Stew Milne/USA Today Sports

Thinking out loud: College basketball is officially back

John Rooke
November 09, 2018 - 10:00 pm

Thinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to Keith Lomax…

  • Happy New Year!  What, November 6th isn’t the start of your New Year?  It is around here, in New England’s true mecca of living, breathing, eating and sleeping college basketball – Rhode Island. 

 

  • Pardon me, Springfield.  But the Hall of Fame is just a building.  And excuse me, NBA fans.  The best players come through here, the college ranks, before they ever get to you.  Just sayin’.

 

  • The Providence Friars played very well in their opener against Siena for about 30 minutes.  Then, they showed there’s still work to be done – especially on the defensive end.  But that Reeves kid?

 

  • Roxbury’s A.J. Reeves hit 7 of 9 from three-point range in a freshman debut never before seen at the Dunkin Donuts Center.  29 points is also a record for a freshman in a collegiate debut.  He has a stroke, no doubt about it.

 

  • And is it just a coincidence he wears #10 – which was once worn by one of the best-evah shooters (evah!) at PC, Joe Hassett? 

 

  • Reeves was outstanding, yes.  But the alpha male on this Friar team is Alpha Diallo.  He’s the leader, he’s the tough-guy, he’s the go-to when the going gets tough.  He’s also the lock-down defender on the other teams’ stars. 

 

  • Not for nuthin’, but the opener against the Saints was the 1st time for two freshmen to start for Providence since 1999 – 20 years ago. 

 

  • Game two against the Shockers Friday night was an about-face.  It was likely to happen with a young-ish team, but still…13-26 from the free throw line and at times a porous defense did the damage in an 83-80 loss to Wichita State. 

 

  • Reeves responded with 19 more, Alpha Diallo had a career high 27 points, but connected on just 6-13 from the line.  Can’t do that and expect to win much at the big-time level.  The Shockers’ seniors, led by Markis McDuffie (career high 32 points) and Samajae Haynes-Jones, set the tempo for a team with 11 newcomers to its roster. 

 

  • Eleven. New. Guys.  Won’t take Gregg Marshall long to get WSU back to where they are accustomed to residing – the Shockers have finished 1st or 2nd in their conference for 9 straight seasons. 

 

  • The Big East was 8-0 on opening night, in case you weren’t paying attention.  Ho-hum, same as it ever was.  But the Friars were the first league loss Friday night.

 

  • URI’s opener with Bryant showed the Rams have plenty of backcourt punch with Fatts Russell and Jeff Dowtin.  But we knew they’d have that, didn’t we?  What we don’t know about – is consistency in the front court.  If the bigs contribute consistently, Rhody will be rolling again.

 

  • Love Russell’s game, by the way.  He can just ball.  And score.  I’d take him on my team, any day.

 

  • #1 Duke blasted #2 Kentucky by 34 points? With four freshmen in the lineup?  While they may not exactly be ‘ordinary’ freshmen (wink, wink), they’re still freshmen. 

 

  • Duke is not – and will not – be the college basketball version of Alabama.  They’ll be tough to beat, sure, but the season ain’t over yet. 

 

  • The exciting part – there’s a ton a great, young talent in the game this season.  Emphasis on the word “talent.”  Better getcha popcorn ready here early, as some of these guys (Duke, hello!) may not be amateurs-in-eligibility for much longer.

 

  • There’s still a ton of great, older talent in the game this season, too.  I’ve been most fortunate to be around for 30 years as the Friars’ radio voice.  But I have recently discovered there are a bunch of dedicated, talented guys still around the game who have been doing this for                  L-O-N-G-E-R than I have.

 

  • Mike Kennedy is Wichita State’s radio voice, and he’s in his 39th year.  My good friend Rich Chvotkin at Georgetown is in Season 45.  Bill Hillgrove at Pittsburgh – who is also the Voice of the Steelers and someone I have known and respected for 30 years – in Season 45.  Duquesne’s Ray Goss – Season 46. 

 

  • And at Kentucky Wesleyan, there’s Mr. Joel Utley.  In his 58th season behind the mic.  I’m just a young pup, really.  26 Division I “voices” around the country have been at their gigs for at least 30 years, including Wichita State’s Mike Kennedy in his 39th.

 

  • It had been nearly 100 years (1921) since Ohio State played in-state foe Cincinnati in basketball, in Ohio.  They’ve only played 11 times, and they’re only separated by 107 miles.  Ridiculous, right?  Old grudges die hard, as OSU had lost back-to-back national title games to UC in the early ‘60’s.

 

  • And then this week, Ohio State – under former Butler coach Chris Holtmann – beat the preseason American Athletic Conference favorites, in Cincinnati, 64-56.  Be careful what you wish for.

 

  • The Maryland basketball team played Navy in the second half of the Veterans Classic doubleheader Friday night in Annapolis, following the Friars and Shockers.  A few in the Terps’ athletic department travel party admitted it has been a very difficult time dealing with the fallout over the death of football player Jordan McNair, and the subsequent re-hiring/firing of coach D.J. Durkin.

 

  • Several players threatened to boycott or walk away from the program if Durkin had remained.  After Durkin was released, the school president then walked away.  And some players are still leaving the program, even after two athletic trainers who assisted McNair were fired this week.  Through the turmoil, the football team has managed to put itself in position for bowl eligibility.

 

  • Oh, and they miss the ACC, too.  Especially the basketball program.

 

  • Tweet of the Week, from @GlobeChadFinn: “Per NBC, Patriots-Packers delivered the best Week 9 overnight rating in the 13-year history of SNF with a 15.6 rating/26 share. In Boston, game got a 37.9/59.”

 

  • The Patriots’ pounding of the Packers may have been the best defensive performance from New England in a couple of years.  It hasn’t been evident because there haven’t been the QB sacks, but the pressure has been consistent the last couple of weeks.  And Trey Flowers has been a beast to block.

 

  • Ok, Aaron Rodgers is good.  We know this.  But tell me why Rodgers already has more road losses (41) than Tom Brady does (40) for his entire career – and TB12 has played in 52 more road games?

 

  • Oh, and Brady went past the 80K yard mark for his career, including postseason, this past Sunday.  No one has ever hit this mark before – remember, TB12 has played another TWO seasons of football in the playoffs, alone.

 

  • No Sony?  No Gronk?  No problem.  James White will do.  A lot, too.

 

  • Remember(ing) the Titans shouldn’t be much of a problem for most Patriots fans.  Between Mike Vrabel, Dion Lewis, Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler there’s pretty good knowledge of what it’s like on the inside of Fort Foxboro. 

 

  • Malcolm Butler has been one of the lowest-rated cornerbacks in the NFL this season.  He’s being picked on, and picked apart, by opposing offenses – and yet, the Titans lead the league in scoring defense.  Sounds a little Patriot-like, doesn’t it?

 

  • The Patriots didn’t make much of an effort to re-sign Dion Lewis this past offseason, what with White, Michel and Rex Burkhead in the backfield, too.  Certainly, they would have liked to have him return, but not at the 4 years and $19.8 million he received from Tennessee.  He’s totaled nearly 600 yards of offense so far this season for the Titans.

 

  • Dude got his money.  And the Pats have James White.  ‘Nuff said.

 

  • There are still three of his ex-teammates on the New England roster – Tom Brady, Stephen Gostkowski and Matthew Slater.  Since he left the Patriots after 2008, and then finished his career in Kansas City – retiring in 2010 – Mike Vrabel has gone from assisting at his alma mater Ohio State, to the Houston Texans, to head coach of the Titans.   

 

  • Tweet of the Week II, from @ColinCowherd: “Patriots: We are smarter than you. We will fool you. We will make fewer mistakes than you. You will make excuses. Rinse and repeat.”

 

  • Speaking of fools, Red Sox Senior “Advisor” Bill James qualifies.  There’s a stat nerd who has finally lost touch with reality.

 

  • You want more stupid?  J.D. Martinez should, at the very least, be a candidate for AL MVP.  To say otherwise is proof your head is squarely ensconced within Bill James’…calculator.

 

  • Deep down, most people who know Pawsox Vice Chairman Mike Tamburro think he’s a prince-of-a-guy.  Minor League Baseball has taken that a step further, by naming Tamburro the “King of Baseball” for the upcoming winter meetings in Las Vegas. 

 

  • The King of Baseball is a long-standing tradition in which Minor League Baseball recognizes a veteran of professional baseball for longtime dedication and service.  Tamburro began his career in Pawtucket 41 years ago, in 1977.

 

  • Anyone want a shot at re-naming the Pawsox team heading to Worcester in two years – or sooner?  You can submit your own name ideas (what’s wrong with WooSox?) at polarpark.com. 

 

  • Anyone surprised by LaSalle vs. Hendricken – again – for the RIIL Division I Super Bowl title?  The two have met in six of the past seven DI championship games.  This one, however, is postponed until Sunday due to bad weather.  Weather?  Isn’t football meant to be played in all kinds of weather? 

 

  • Once more, we’re all witnesses to the wussification of America, right before our eyes. 

 

  • If you’re waiting for the Media Rights bubble to finally burst, don’t hold your breath.  Price Waterhouse Coopers’ newest study says rights fees passed gate revenue for the first time last year (in 2017), and those fees are projected to top $20 billion this year.

 

  • Those fees are expected to rise for two-to-four more years, until we get to the time for network renegotiation with just about every media contract in existence.  College football, the NBA, NHL and MLB will all have their existing deals scrutinized and re-worked. 

 

  • Disney will be unloading (selling?) the 22 regional Fox Sports channels across the country soon, and among the potential buyers are Providence Equity Partners, and rappers Ice Cube and LL Cool J.  Make of that whatever you will.

 

  • My buddy “Big E” sez the young couple that lives next door is filing for a divorce, and they just moved in about a month ago.  The husband told him they were in front of the judge when he was asked what the grounds for divorce were?  “In the five weeks we’ve been together, we haven’t been able to agree on anything your honor,” he said he told the judge.  The judge then turned to his wife and asked, “have you anything to say?”  She replied, “it’s been six weeks, your honor.”

 

  • The 3rd ranked PC men’s hockey team fell 3-2 this week to #9 UMass on the road in Amherst.  The home half of the home-and-home Hockey East matchup is Saturday night at Schneider Arena on campus. 

 

  • Women’s hoop lost its’ opener on the road at Penn State, 74-72, thanks to two PSU free throws made with less than a second left.  The Friars actually scored on a layup as the buzzer sounded to tie the score, but had the shot waved off after a video review.  Damn technology.

 

  • Long time Friar fans should remember Keith Lomax, who was a part of those early-Big East, Joe Mullaney-coached PC teams in the 1980’s.  He played in 102 career games and averaged a bit more than eight points and three rebounds per game during his senior season in ’84-85, while shooting better than 50% from the floor.  A somewhat undersized 6-6 post, Lomax scored on a pass from Ernie ‘Pop’ Lewis in overtime against Seton Hall that season in the Big East Tournament to prolong Coach Mullaney’s career for one more game – he retired after the tourney loss to St. John’s.  The next season, Rick Pitino moved in.

 

  • Lomax is still friendly with several ex-teammates, including former Friar guard Harold Starks who works in development for the school.  Lomax visited with Starks and several PC alumni and boosters attending the Providence game in Annapolis, MD against Wichita State this week.  Involved in the landscaping and construction business for several years, Lomax still lives in the Washington, DC Capitol region.

 

  • My broadcast buddy @sonarhassett tweeted at me this week: “#Friars AJ Reeves is the best “pure” shooter I’ve seen at PC in my 33 years broadcasting. He has a super bright future.”

 

  • Joe:  You would know.  There aren’t too many 60-somethings out there who still answer to the nickname “Sonar,” especially when he played the game for PC more than 40 years ago.  Any coincidence Reeves is wearing your old number “10” jersey?  All kidding aside, I agree, partner.  He is smoooooooooooooooth.  Emphasis on the “ooooooooooooo” part. 

 

  • 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 jrooke@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 at 37937.

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