Lesson learned for Providence basketball in facing No. 1 Connecticut

Thinking out loud … while wondering if love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?

It’s a rare day when you get the chance to face No. 1.

It’s not an easy moment to manage. You’re excited for the opportunity to measure yourself against the best, if even for just a snapshot in time. There’s anxiety, nervousness, anticipation, the fear of inferiority, the chance to prove you can compete.

And, a physical challenge that makes the opponent No. 1 in the first place.

It’s also largely subjective. Remember, you’ve got a bunch of relatively non-athletic sports writers voting on who should be No. 1 from week to week. Unless a golf swing or lifting a pitcher of beer counts as athleticism. Take that for what it’s worth.

The Friars’ moment in the spotlight against No. 1 came on Wednesday at UConn. It was just the 18th time in the 97-year history of PC basketball that the Friars had faced the nation’s top-ranked team. Only five of those rare encounters occurred prior to the beginning of the Big East in 1979.

It didn’t go as Kim English or the Friars planned, no doubt. UConn had a lot to do with it and may be every bit as talented as last year’s team that won the program’s fifth national title.

But this PC team learned one thing if nothing else — it can hang because of its defense. Perimeter “D” was outstanding against the Huskies. But about those free throws …

Providence guard Devin Carter checks the scoreboard during Wednesday's game against No. 1 UConn.
Providence guard Devin Carter checks the scoreboard during Wednesday's game against No. 1 UConn.

Ed Cooley’s return to Providence would have been a fantasyland story for the rest of the Big East (and severe angst around here) if Georgetown had managed to pull off the upset. But the fairy tale was spoiled by Devin Carter’s rendition of Clark Kent putting on his Superman cape.

That day at the AMP was electric. Huzzah and kudos to the crowd, which managed to control itself relatively well, except for when Fox had to lower its audio to keep the F-bombs down and the FCC off its back.

And kudos to the AMP staff, Larry Lepore, for being “ready” for the mayhem.

∎Don’t sweat the Friars going back to Mohegan Sun next season to face UMass, and possibly Boston College. It’s a different event than the one they were in last season — and, both teams are likely stronger next season.

∎Don’t forget Maui in 2025; you’ll forget all about Uncasville, Conn.

∎Cumberland’s Tyler Kolek had a mid-season slump at Marquette. It happens to the best players. Looks like it’s now over, however, as Kolek spanked Villanova for a career-best 32 points in a road win on Tuesday. He also was named as a finalist for the prestigious John Wooden Award as the nation’s best player.

Marquette guard Tyler Kolek, of Cumberland, looks for an open teammate during a game against Seton Hall on Jan. 27.
Marquette guard Tyler Kolek, of Cumberland, looks for an open teammate during a game against Seton Hall on Jan. 27.

∎Speaking of Villanova, is there a team with more talent on paper, but doing less with it on the floor? I know, I know. I don’t want to jinx anything. Knock on wood, reverse whammy.

∎The major positional awards in college basketball (Bob Cousy, Jerry West, Julius Erving, Karl Malone, Kareem Abdul Jabbar) are littered with Big East names, and some notable omissions. Tyler Kolek is a candidate for the Cousy (point guard), but no Devin Carter for the West (shooting guard)?

You could even make the case for Carter as an Erving (small forward) candidate. The trouble with these awards and honors: If you’re not on the preseason watch list, you’ve got little-to-no shot. Too many decision-makers and publicists don’t watch the games.

This Week in the Big East (w/Kevin McNamara) features Butler head coach Thad Matta, the reigning league player of the week in Creighton’s Trey Alexander and UConn radio analyst/historian Wayne Norman. As always, find it on your favorite pod site, on Westwood One radio, on Sirius XM and on

∎Time to start bracket watching? Of course. But take note: a 10-10 Big East team should be a contender for the Big Dance provided it has a few Quad 1 wins in the mix. Seven Big East teams won’t be out of the question with so many Q1 games left on the schedule.

∎Within America East, Bryant’s play may actually give pause to the unthinkable: multi-bids from a mid-major league? Still unlikely, and Vermont is still King of the Hill, but the Bulldogs are one of only three teams in the country to have five different players score 25 points or more in a game this season.

If the Dawgs can be versatile, the Madness in March should be flexible, amiright?

Rhode Island snapped a losing skid by beating La Salle last week, and the Rams already have more wins this year than they had all of last year. There are still 11 games left to play in this one, too. Keep stepping up the ladder.

∎Major ups to PC’s Grace Efosa, who this week became the first Friar women’s basketballer to win a Big East Player of the Week award since 2019. Efosa averaged 20.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 50-percent shooting from the field in a perfect week for the Friars.

PC also has its first three-game winning streak in league play since 2018-19, heading into the weekend.

∎Nice to see and hear about Fenway Sports Group’s investment in professional golf. Up to $3 billion? Potentially with Saudis (and LIV Golf) involved, if their merger ever occurs? And the alleged “cornerstone” of FSG, the Boston Red Sox, have yet to get off the mattress from their off-season hangover.

∎You just know recently signed Justin Turner will win a game (or two) for the Blue Jays over the Sox next season, don’t ya?

∎Maybe there’s hope after all. The Orioles are selling for nearly $2 billion to a new group that includes Cal Ripken Jr. The Angelos family is waving bye-bye, all the way to the bank. Take the hint, Mr. Henry.

∎RIP, Jimy Williams. Most reporters I know feel like he got a raw deal while Boston manager, fired in 2001. He was A.L. Manager of the Year in 1999. All I know is, he gave us the quote: “If a frog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his booty.” That’s HOF material if I ever saw any.

Jimy Williams, the former Red Sox manager, died last week.
Jimy Williams, the former Red Sox manager, died last week.

∎My buddy “Big E” sez our younger generation should be prepared. In about 40 years, we’ll have thousands of old women running around with tattoos.

∎The Pac-12 is “poof.” Florida State struck the first blow in the demolition of the next power conference, the ACC. Now, North Carolina looks like it's getting ready for a move (Big Ten?) with a change this week to their university system bylaws that requires a Board of Governors approval before changing leagues.

Really? Who said anything about changing leagues? Well, the Tar Heels just did.

∎BC’s Jeff Hafley can apparently see the writing on the wall, bailing (OK, moving) to the NFL as Green Bay’s new defensive coordinator from the college game in the ACC, which is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel is a freight train headed right for it.

And don’t look now, but the money-if-not-prestige rich LSU athletic department has reported a deficit in revenue, a loss of $4 million for the past academic year. And its in the almighty SEC spending $$$ like a guy who forgot his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day.

Wait until the TV money shrinks or dries up altogether. The Big East had best hope that doesn’t happen in the next year when TV rights talks begin anew. Just sayin’.

∎Tenth-ranked Providence College hockey has won four of five heading into this weekend, including a sweep of UMass-Lowell and a split with No. 1 Boston College. Defenseman Austen May was the Hockey East Defender of the Week last week.

∎Please, no more “Mahomes or Brady” as the GOAT arguments. Patrick Mahomes leads the Chiefs, and likely is the best QB in the game today. Very athletic. But best ever? C’mon. You’re just a TB12 hater.

The KC QB needs to run up at least a decade of mind-numbing numbers and about five more rings to win, by my count, before we have a real conversation here. And we might have it.

∎Yes, rings count in any GOAT discussion. Otherwise, Dan Marino would enter the chat. And why is a mere 50% career completion QB like the Jets’ Joe Namath revered and in the HOF? He got a ring. More than half a century ago, but he got it.

Lions head coach Dan Campbell
Lions head coach Dan Campbell

∎You have to love Detroit’s Dan Campbell. Doubling down on the unbelievably dumb fourth down decision(s) that cost his Lions points against the 49ers in the NFC title game was terrible, especially for the analytical nerd world. The math said, slightly, to go on fourth down.

Not for nuthin’, but the math, and the Lions, failed. He’d try ‘em all over again, too? It’s rare we get to witness true insanity in the workplace. Here ya’ go.

It’s cute and funny this time, you macho man. If it happens again, it’s a fireable offense, big fella.

∎Mac Jones not having his option year picked up by the Patriots doesn’t mean much. The team won’t get anything close to his original value in return on a trade. He’s worth more with them than what New England would receive in return on the trade market for him.

∎Alex Van Pelt hired as the new offensive coordinator? You don’t remember this guy? An OC the last few years in Cleveland, he’s a former NFL QB who played collegiately at Pitt, breaking Dan Marino’s school records. I covered Van Pelt playing high school football in San Antonio, Texas. If I’ve been around the block, he has been, too. Not a bad thing in this instance.

∎Incredible to think but it sure seems likely both Bill Belichick and one-time “maybe he’ll replace BB” candidate Mike Vrabel will not be coaching in the NFL next season. Bizarre.

∎Jerry emailed this week: “As a faithful reader of your "Thinking Out Loud" column, I would like to thank you for your well-spoken segment addressing the Red Sox ownership/front office regarding their appalling turnaround from World Series Championship team builders to bottom-feeders. I might make my annual one or two game trek for the "Fenway experience" but not my usual attendance to several games…”

Thanks Jerry. Are there enough disgruntled fans to make a difference? The big question, and the one Mr. Henry and Mr. Werner are banking on: Will you do what you say and not show up? Or is the Fenway lure (and another ad nauseum rendition of Sweet Caroline) too great to pass up?

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This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Providence basketball learned about itself in facing No. 1 UConn