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John Rooke - Thinking Out Loud

Saturday, March 08, 2014

 

Thinking out loud…and wondering what it might take for Bob Walsh to get a Division I look?

• I’ve never been one to go crazy over hockey fights. I understand how they happen, and mostly understand why they happen. But isn’t it time to examine this a bit further? With all of the protective issues permeating our teams and athletes, after what happened in a Calgary-Edmonton NHL scrum recently shouldn’t someone step up and say “this isn’t right?”

• Remember Mike Jarvis? For some reason, Big East basketball fans could work up quite a hatred for the former Boston University, George Washington, St. John’s and Florida Atlantic head coach. His teams made nine NCAA appearances in his 25 seasons as a head coach, and after compiling a 77-109 record in six years at FAU, the 68-year-old Jarvis is resigning. It was either that, or be fired outright. He says he’s writing a book, may write two or three more…and is working on a screenplay…

• How about March Weirdness? Normally, there might not be much attention paid to the SWAC post-season tournament, but this year it’s a different story. Four of the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s 10 teams are ineligible for the NCAA Tournament due to poor APR standing. Elsewhere, teams not eligible for the NCAA’s are also ineligible for their conference tournaments…but in the SWAC, the schools voted to keep the four in for this year. Which means, of course, the conference champ might not be able to go dancing. Instead, the highest finishing eligible team from the SWAC will get the invite, if they don’t win the conference tourney…

• Aaaarrrgghhh! Along with March Madness, comes March Marketing Madness. Why must the uniform suppliers do this to us? Because we talk about it? Kinda like we used to talk about getting wasted years ago and then getting sick? ‘Cuz that’s what I am. Not the wasted part, though…

• As social media has enabled fans to become closer to the teams and players they follow…it’s worth asking a question – has it also allowed fans to become too close? The Marcus Smart fan-shoving incident at Oklahoma State…was topped perhaps by the near on-court melee at Utah Valley after fans rushed the court following a win over New Mexico State, and NMSU players threw a few punches on their way off the court. A professor at the University of Missouri believes the engagement between fan and player no longer limited to the court lends another layer of proximity to an already tense environment. Twitter fights could invariably spill over onto the floor. It’s worth thinking about for schools and conferences as a new age of digital engagement envelops us all…

• My thoughts on the Oscars last weekend? Ellen DeGeneres was “ok” as the host. Some think she knocked it out of the park…but while her bits getting the stars to take “selfies,” tweeting with Meryl Streep and sending out for pizza were funny, her overall energy waned from time to time. Didn’t think it was her best work overall. Kim Novak and Goldie Hawn, God bless them, know not what they do…not entirely sure what the Academy saw in “Gravity,” but I am a fan of Sandra Bullock…found myself rooting for Bruce Dern for Best Actor, despite fellow Texas-Ex Matthew McConaughey winning the award (Hook ‘em Horns!)…and I guess now I have a good reason to watch at least two or three movies I never thought I’d see over the next few weeks…

• Ok, so I don’t follow him…but maybe I should now consider it. Cleveland Indians relief pitcher John Axford, apparently, is a savant when it comes to predicting the Oscars. Last year, he hit 14 of 15 correctly…and this year? A perfect 18-for-18…including winners in relatively obscure categories like Costume Design and Best Song. Whoa

Tweet of the Week I – from @JohnAxford: “I’m pretty sure this means I have to do all 24 categories next year. #Oscars #18for18…”

Bryce Cotton (friarbasketball.com)

• Speaking of the movies…the ESPN “30 for 30” film entitled “Requiem for the Big East” that will play Selection Sunday is must-see-TV…for Big East fans, for basketball fans, for those who wonder how and why college sports became such a huge business. Did Dave Gavitt know what he was doing?

• Momentum building…this past week, Bryce Cotton was named Big East Player of the Week for a second straight week and the third time this season. Love the late sentiment for the Friar senior, which is better late than never. But his play is something that has been pretty consistent for the entire season – not just lately. I don’t think he overtakes Dougie McBuckets for Player of the Year, but if the Friars somehow pull off a sweep of the Creighton Blue Jays…shouldn’t he at least be considered a “co-winner” of the honor? Do the right thing, coaches…

• Each of the five seniors honored before the game has contributed something to this team, which doesn’t always happen. But with such a short bench this year, everyone has HAD to contribute…and the players’ accepting their roles has been one of the best attributes the Friars have displayed this season. That, and Cotton having his season-to-remember has made it easier for everyone to sit back a bit and enjoy his ride… 

• The Tuesday win over Marquette was one of the most thrilling, hard-to-describe, back-and-forth affairs I’ve ever had the privilege to call. From a personal stand point, it was as riveting as the SIX overtime UConn-Syracuse game in 2009 that I called on national radio. Literally, after Davante Gardner hit his half-court shot to end regulation…I could not speak. Joe Hassett managed a “he hit that shot!” but it was stunning in its swiftness. James Breeding was the official that initially ruled it good, then ruled it no good after checking the replay. Funny, but the Friars’ season is defined by a mere fraction of a second in several instances. These “breaks,” if you will, haven’t gone their way over the past 4-5 years…

• I mean, could you have had more bang for your buck than Tuesday night? Every time a team stepped up with a big play, the other side countered. It was like two boxers punching, and then counter-punching. Big plays. Bone-headed plays. Good calls. Bad calls. Coaches coaching their rear-ends off. That was Big East basketball. Glad the nation got a chance to see it…

• Marquette’s Buzz Willliams can flat-out coach. But so can Ed Cooley. The chess match between the two at the end of regulation, again at the end of the first OT and at the end of the 2nd OT was fascinating to watch unfold. Great presence of mind for PC to force a held-ball at the end on Jake Thomas, rather than foul him and hope for misses at the line. That was the play of the game…and there were many, many good ones…

• And a shout out to the PC Hockey Friars’ Nate Leaman, who can also flat-out coach. Providence won’t know who they’ll face in the conference quarterfinals until Saturday night, but they get the best-of-three series at Schneider Arena beginning Friday, March 14th. In his three years on campus, like Ed Cooley he’s turned a program that “hoped” for post-season play into a program that “expects” post-season play. His standards are set high, and the players are reaching for and meeting those expectations. In a conference that certainly could be considered the best in the country (Hockey East), relevancy is everything…

• And being nationally-ranked in the Top 10 for most of the year is certainly relevant…

• Move aside, Papi…like David Ortiz last spring, the Pope dropped a very public F-bomb this week. Slip of the tongue or not, I like this guy and respect him more with every story I hear…

• My buddy “Big E” is a big fan of F-bombs, apparently. He told me the movie Wolf of Wall Street contained 506 F-bombs in three hours, setting a usage-record…unless you count his trying to put up shelving in his wife’s bedroom closet…

• That was Xavier’s NCAA Tournament hopes you heard crashing to the floor, after big man Matt Stainbrook went down with a knee injury against Seton Hall this past week. It was determined to be a sprained MCL, but enough to keep him out of the Musketeers’ finale (a loss) against Villanova. XU is a difficult matchup for a lot of very good teams, and they certainly could have been a Sweet 16 contender with him healthy. Now, the Musketeers will need to show they can win without him in New York…if they’re one-and-done at the Garden, they should have sweaty palms on Selection Sunday…

• In case you were wondering…the Big East reports ticket sales for next week’s tournament at MSG in NYC are proceeding well…and single game tickets are expected to pick up considerably once the bracket is finalized. Friday and Saturday (semis and finals) sales are particularly good. Get ‘em while you can…

• Don’t look now, but the train has come off the tracks a bit in Syracuse, where the once-invincible Orange have lost four of five, including two home losses in a row to teams with sub-.500 records. What does this mean? That all teams struggle a little when they lose depth (Jerami Grant has been out), and when they depend on just one player (C.J. Fair) to carry them. Whoops…wait a minute…isn’t that exactly what Providence has gone through?

Not for nuthin’…but I’d really LOVE the chance to play a former Big East rival in the post-season. Hope the Friars feel the same way…

Saturday, March 15th there will be a High School All-Star game held at East Greenwich High School (2eZ All-Star Game), to benefit Meeting Street School and 11-year-old Jake Downey, the son of EGHS coach Bob Downey. The list of expected participants is impressive, including Friar recruits Paschal Chukwu and target Donovan Mitchell…plus many other notables. There will be a dunk contest as well, prior to tip off at 5:00 pm. $10 admission, and includes a chance to win Celtics tickets. For information, visit ribasketball.com.

• The NFL Competition Committee’s discussion on moving the extra point to the 25-yard line sounds like a good compromise to me. Better than erasing it from the game. With the chip shot point-after just about an afterthought, moving the kick to the equivalent of a 43-yard field goal (eight yards behind the line, plus 10 in the end zone) puts at least enough of a “chance” behind it to keep it relevant in the game. Field goals in the league last year between 40 and 49 yards were converted at an 83% rate, compared to the 20-yard chippy converted at a 99.6% rate. As football and football players have evolved, so should the rules. The move would return at least some semi-excitement to a basic staple of football – the kick…

• But the kickers themselves hate the idea. Of course they do, even though statistically, it’s only a little harder kick to make. But Adam Vinatieri brought up a good point this week – that it could lead to more injuries with teams putting on a full rush to block an extra point, as opposed to what they do now. With player safety talked about so much these days, moving the extra point back would seem to fly in the face of those safety-first issues, wouldn’t it?

• Not surprised in the least that the Patriots didn’t extend franchise tag designations to either Aqib Talib or Julian Edelman. Talib, to me, made the most sense…but the dreaded term “value” is being pushed around Foxboro a lot this off-season. Was Talib worth $11 million for one year? Probably not. But maybe $8 million over 3 or 4 years? Could be…

• As for Edelman, his stepping up into the slot for Wes Welker was tremendous. But slot receivers are certainly not over-valued, and Edelman won’t be seen as a primary target for anyone. Here’s hoping the Patriots reward him with a significant upgrade over his $900K salary from last year with some security at the right price…to keep him around…

• Should the Patriots travel to “Revis Island” and find out if a deal with Tampa Bay can actually be put together to lure Darrelle Revis to New England? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…it sounds great. But it flies right in the face of EVERYTHING the Patriots believe in free agent-wise. $16 million a year? Not. Gonna. Do. It…

• Ok, I’ll dream. Revis and Aqib Talib in the same defensive backfield. That ain’t even fair. Just sayin’

• San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been a heck of a bargain, no doubt, at a little under $1 million a season in his first three years…but now, he’s just being silly. Or is he? Kaepernick is asking for $18 million – a heckuva raise – and if he doesn’t get it in a contract extension, he says he’ll play another year at his current rate before potentially upping the ante again. If he gets his $18 mil, that’s about $4 million more than TB12 earns…

• It must have been a strange sight…spotting a jersey in a spring training game last week with the name “Yastrzemski” embroidered on the back side. It was Carl’s grandson Mike, who currently is in camp with the Baltimore Orioles, after playing at Vanderbilt…

• Bon voyage, Bill Buckner. He’s stepping down from his position as a minor league hitting instructor in the Chicago Cubs organization, where he had spent the past two seasons in Idaho with the Boise Hawks. Buckner had also been a manager of the Brockton Rox in the independent CanAm league, and just decided he needed to spend more time with his family. Good decision…

• Just a word of warning for those pushing the agenda to legalize marijuana in Rhode Island…Houston Astros’ first-baseman Jon Singleton has admitted during spring training that he is “a drug addict…I enjoy being high and I can't block that out of my mind that I enjoy that," he said. "So I have to work against that." Singleton joined the Astros in a 2011 trade from Philly, and served a 50-game suspension last year for a second failed drug test. He’s been on and off of the drug since he was 14…

• Now, why would a Super Bowl-winning quarterback WANT to go to spring training and take ground balls, run his legs off, and not get into a game? If you’re Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who was taken in December’s Rule V Draft by the Texas Rangers and invited to camp, you do it because you love the sport…and because you want to create a good impression for others. That’s why the Rangers took him…to influence younger players…even though he’ll never play a minute for them…

• Wilson spent parts of two Class A seasons in the Colorado Rockies’ organization and hit .229 before he decided to transfer from NC State to Wisconsin for a 5th year-eligible season. Seems like he made the right choice…

• Prayers and good thoughts go out to Red sox relief pitcher Rich Hill, who told reporters in Florida this week his infant son Brooks passed away. Born on December 26th, he had multiple health issues and he’s very glad to be back with baseball and his teammates. Hill spent 2010-12 with the Sox, pitched last year in Cleveland, and signed a minor league deal with Boston in the off-season to be closer to his family. He’s originally from Milton, MA…

• Keep the thoughts and prayers coming…Cranston native, former hockey player and Johnson & Wales grad Brian Moretti, who was recently promoted to Director of Marketing & Promotions at St. Bonaventure, died unexpectedly this week while with the women’s basketball team in Richmond, VA…

LeBron James

LeBron James’ 61-point game this past week against Charlotte rekindled some of the “who is better?” debate between LBJ and Michael Jordan. I absolutely believe he’s still the most impactful player in the game today…but really? Do we need to go over this again? Jordan’s career high was 69 points. LBJ’s career high in rebounds is 19, Jordan’s is 18 – and he’s a guard. James’s high in assists is 16, MJ’s 17. Steals? LBJ 7, MJ 10. Championships won? James 2, Jordan 6. ‘Nuff said

• Although…a little shout out here to KD, Kevin Durant. He may be just as dynamic as James, and possibly a better shooter/scorer. Let’s see how he does in the title department, however. That was the big knock on LeBron, and he’s broken through the ice…

Tweet of the Week II – from @RIprobz: “I dont think pothole is the right word anymore. Crater or Olympic sized swimming pool seem to fit much better…”

Michael Sam fallout…interesting story from CBS Sports this week on the most – and least – receptive NFL cities to Sam’s coming out of the closet. Generally speaking, the bigger cities were supportive, the smaller markets…not as much…

Tweet of the Week III – from Steve Gleason, former New Orleans Saints safety and ALS patient @TeamGleason: “Going big 4 lent. Giving up walking, talking, eating (by mouth), wiping my butt, washing balls, biting nails & masturbation! #keepitreal” Now THAT'S a sense of humor...

Bob Walsh (goanchormen.com)

• With all apologies to Don Tencher, the AD at Rhode Island College, I don’t want to take his basketball coach away from him. But really, what’s it going to take for Bob Walsh to get a shot at a head coaching position in Division I? Walsh’s Anchormen played in the NCAA Division III tournament this week for the 8th straight year (losing to York College Thursday night) – they’re one of only four schools out of 450 D3 programs in the country to do that – and they won the Little East Conference title AGAIN this year with largely a rebuilt roster. Local kids Tom DeCiantis from North Kingstown and Mike Palumbo from Providence (who played at Classical) have helped continue the current run this program is experiencing. Walsh was an assistant at Providence under Tim Welsh in the early 2000’s, and stepped away from the “big time” to earn his head coaching stripes. He’s big time, all right. Check out his blog and read for yourself…

• From the mailbag this week – Matt from Pawtucket, RI via Facebook, on Bryant’s earlier-than-expected exit from the basketball season this past week: “(Tim) O'Shea needs to somehow recruit some big men...rebounding killed them all year long, right up until the end. That's too bad I thought they had a chance to win this tournament and go to the NCAA's.” Matt: I was very surprised Bryant ran out of steam as they did late in the year, and even more surprised that a 10-win Saint Francis team beat them IN SMITHFIELD in the NEC quarterfinals. That’s what happens when you build a program into a winner. You also build expectations…

• Interested in having your questions on local RI sports (including 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 and comments to [email protected]. 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 join us for GoLocal Sports on 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am! Call in (401) 737-1287(401) 737-1287, or text us at 37937…and send email to the show - [email protected] .

 

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