College basketball is back. RMU began the season with a battle against the Buckeyes and lost by 30. While the score was ugly, there were a few positives that RMU can take from the game.
–One, Ohio State is very big and overwhelmed RMU from the start. Any NEC team would struggle with the Buckeyes frontline, and RMU certainly did. Take into effect that RMU was starting four new players, who had never played a minute of D1 ball, and you have issues.
–Some positive thoughts. Koby Thomas was awesome. He scored a team high 22 (tied with Matty McConnell). He went 8-17 from the field, and 3-6 from three. As a team, RMU went 10 of 25, 40 percent, from three Friday night. That is a very good sign for a team that struggled from distance last season. Speaking of McConnell, he also went 3-6 from deep. The junior picked up right where he left off at the end of the 16/17 campaign. He was efficient, under control, and looks primed for a big season. Thomas and McConnell were easily the two brightest spots of the evening.
—Dachon Burke missed the game, but Andy Toole said post game he expects the sophomore to return Monday night. Burke anchors the Colonials defense, and is one of few known leaders as RMU looks to incorporate a staggering 11 new bodies. His return will be welcomed. I would expect Burke to return to the starting lineup in place for Taevon Ashmeade.
–Defensively, RMU was overwhelmed with the Buckeyes size and athleticism but did hold them to 5-18 from three, something RMU did well last season. The next few games against mid-major competition will tell us a lot more about the defense with so many new faces.
–Now the bad. Outside of Thomas, every newcomer had that deer in the headlights look. This is expected for a lot of newcomers, regardless of level etc. The issue is, well pretty much everyone is new. RMU started two freshmen in Thomas and Jon Williams along with two JU-CO transfers in Malik Petteway and the aforementioned Ashmeade. Take Thomas out of the equation and the new starters went 1-11 with two points. They’ll get better, but you have to think Toole will be mixing and matching quite a bit. He has said on multiple occasions that there are a lot of roles/minutes to play for. Nobody from the bench really stepped up either, but expect changes in rotation and minutes as Toole finds the right combo.
–Road Warriors: Per RMU, ” RMU’s contest @ Grand Canyon is part of an eight-game road trip to open the year. It marks the longest road trip to open a season since the 1993-94 campaign, when the Colonials also opened the year with eight consecutive games away from home. The longest season-opening road trip in school history is nine, which came in 1990-91.” YIKES. That’s a lot of miles.
Eight games on the road to start the season is just brutal, and the next two, starting Monday, are out west. Grand Canyon, in their first year eligible for the NCAA Tournament, will provide a stiff test. The Antelopes (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) finished 22-9 last season, and can be considered a budding mid-major power. They have gone all in (facilities, coaching, etc). Currently they sit at 141 in the KenPom rankings, which is the second highest remaining ranked opponent (NC State, 103 is the highest remaining, and Ohio State, 74 is the highest overall).
–Tip is set for 9pm and the game can be seen on ESPN3.
–Expect to see more out of Malik Petteway, who many around the league think will have a nice impact. He wasn’t good against OSU Friday, and will be looking to rebound. I also won’t be shocked if we see a little more of freshman Leondre Washington who went 3-11 in 29 minutes and scored a high off the bench, 8 points and had 3 assists. While he didn’t shoot well, he seemed to play with some poise and is one of few guys who can really get his own shot. I am looking forward to his development.