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Thinking out Loud: College basketball offseason can be tough time for some

03.24.17 at 7:35 pm ET

Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering whatever happened to The Gong Show?

— The off-season for college basketball can be a tumultuous time. Player transfers. Coaching changes. It’s a good thing PC’s off-season begins with the celebration of accomplishment from the year just gone by – and Ed Cooley’s selection as the NABC District 5 Coach of the Year.

— What is this? It’s your peers (the National Association of Basketball Coaches) recognizing what you’ve done in your own backyard. And out of the six seasons Cooley has had the Friar program, reaction has been universal. It’s been his best work yet.

— Although, it isn’t (and hasn’t) been without some bumps on the road map. Sophomore Ryan Fazekas is leaving the team, aced out of playing time largely by transfer Isaiah Jackson and freshman Alpha Diallo. It is unfortunate, but Fazekas was never the same after his freshman year bout of mono took him from the team after his first month of play.

— This is also the reality of big time, high-major college sports. Those who produce, play. And even though Fazekas contributed in spots this season (most notably at Marquette) there simply wasn’t the consistency needed from his position. And his situation wasn’t going to improve.

— I recall visiting with Fazekas’ father last year at Butler as Ryan was prepared to return to the team from his illness. He told me Ryan loved Providence, loved the guys on the team, and was very anxious to make an impact. He should know his son’s attitude is what stood out, if not his ability to shoot the ball, and I wish him well.

— This means an open scholarship is now available for next season. It may very well go to a freshman-to-be scoring guard, but I’d be surprised if the Friars don’t seriously dig for a graduate transfer at the spot. Someone who can shoot, but also break down a defense and compliment Kyron Cartwright’s ability to penetrate is what next year’s team will need. Just sayin’.

— ICYMI, the Providence-USC First Four game in Dayton was the most-watched of the first round/First Four games on TV. More than 1.6 million viewers tuned in at some point. They missed a heck of a show on the radio, don’t ya’ know.

— Who else thought URI’s finish in the 2nd round against Oregon was eerily similar to what happened to PC against USC? Once the game started to slip from their grasp, you knew it would be hard to get it back.

— What’s next for Rhody? Finding a replacement for Hassan Martin’s inside game and toughness must be at the top of the list. E.C. Matthews is staying on for his 5th year. That’s as good, or better, than anything else.

— Did it dawn on you how much “fun” it was to have two schools dancing at the same time? That hadn’t happened in 20 years, and should happen a lot more often than that. I’ll wager that it will, and perhaps as soon again as next year.

— Tough to see 1st team all-NEC guard Nisre Zouzoua transfer from Bryant. Zouzoua scored 20 points per game for the Bulldogs, but with that success this year decided to push himself at another level for his next two years, after sitting one out. Hard to discourage someone from trying to better themselves.

— PC and URI recruiting target Cole Swider (a Portsmouth native) won the Rhode Island Gatorade High School Player of the Year honor, and the St. Andrews’ product is following in deep footsteps.

— Notre Dame’s (and New Bedford’s) Bonzie Colson played at St. Andrews, as did former Syracuse stars Michael Carter-Williams and Demetris Nichols, BC and Fairfield’s Rakim Sanders (Pawtucket), and former UConn standout Tony Robertson (East Providence) were all St. Andrews players. And all went on to great college careers.

— Ballin’ in the Ocean State. Yes, it’s possible. Good that PC and URI are in on kids like Swider. They need to be, as they don’t come along that often.

— Saw an interesting item on Twitter this week, about the percentage of boys’ high school players recruited by D1 schools from each state. Of the six New England states, Rhode Island ranks #2, with 0.7% of its’ boys’ HS players recruited by Division 1 programs. Massachusetts was third at 0.6%. Connecticut was tops at 1.4 percent. The top state in the country was Maryland – with 5% of its’ boys’ players recruited at the top level.

— And how many of these players believe the NBA is also a realistic possibility? Too many. Stupid is as stupid does.

— Mike Hopkins’ departure from Syracuse was a surprise. But then again, it wasn’t a surprise. After sitting – and waiting – on the SU bench for Jim Boeheim to retire, and with Boeheim’s decision to hang on another year (or two, or three) who can blame him for wanting to begin his own head coaching career? The Friars might see his new Washington team next November in the 2K Classic in New York.

— My buddy “Big E” sez he once pulled a fast one on our old high school coach that I never knew about. First day of practice, he walks into the gym, all 6-9 of him, and tells the coach he’s never played before but wants to try out. The first thing coach asked him was “can you run?” He took off like a gazelle and got up and down the floor with little effort. Then, coach looked at him and said, “can you pass a ball?” “Big E” took the ball, held it for a few seconds, then blurted out “well sir, if I can swallow it, I can probably pass it.”

— Disappointed in the Big East’s NCAA performance? Xavier’s run to the Elite 8 is a stunner. But the Musketeers are a mentally-tough team. How about the ACC’s depth? Nine teams received bids, and one – just one – made it to the Sweet 16. And they’re (North Carolina) academic offenders? Seems to me they might be the smartest of the lot. They’ve got this tournament thing figured out.

— Checking the conference scoreboard in the Sweet 16 – huzzah’s and kudos to the Pac-12 and the SEC, with three teams reaching the second week of the tournament. The Big 12 and Big 10 also earned three spots, but were perhaps more likely leagues to have those candidates. The Big East, despite losing the defending champs from Villanova, have over-achievers in Butler and Xavier. UNC and Gonzaga (WCC) round it out.

— How about X? Four Sweet 16’s in eight years under Chris Mack, who is thought to be a top choice for the opening now at Indiana. The Muskies have won three NCAA Tournament games at this writing. As of March 9th and the start of the Big East Tournament, they had won three games in five weeks – against DePaul. Momentum is overrated. Power ratings are overrated. Members of the NCAA selection committee are overrated. Get out and watch games!

— Speaking of the Big East, Georgetown has some problems. After junior swingman L.J. Peak announced he’s leaving school early for the draft, and with some notable recruits turning their backs on the Hoyas, the Hoyas decided this week to part ways with John Thompson III.

— Missing the NCAA’s – the standard bearer for success in college hoop – three of the past four years was something even his Hall-of-famous father (and PC alum), JT II, could not help him overcome. I’m still surprised the school made the move, as I can’t imagine “Big John” not having a say in his son’s successor. And who in their right mind (short of a low-major coach wanting a crack at the big time) would step into something like this?

— Almost as if on cue – Atlanta sports radio threw Rhody’s Dan Hurley into the mix. The Sporting News also reports Hurley is being seriously considered by Georgetown. Here are four other names to consider – and I’m not certain they (or Gtown alumni) would be interested, but what about Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, Minnesota’s Richard Pitino, Harvard’s Tommy Amaker, or – wait for it – Kennesaw State’s Al Skinner? My buddy Bobby buzzed me with that last one right after the JTIII news hit.

— Oh, and one more – Patrick Ewing. JTII loves him like a son. But can he really coach? Can he recruit? One thing is certain, however. If it is Ewing, that puts a brand-new spin on the St. John’s (Chris Mullin) and Georgetown (with Ewing) rivalry, doesn’t it?

— Time for the “way too early” look at next year? For my money, and if no further personnel changes are coming, I’ll take Seton Hall as an early favorite for 2017-18 in the Big East. If Angel Delgado returns, that’s four starters back (minus Madison Jones) from an NCAA team. Providence is in a similar spot, as is Marquette.

— Not for nuthin’, but if Xavier gets even a semi-healthy Edmond Sumner back at some point, watch out for the Musketeers. Even if they don’t, they’ll still be in that “Top 4” mix in the Big East. Villanova, Creighton (Marcus Foster is returning, no word yet on Justin Patton), St. John’s, Butler, DePaul and Georgetown round it out. That’s today. Ask me again tomorrow, it might change.

— Is that another seven-bid (what about eight?) league next year? It should be.

— In two years’ time, Brad Underwood has gone from the obscurity of coaching in Nacogdoches, Texas at Stephen F. Austin to the big-time Big 10 as the new head coach at Illinois. He leaves Oklahoma State in the lurch after just one year. Moves like this one give the college game the sleaze-factor we often see in the pro ranks, don’t they?

— It’s just business, right. But it’s also (very) big business. Have a bigger paycheck, will travel.

— UMass dipped into the low-major ranks of the Southern Conference to find its new basketball coach. And then, Winthrop’s Pat Kelsey jilted the Minutemen at the altar and said ‘no thanks’ just before he was to be introduced. Both sides said the right things after the abrupt break-up, but you should wonder – what is it about UMass that made Kelsey head back to the SoCon?

— How about this – a better gig and payday may come open right around the corner? Kelsey is already linked to Xavier, if Chris Mack moves to Indiana. Stay tuned, “As the Coaching World Turns” will continue right after these messages.

— Did mid-major teams get a fair shake in the NCAA tournament selection process? In a word, no. But it’s not entirely their fault, when high-majors won’t put them on non-league schedules. The NCAA could fix this problem by including a scheduling requirement outside of the “Power 6,” but that won’t happen. They don’t want it to.
Too many administrators on the selection committee don’t watch enough basketball. They don’t care to. The eye test should tell you if a team is tournament-worthy, not some cockamamie concoction like the “BPI” or even SOS (strength of schedule). Again, the NCAA could correct this issue by placing basketball knowledgeable “people” (men and women) on the committee.

— The power leagues are preparing for the day they pull away from everyone else, and become autonomous. The NCAA is giving in to almost every suggestion/demand the power leagues make, for fear of retribution. The NCAA doesn’t lead, they’re scared. Don’t think this will eventually happen? You haven’t been paying attention.

— Just what is (or was) the NCAA scared of when it asked a Kentucky writer to delete a video he shot from his own phone of Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall’s allegedly-inebriated wife going ballistic over officiating in the Shockers’ game with Kentucky? Has Russia already taken over?

— Providence’s hockey Friars had a Friday date with Harvard in the NCAA 1st round at the Dunkin Donuts Center. Home ice advantage? Well, yes and no. Yes, it’s PC’s hometown (but not their home rink) and the tournament is being hosted by Brown. NCAA hockey needs a city – and the fans they bring – like Providence does to continue to grow the sport.

— No, because the Crimson blitzed a young, somewhat mistake-prone Friar team 3-0 to end Providence’s season. But Nate Leaman’s Friars aren’t going anywhere.

— And I know this fact isn’t missed by too many Friar fans, but that’s now four NCAA’s in a row for PC hoops and hockey. At last check, only Michigan, Michigan State and Boston College have ever accomplished this four straight years – simultaneously – in both sports.

— PC lacrosse is off to a 5-3 start on the spring season. Bryant is 4-5, and Brown’s Bears – coming off the Final Four appearance from last spring – is 3-3 with a game against UMass at home Saturday before jumping into Ivy League play.

— This week 46 years ago, our local pro football team officially renamed itself the “New England” Patriots, from the Boston Patriots. Who remembers, for a very short time, the team was called the “Bay State” Patriots before they were ever given the New England tag?

— The hunt for TB12’s jersey is over. And we had to call in the FBI for this? Cross-border crime of more than $500K will call in the big guns, every time.

— But the alleged Mexican media-mogul thief – how was he credentialed by the NFL in the first place? Don’t they have a vetting process in place before distributing media passes? I mean, I’ve been told “no” for Super Bowl passes previously, but this guy gets in every year and steals stuff?

— I love the NFL. But sometimes, they make no sense. And they look stupid doing it, too.

— Will the Butler do it again next year? Yes. For one more year, at the Patriots’ one-year tender offer. Then, if he plays well (and the team wins), Malcolm Butler will be off like a goose gone south for the winter.

— Darrelle Revis back to New England, basically being paid by the J-E-T-S, may be the funniest thing to happen to the NY-NE rivalry since Johnny Damon’s beard-less locks joining the Yankees. Please, football gods, make this so.

— I’ve had friends suffer from Lou Gehrig’s Disease, otherwise known as ALS. Former 49er tight end Dwight Clark’s pronouncement last week that he is also suffering from the dreaded disease is disheartening. But is his belief that his football career helped to cause his predicament misguided? Truth, or an attempt to lash out at the league and its treatment of veterans?

— Inquiring minds – and fans – need to know.

— Rock ‘n roll star guitarist Chuck Berry’s passing this week immediately threw my thoughts back to my childhood days gone by – Johnny B. Goode especially, if only because my mom was always telling me to “be good” as a kid. And sure, who doesn’t remember Michael J. Fox strumming and singing that one in Back to the Future, Part I?

— Is it just me, or does anyone else have that sinking feeling of disaster before we start baseball’s regular season? Doubting the Red Sox pitching depth a little, but definitely doubting the ability to score runs in bunches. And the ability of Kung Fu Panda to push away from the training table by, oh, say June?

— But if Chris Sale can do against the Yankees what he did this week (10 K’s in six innings), I’ll be entertained, at the very least.

— Soccer-krishnas? Atencion, por favor. Your New England Revolution will play their home opener Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. In the cold. Against an expansion team from Minnesota, where it’s colder. Where in the world have you gone, Taylor Twellman?

— Celtics? Wrap Isaiah Thomas up in bubble wrap until the playoffs. Bruins? Find the defibrillator.

— If you are of my vintage, you’ll remember an old game show on TV back in the ‘70’s called “The Gong Show.” It was cheesy, silly, and downright dumb, but it was also hard to NOT watch because of the craziness involved with some of the acts and performances. Chuck Barris was the creator and host of the program, with an old vaudevillian style and demeanor that fans of the show (patterned after a popular radio show in the ‘30’s) either loved or hated. Barris died this week at age 87, living in upstate New York.

— But you might not know “The Gong Show” wasn’t what he was most famous for – Barris also created and produced such hits as “The Dating Game” and “The Newlywed Game,” with both shows having some rather incredible, racy made-for-TV-moments that would fly in the face of network censors even today. Chuck Barris was about 30 or 40 years ahead of his time. It’s a good measure of success, and of a career well done.

— Ted in Milford, Massachusetts emailed this week to say we shouldn’t be so quick to criticize Malcolm Butler’s monetary desires: “There was a time when I agreed with the thought of your word is your bond. You signed a contract, now live up to it…it has become commonplace over recent times that a team will offer a contract to a player that is back end loaded when the player is at the end of the contract and can collect big money. Why do you expect to hold the player to a standard that the team is not held to?” Ted: It’s a great point. But it’s the players’ fault for agreeing to the system that is in place, and egregiously in favor of teams and management. So, these are the rules. Play by them, or play something else.

— 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, …

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