Stew Milne/USA Today Sports

Thinking out loud: Could be make-or-break moment for Providence basketball

John Rooke
January 11, 2019 - 1:08 pm

Thinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to Billy Owens?

  • The college basketball season is only at the halfway point (already?), and yet, this week could be a make-or-break moment for the Providence Friars in this years’ Big East.


  • Oh, there’s still plenty of time left to get where you hope to go – but judging by the boo birds fluttering throughout the Dunk last weekend, patience ain’t exactly a virtue around here.


  • And I think I knew that already. But booing college kids?  Come on now, for what possible reason?  They’re not pros, they’re teenagers.  Spare me the “I pay good money for my ticket!” argument.  Grow up.


  • Now having said that, PC players have always been held to a higher standard than elsewhere, simply because of the league and universe in which they (attempt to) co-exist. 


  • Their best shooter has a boot on his foot.  One of the losses was to a team that couldn’t miss from deep (Creighton), and the other (Villanova) has won two of the past three national titles. 


  • Get a grip.  Friar teams have started out this way before.  Maybe they’ll bounce out of it, and maybe they won’t.  But you’ll get your money’s worth, if that’s what you’re after – either way.


  • Tweet of the Week I, from @sonarhassett before the Villanova game: “Friars win today (Saturday) if they make players other than Booth and Paschall take shots.”  Which, um, they did not do. 


  • A.J. Reeves, if nothing else, has proved his usefulness by not being in the lineup.  His presence opens things up for the other guys – which is precisely what these Friars need right now. 


  • And defense.  They need interior defense in the worst way.  Looking at you, big fellas.  Saturday’s challenge at Georgetown against Patrick Ewing protégé Jesse Govan will be noteworthy.


  • The good thing about this years’ Big East?  There won’t be much separation from first-to-last.  It may only take a two or three-game win streak to vault you from middling to mighty. 


  • This Week In The Big East features Villanova’s Jay Wright, Marquette’s Markus Howard and the one-and-only Andy Katz in our debut edition for Season Five.  Catch it Saturday mornings on WEEI-FM 103.7, or on Sirius/XM’s ESPNU channel.  You can also download the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or


  • Speaking of Markus Howard – fitty-three?  Howard had HALF of the Golden Eagles’ output Wednesday night at Creighton, in a 106-104 overtime thriller.  That number (53) set a new single-game Big East scoring record. 


  • The previous high? Set last year at the Dunk against the Friars, by Howard, with fitty-two.  That performance (whew) has now been relegated to a mere asterisk.


  • And Howard wasn’t even the Player of the Week this week. That honor went to St. John’s Shamorie Ponds, who was also the USBWA National Player of the Week. 


  • Who said the Big East was “down?”  Please.  It is merely re-energizing itself. 


  • And speaking of re-energizing, Brown basketball may be rising to a new level altogether.  Beam me up, Scotty.


  • The Bears won their fifth straight this week, on the road in overtime against Canisius.  Brown is now 11-4 with one more non-league game (against Johnson & Wales Monday) before tipping off in the Ivies. 


  • Desmond Cambridge hit the 30-mark for a second time this season, with 31.  Wait until the Ancient Eight gets a load of this guy again.  He’s a candidate for the National Lou Henson award, one of five Ivy players on the list, going to the country’s top mid-major player.


  • Might be a give-and-take season for URI.  You know, give one, take one?  Gave one at Saint Louis (minus Fatts Russell), took one at Richmond this week.  The Rams never trailed to the Spiders, improving to 8-6 overall.


  • The Rams will go as Jeff Dowtin goes.  The team is 26-4 when he deals at least five dimes per game.  But Russell’s importance can’t be overstated, either.  He returned after a one-game hiatus, scoring 19 with four assists at Richmond.  A-10 home opener is Sunday against George Mason.


  • Bryant got its’ 5th win of the season Thursday night at Mount St. Mary’s.  SaBastian Townes has been on a recent tear, picking up his 3rd double-double of the year against Mount, and the team matched its win total in the NEC from a year ago in just their 3rd game played (2-1).


  • On the national front – Duke, then who?  When things are old, they’re new again.  And these Blue Devils certainly have some talented freshmen, if you haven’t seen them play yet. But Duke isn’t going to win it all this year.  Just a hunch, if not wishful thinking.


  • Probably won’t be fellow blue-blood Kansas either, as the Jayhawks took a big blow, literally, with Udoka Azubuike going down with a torn ligament in his right hand.  That’s one heavyweight potentially down for the count.


  • Maybe it’s because we know him, and maybe it’s because he’s got a good team again, but I like Rick Barnes’ chances to be in the mix right to the finish line.  Talented, athletic, tough team his Volunteers are at Tennessee.  Won their first two SEC games by a total of 70 points.


  • Man, did Texas screw that one up in letting him go.


  • Anyone seen that maybe you can go home again?  Just ask ex-Celtic favorite Walter McCarty, in his first year as head coach at hometown Evansville.  Attendance is up, and at the start of this week the Purple Aces were 7-1 at home after being picked for last in the Missouri Valley.


  • Slow and steady wins the race.  Or at least Jim Crowley hopes so.  The PC women’s coach has the Friars at 9-7, and 6-3 forward Mary Baskerville is a two-time Big East Freshman of the Week.


  • Tweet of the Week II, from @paulnanos: ” To everyone blaming Cody Parkey, remember this: Points tonight - Parkey: 9, rest of Bears offense: 6.”


  • Football ratings are down?  Nope.  NFL TV ratings were up 5% across the board for all networks this season. 


  • Josh McDaniels says he’s back for keeps?  Maybe.  But Rookestradamus says he’ll be coaching somewhere else in 2019.  We’ve got 11 months and a couple of weeks to go on this one, so getcha’ popcorn ready.


  • Adam Gase going to the J-E-T-S, after Miami fired him, isn’t quite as good as the Dolphins hiring Rex Ryan, but it’ll do.  Chalk up another AFC East title to New England, thanks to those dysfunctional tomato-cans-as-neighbors.


  • Beat LA!  Beat LA!  Beat LA!  Kinda feels good to say that again after all these years, doesn’t it?


  • How many times have you slipped this week and called them “San Diego” Chargers?  Be honest.


  • The more things change, the more they stay the same.  12 NFL franchises have not won a Super Bowl.  Only one of those 12 is left in this year’s dance.  They face your Patriots this weekend.


  • Not for nuthin,’ but Phillip Rivers is 0-7 against TB12.  I’ve always thought of Rivers as a good, but not a great QB.  Hall-worthy?  No.  Winning this weekend won’t change that perception. 


  • Under-rated thing that no one is talking about?  The Chargers’ time travel the past couple of weeks.  Back-to-back weeks of traveling across three time zones, in a pressurized vacuum tube, saps the life out of your legs and the moisture from your skin – or have you never flown across country and felt (or looked) like a zombie coming off the plane?


  • There’s a reason why it’s only happened in the playoffs five times previously during the Super Bowl era, and the team doing the B2B traveling across three time zones is 1-4 in the second game.


  • Also being heavily discounted, and thus, not discussed this week – the weather.  Rivers has only played in five games of freezing or below-freezing temps at kickoff?  In his 15-year career?  Yeah, that won’t matter much.


  • Tweet of the Week III, from @adamschefter: “Bears were +2 in turnovers Sunday vs. Eagles. Home teams that were +2 in the playoffs the past 40 years were 112-4.”


  • Crazy but true:  The College Football Hall of Fame is inducting the Goodyear Blimp, which becomes the first non-coach or player (or human?) to be so honored. 


  • I heard this week that Alabama’s losing the national championship is good for the Patriots?  Apparently, in years that Nick Saban’s team has lost the national title game since he’s been the Tide’s coach, the Patriots win the Super Bowl. 


  • Maybe he and Bill Belichick simply trade off?  This year is your year, next year is ours.


  • Clemson’s freshman QB Trevor Lawrence is shaping up to be the next great player in college football.  And yes, he’s a dead-ringer for Ridgemont High’s Jeff Spicoli.  And actress Laura Dern, too.


  • But as a true freshman, you’ll need to drool over his talents in college for two more years before he becomes NFL Draft-eligible.  Scratch him off the Patriots’ to-do list.  They can’t wait that long.


  • URI finally has a winning season for the first time in nearly two decades, so what do the Rams do to celebrate?  They schedule a free-fall into Blacksburg, Virginia to face Virginia Tech next season.  Good payday.  And pulled pork barbeque.  So there’s that.


  • It’s BC-BU weekend for the 7th ranked PC hockey Friars.  Neither Boston College nor Boston University are having the kinds of seasons they’re accustomed to having. Junior Brandon Duhaime took Hockey East Player of the Month honors for December after leading all Hockey East players with eight points over four games.


  • And, freshman forward Jay O’Brien (a Philadelphia Flyers 1st round draftee) returns to the team after earning a silver medal with the United States at the World Junior Championships last weekend.


  • Not to be left out of the puck discussion, PC’s 8th ranked women’s hockey team has a home-and-home with BU this weekend.  The Friars have been ranked in the Top 10 for six straight polls.


  • My buddy “Big E” sez he got the chance to visit his favorite pub while in Dublin a few weeks back.  One night there was a ventriloquist performing, and while he wasn’t really paying attention to him, after a few minutes there were voices rising from the back of the pub.


  • One guy stood up and yelled “You’re making out we’re all dumb and stupid. I oughta come up there and punch you in the nose!” The ventriloquist said “I’m sorry sir, I…” “Not you,” the Irishman shot back.  “That little fella on your knee!  I’m talking to him!”


  • Finally watched “Bird Box,” the horror film/social media sensation on Netflix.  Meh.  Used to be a Sandra Bullock fan, but the script was just too dumb to be believable, even for a Sci-Fi movie.  Which makes those taking part in a “Bird Box Challenge” what? 


  • Dumber than dumb?  Just sayin’.


  • Is it just me, or as Bullock gets older, she’s looking more and more like Michael Jackson in his later years? 


  • Saw this week where the Yankees’ payroll last year was only 6th highest in the majors, the first time in 26 years to fall out of the Top 5.  Sign of things to come, or a mere haircut before taking on Manny Machado’s moss?


  • If you think about it, you can probably come up with a couple of names who were BIG college basketball stars 25 years ago and have since disappeared into the depths of Google indexes and Wikipedia.  Ex-Syracuse star Billy Owens is one such player whose name came up recently in a conversation about “whatever happened to?”


  • Owens was the 1991 Big East Player of the Year, perhaps overshadowed a bit by the national stars of the time Larry Johnson (remember Grandmama?) and some guy named Shaquille O’Neal.  He started as a freshman and was as smooth as they come – a big (6-9), physical presence for the Orange from Carlisle, PA who eventually was drafted 3rd overall by Sacramento in the ’91 NBA draft. 


  • Owens spent 10 seasons in the league with six different teams, retiring in 2001 with Detroit after knee injuries that kept coming back.  His uniform was retired by Syracuse in 2008, and he has also been inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame, as his Carlisle team won four straight state titles.  Owens has been an assistant coach at Rutgers-Camden, and has also worked as a sports agent.


  • @PaulNanos tweeted at me this week, clearly distraught in the aftermath of the New York

J-E-T-S decision to hire Adam Gase as their head coach: “I got nothing for you tonight. I’m laying in the fetal position sucking my thumb.”


  • Paul – always enjoy our exchanges.  But man, when will your J-E-T-S ever get this thing right?  Gase probably shouldn’t have been fired at Miami, except for the impatient nature within all denizens of the AFC East outside of New England.  But to pick him up off the scrap heap that quickly?  Do the Jets think he’ll be ready to cough up his inside knowledge of the Dolphins?  And why would that even matter?


  • Don’t know if you know this or not, Paul, but next year will be the 50th anniversary of the NYJ’s one-and-only Super Bowl victory.  Just putting that out there. 


  • 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 We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, ...


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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