing more maddening each day. And, guess what? It’s March Madness, so perhaps I will fit right in. Look, I hope not to step on any toes here, as GoLocal’s John Rooke is a master at sports analysis, but I shall wade into the waters of sports analogy if you allow me. Come on; let’s have some fun! Crimea, health care, politics, and the stagnant RI economy will sadly still be there tomorrow. Let’s see how the political brackets shape up.

Tourney Time

In my view the NCAA bracketology and political bracketology are kinfolk, as they share a spirit and many characteristics. They both have drama, bubbles, big money, a squishy selection process and my personal favorites, underdogs and the ever-captivating Cinderellas. And oh how we root for them—be it basketball, candidates, or campaigns—we get invested. Whether for voters or fans, the post-selection analysis and post-election analysis is always a head scratcher.

The bracket for the big dance is set and the battles underway, not unlike the madness taking place in the political brackets. While there is no North, South, East and West, there exist the brackets on the domestic and world fronts.

New brackets include the Healthcare Bracket (HC), Midterm Bracket (MT), Hot Races Bracket (HR), and the Wild Putin Bracket (WP). So let’s take a closer look...

Healthcare Bracket

Seeded in the Healthcare Bracket (HC) are the Millennials. They are a young, fresh, and seemingly invincible group, but it is their undisciplined approach that could be their undoing. However, they remain a fiery mass ready to run at Obama and the GOP. These young guns can make or break the ACA. They really don’t liked to pushed around in the paint and take every chance to return the elbows. They are a strong and unfocused group, but I consider them a real threat as they are poised to make a big statement in the national discourse. Look for an exciting finish, as the shot clock is running.

Midterm Bracket (MT)

This one promises to come down to several double and triple overtimes. The top seed in this bracket is clearly the GOP, but big questions lurk. Which lessons were learned last season? Have they beefed up the bench? Is that Christine O'Donnell I see riding the pine…? Better hope no one fouls out. Will those with the ball in the end be ready to make the money shot? In this bracket, the seeds are literally playing for the whole magilla: the Senate and the House. The eager GOP is drooling over Senate control and it is not out of reach. They lean heavily on the guards known as repeal and replace, and plan on a strategy of running out the clock. So the question is, can they pick and roll their way to victory? Tick tick tick…

Hot Races Bracket (HR)

Get your tickets now, as the early rounds in this bracket will be chock full of knockdown, drag-out excitement. Raimondo, Tavares, and Pell will be the premier showdown. Not to be outdone, the early rounds featuring Magaziner, Caprio, and Almonte promise to deliver as well. The always steady Kilmartin could get rattled in this one, as a guy named Hodgson has been practicing with all due diligence. Seeded here too are the many of the Cinderellas the underfunded, the dreamers, the idealists, and conversely, the big dogs and the Goliaths. Lots to cheer for and against in this baby—real smash mouth competition will be on the docket. Expect lots of fouls perhaps even a technical or two as they will play hard and for keeps.

Wild Putin (WP) bracket

This is clearly the most intense bracket. My intel tells me the practice sessions are old school shirts and skins, and we know what practice team ole Vlad is running with—skins all the way. He had to be told he couldn't play in 2 brackets at once; he is a selfish little man. The Putin plan is to overwhelm, take up lots of ground, hold the ball, spread the floor, and play an ever-extending zone. But this strategy could very well backfire, as his greedy style of play could energize and mobilize domestic adversaries (wake up DC) in hopes to quash the progress of a common enemy. It seems John McCain is in the house and he is constantly berating the officials. At first blush, #1 seed Vlad seems to have full control and a steady path to victory, but this is the bracket where the underdog American society may rise up with a cold war temperament and shock the shirtless Russian leader. This bracket is ripe for surprises and intensity.

Good Luck Friars

Sending much luck to our very own PC Friars as they take on NCU in the first round tomorrow in San Antonio at 7:20 pm. The one game prediction I can make with certitude is that Jim Hummell will be tied in knots…but I digress. It seems many will have meetings outside the office this week. Fret not, everyone knows and as stealthy as you think you are being, let’s just say timing is everything! I can hear the prognostications from here—everyone has a nuance, everyone has a Cinderella, everyone has deeply held thoughts and beliefs on how things will proceed, all in the hopes of either winning the office pool or cheering for their favorite 5. Time to enjoy the madness, as we await warm spring weather. GO PC!

 

Carol Costa is a public relations and community outreach specialist; she has experience in both the public and private sectors. She is the Chairwoman of the Scituate Democratic Town Committee and has extensive community affairs and public relations experience. She previously served in the Rhode Island Judiciary for nearly 17 years. Carol also enjoyed a successful development stint at the Diocese of Providence as Associate Director for Catholic Education and is currently a public housing manager. Her work has been published in several local outlets including GoLocal, Valley Breeze, The Rhode Island Catholic, and Currents Magazine.

 

Related Slideshow: PC’s Top Post-season Teams

There may, or may not, be any debate on this subject among Friar fans.  But there might be a debate over where the 2013-14 Providence team ranks among some of the better teams - and better stories - on post-season teams in their history.  So...from the early days of Lenny Wilkens and Joe Mullaney, to Dave Gavitt's Final Four Friars, to Rick Pitino, Rick Barnes and Pete Gillen-led teams, we've included them all.  Where do the current Big East Champion, Ed Cooley-led Friars fall in this mix?

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1972-73 NCAA Final Four

Led by Ernie DiGregorio, Marvin Barnes and Kevin Stacom, this was Providence's best shot at winning a National Title...until Barnes went down with a knee injury in the semifinals against Memphis State.  An anticipated matchup for the championship with Bill Walton's legendary UCLA Bruins never materialized.  But this team did finish 27-4, and entertained scores of fans across the country...while creating a buzz about PC hoops that still exists today. (rirhof.org)

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1986-87 NCAA Final Four

This wasn't the best Friar team of all time...and probably not the most-talented.  But it was, perhaps, the most magical.  And it did have talent, led by Billy Donovan, Jacek Duda, Dave Kipfer, Ernie "Pop" Lewis and Delray Brooks.   But the best attribute of this team was shooting the three, and believing in themselves.  These Friars finished 25-9, and lost in the National semifinals to Syracuse(realclearsports.com)

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1996-97 NCAA Elite Eight

This Providence team was one of the most-talented teams ever assembled on Smith Hill...but as the legend goes, had a hard time getting along with each other.  Pete Gillen led these Friars to within a missed jump-shot of a berth in the Final Four, but did get into overtime in the Regional Final against eventual national champ Arizona before falling.  God Shammgod, Austin Croshere, Jamel Thomas, Ruben Garces and Derrick "Flight" Brown whipped Duke along the way to a 24-12 record, gaining legendary status, fame, and perhaps near-fortune. (friarbasketball.com)

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1959-60 NIT Finalists

No, this team did not win the NIT...which at the time was considered the TRUE National Championship Tournament.  But it was this team (along with the NIT team in 1959) that helped create the passion for Friar Basketball in Providence, and throughout the state of Rhode Island.  Led by Hall-of-Famer Lenny Wilkens, and head coach Joe Mullaney, PC arrived on national scene as well.  Big man James Hadnot led the Friars in scoring and rebounding. (providence.edu)

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1960-61 NIT Champions

It wasn't the NCAA Championship, but at the time, the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) WAS the national championship, and the Friars won it in 1961...defeating St. Louis 62-59 at Madison Square Garden in New York behind Vinny Ernst and James Hadnot.  PC finished 24-5, Hadnot averaged nearly 20 points and more than 16 rebounds per game, while Ernst was a whirling dervish on the floor (look that one up)! (providence.edu)

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1962-63 NIT Champions

There was one more championship team in Providence history, as two years after the first one, the '62-'63 Friars returned to the NIT throne room by winning 15 straight games to finish the season at 24-4.  Former Boston mayor and US Ambassador to the Vatican Ray Flynn led PC in scoring, along with legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson, Jr.  Vinny Ernst was also on this team as a senior, winning two titles in his Providence career. (Flynn & Ernst, providence.edu)

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1993-94 Big East Champion

In the Big East era, it's tough to leave this team off of any list...even though they did not have success in the NCAA Tournament in 1994.  But PC's first Big East title came after a talented team caught fire in the '94 event at the Garden, led by Rob Phelps, Eric Williams, former Central HS and CCRI star Abdul Abdullah, Dickey Simpkins and Michael Smith - one of the best rebounders the league has ever seen.  The Friars finished 20-10, winning the Big East, but lost to Alabama in the NCAA Tournament 1st round. (Williams & Phelps, wordpress.com)

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2013-14 Big East Champion

It's hard to say, when they have yet to prove much on the national stage...but this year's Friar team deserves to be ranked with the best in school history just from the story of their journey(s) alone.  Bryce Cotton came from Arizona without another Division I offer; injury and suspension depleting the roster; two transfer players playing significant roles; Coach and Providence-native Ed Cooley, whose house caught on fire during the year...it goes on and on.  One heck of a ride and a story...and it's still going. (Cotton, twcc.com)

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1964-65 NCAA Reg. Finals

It wasn't known as the "Elite 8" then, but the '64-'65 Friars were certainly one of the best teams in the school's athletic history.  Finishing 24-2 and ranked 4th in the national polls, the Jimmy Walker-led Friars were beaten by Bill Bradley's Princeton team in the NCAA's, just missing out on the Final Four.  Sophomores Walker, Dexter Westbrook and future NY Knick Mike Riordan led this group of Friars, along with James Benedict and Bill Blair.  This team may have been coach Joe Mullaney's most talented. (Westbrook & Walker, friarbasketball.com)

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1973-74 NCAA Sweet 16

Like some of the other great Friar squads of the past, this team ultimately stubbed its' toes in the NCAA's.  But these Friars deserve Top 10 mention as PC's winningest single-season team, finishing 28-4.  On the heels of the Final Four, and behind Marvin Barnes, Kevin Stacom, Bob Cooper and Joe Hassett, they were ranked as high as 6th in the nation before losing to eventual national champ North Carolina State(Gavitt, Barnes, DeGregorio, wordpress.com)

 
 

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