I will start this with one statement: I THINK THE BIG EAST COACHES/MEDIA PROJECTIONS ARE SLIGHTLY OVERRATED. I really do not care who a coach may think is the best or who you think is the worst, but it really just comes down to who you play and where you play them. Look at our team, the Providence Friars. They are possessions away from knocking off elite Big East teams at home on a regular basis, teams that if PC is slightly better or the opponent is slightly worse, they do. All it takes is a few bounces in your favor and you pull some additional upsets or pull off some tight victories. What about getting a favorable home schedule against some good teams who you may have their number? Are you telling me that if Louisville came to Providence after getting smashed on the past two years up here, you wouldn’t give PC more than a fair shot to win that game?
So to me, there is a lot more that goes picking a order you think the teams should finish in the Big East. It doesn’t mean it is all bogus, but it is tough to look back at the end of the year and say a team over or underachieved because of Big East standings in comparison to preseason selections. That is why here at Friarblog we have gone into more detail.
What I have done is rip the Big East schedule apart. We will take a game-by-game look at every single Big East matchup. I will predict a winner for every single Big East game, using a combination of Mr. Ken Pomeroy’s rankings and past game trends since 2008 (and even further in some cases when applicable). That will best allow me to see if one team has another team’s number, regardless of how good they may be in any one season. Obviously we will all likely disagree about certain games a long the way, but this will give us a hard look at how the conference actually could shake out.
The goal is to not just come out with an order in which I think the Big East will finish, but also announce to you a Big East regular season and post season winner, as well as who I think will be the Big East Player of the Year, as well as Coach of the Year.
Before I start, I think it would only be fitting to come up with a reasonable goal for the Providence Friars when it comes to the 2012-2013 season.
The Goal: To get a first round bye in the Big East Tournament. With the departure of West Virginia and the postseason ban of UCONN, only four teams will play on the first day of the tournament (11 vs 14; 12 vs. 13). I think a very positive goal for PC would be to at least stay in contention for that first day bye, and also hopefully compete for it.
Do I think that will happen though?
For that answer, let us get started…
Providence College’s First Four Games:
at Seton Hall
Breaking Them Down:
at Louisville: This is a really straight-forward answer, probably one of the most we will have throughout the projection. While Providence holds their own against the Cardinals in Providence, it is a very different story when the Friars go play down at the KFC YUM! Center. During my sample size from 2008, PC has been outscored at Louisville by a margin of 181-136 (22.5 points per game). If you choose to add in a game from 2007 at Freedom Hall where PC lost 78-63, PC only has lost in Louisville by 20 points per game. And, if you would like to add in a neutral court game played at MSG in 2009 where PC lost 73-55, the margin of loss for the Friars on the road against the Cardinals is 19.5 points per game. So do I think PC has a realistic shot in this game? Unfortunately, going to have to give it a LOSS on the scoreboard.
vs. Depaul: I think this game might be a little more close than most might seem, as I feel like it is conventional wisdom for Friar fans to look at DePaul as the little sister. While DePaul obviously has some work to go to become a good team, they have played Providence very tough the past few years. Let us not forget the 2011 nightmare on ESPN 2, where PC has a rare 9 o’clock home game against a very poor Blue Demons team, and basically gets run out of the building if it was not for a very late comeback to make the game close. PC was obviously the better team that season (KenPom PC: 96 DePaul: 202), but that did not stop them from getting embarrassed at home. Yet last year, redemption occurred as an arguably worse PC team beat a better DePaul team at the AllState Arena. So who do I think is going to win? Both teams are capable of putting up better results overall this season than each respective program has done since 2009, but while both teams would tend to go against conventional wisdom in their past few matchups, I would feel very confident choosing Cooley and the home team to win in the Big East home opener, and if this game was played on the road, I would have to go with DePaul. Based on recent history seems like a definite toss-up game (but the Friars have basically dominated DePaul since 2008), but I’ll give the Friars the WIN.
vs. Syracuse: Syracuse should once again be one of the best teams in the Big East, fact, not opinion. So when the Orange come into the Dunk at a very similar time, will they get the same result? Well let us look at this logically. Since 2008, where ever the Orange and Friars play, the Orange are typically the heavy favorites. Last year was no exception. You could simply look at the fact that since 1980, Syracuse is 44-9 against the Friars, or the fact that in both their last two matchups, Syracuse has had the game close at halftime and pulled away to 14 point victories at the Dunkin Donuts Center. The only glimmer of hope could be remembering back to Keno Davis and 2008, when the Friars knocked out the Orange 100-94 in Keno Davis’ first marquee win as head coach. But let us remember: Syracuse played that game without sharpshooter Andy Rautins, but did have injured center Arinze Onuaku playe 15 ineffective minutes. Honestly, this game intrigues me. When it comes to guard play, it is a tossup. Council can be better than Triche, and Cotton can be better than Carter-Williams, but both players tend to struggle against zones, and Cotton struggles against height. Fortune may be able to free Cotton up for more looks, but how can Henton, Batts, Johnson hold up against the NBA-ready frontcourt of the Orange with weapon after weapon on the roster? Because this game is at home, I think it will play closer than some may think, but it will result in a Friar LOSS.
at Seton Hall: To me, this might be one of the most important games PC plays all season. Having struggled on the road for much of the past 5 seasons, PC and Seton Hall are still two very evenly matched teams if you were to look at them on paper. While I have tried to forget about the miserable performance against the Pirates last year in the Big East Tournament, the one glimmer of hope to come out of that is no more Theodore and no more Pope. However, how has PC played at the Prudential recently? In 2009, PC won 98-93 in OT, and in 2011, SHU won 81-71. Here is where I am going to go with this… When PC won at SHU in 2009, PC was -1.5 favorites, so PC was the better team (as estimated by the gambling public). When a bad loss in 2011 occurred (such a tough ending it made Ricky Ledo decommit the next day), SHU was the favorite. Dealing with the trend the favorite tends to cover, I then went back to last year’s game at the Dunk, where Seton Hall was in fact -3 at PC and covered, and then obviously destroyed PC at MSG as the favorite. So if you can bare with this mumbo-jumbo, basically my conclusion is that the better team via the spread has a very high likelyhood of winning this game. Why is the spread important? It seems stupid but it gives you the +/- 3 based on homecourt advantage as a rule. So now it comes down to, who would the gambling public deem the better team on that night? Using KenPom’s metric as a barometer, he has PC ranked 78 and Seton Hall ranked 83 (so that gives PC a slight edge; basically what I think would equate to be -.5 to -1.5 on a neutral court). Giving SHU 3 points for home court advantage, I would say SHU will probably be between a -1.5 to -2.5 favorite as of right now, and using the fact that usually the favorite covers, I would have to say Seton Hall likely wins this game, giving PC a 3rd LOSS in these projections.
My Projected PC Record After 4 Games: 1-3
Big East Standings After First 4 PC Games:
Notre Dame: 2-2
South Florida: 2-2
St. John’s: 2-3
Seton Hall: 1-3
What’s Up With Rutgers?
Rutgers has been very bad for a very long time, but is looking like they could make a USF type jump this season from the bottom towards borderline NCAA team. They will play a weaker schedule, and they have favorable matchups at home.
Pittsburgh is a team the Scarlet Knights have played strong against, especially at home, for much of the past 5 years, and that is a Pittsburgh team that was traditionally a Top 10 team. So now add in the fact Rutgers is better, and Pittsburgh (who lost to Rutgers by 23 last year at home) is not as strong, and it would not surprise me if Rutgers defended the RAC, same against Cincinnati, a team Rutgers beat at home last year. Add the fact Rutgers is better, and Cincy is slightly worse, and I think that is another win at this point.
Is Villanova Really Last?
Villanova’s first four games are vs. St. John’s, at USF, at Syracuse, and vs. Pittsburgh. Villanova is one of those teams that are near the bottom of the Big East, and that early schedule doesn’t help. The most winnable game there would be St. John’s, but the Johnnies play well on the road at ‘Nova and the teams are very similar in talent.
Is Notre Dame really middle of the pack?
The Fighting Irish first four games are vs. Seton Hall, at Cincinnati, vs. UCONN, and at St. John’s. I have the beating Seton Hall and UCONN, and losing at Cincinnati and St. John’s. Basically that goes based off of past history. The Cincinnati game was a legitimate tossup to me, but I had to go with the home team in the tossup situation. As for St. John’s, ND struggles on the road in New York. The Big East may not be as strong at the top this year, but I think in comparison to other years, the conference as a whole will be very tough.
Providence College’s Next Five Games:
Breaking Them Down:
at Georgetown: PC usually plays Georgetown very tough. Given the recent success of Georgetown and the lack of success for PC, that is of course surprising. But when it comes to reality, while they play very close (the last time Georgetown beat PC by more than 10 points was 1997), PC still hasn’t beaten the Hoyas since 2005. The Hoyas have won the last 7 by differentials of this: 10, 9, 2, 9, 7, 10, 10. Most of these games have played close through the first half, the Hoyas go on an early 2nd half run, and PC tries to claw back and falls just short and runs out of gas. PC might be a little better this year than last when they were within 3 good minutes of basketball from upsetting the Hoyas on the road, but if you are going to make the solid pick on this game, you would unfortunately have to choose the Friars to LOSE.
vs. Villanova: When I look back at last year and think of the game that drove me wild the most, it would most definitely be the Friar choke down the stretch of that game at the Pavillion. However, since Villanova went into semi-rebuilding mode and fell from their “elite status” the past two years, PC has really taken it to them. Think about it, Villanova had PC’s number since the Big East tournament in 2004 (where they played with half their roster suspended) and did not lose to the Friars until they came up to the Dunk two seasons ago and got waxed. And then last year PC was absolutely destroying them and then went ice cold. So what do I think happens this year in a home game? I think it is another WIN on the board for the Friars.
vs. Pittsburgh: My explanation to this game will definitely mirror much of the last explanation for the Villanova game. We must all recognize how strong PC plays at home. It doesn’t always mean a win, but they typically play good teams tough. Insert: Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh went from 1/23/2001 until 02/24/2009 without losing to the Friars, completely dominating them for the most part. The worst one of those games was the one that occurred on 03/02/2004, as a highly-anticipated Top 25 battle ended in a 27 point loss for the Friars at the old Providence Civic Center, who got run out of the gym in the 2nd half. Then you fast forward to 2009, and somehow Keno Davis makes the stars align and the Friars dominate the Panthers and upset the #1 team in the country. The following season, they go to the Peterson Events Center, where since it’s opening in 2003 the Friars lost on average by 13 points per game (0-5), and were within a halfcourt heave of stealing a win on the road against a ranked opponent. The next season, Pitt comes in again as the #4 team in the country, and another mediocre Keno Davis squad has a 4 point lead with 1:35 left before choking down the stretch (queue Gerard Coleman). So taking out last season where PC did not play well at Pittsburgh, the sample size is large enough and I have enough confidence in the Friars where I think this is a good matchup for the Friars and that they can hold homecourt and beat the Panthers for the WIN for their best home stretch since 2010 with back-to-back wins against Louisville and Villanova.
at Marquette: LOSS. The explanation to this one mirrors the Louisville reasoning from the last page. Basically every time PC visits the Bradley Center, you can pencil it in for a blowout. The stats since Marquette entered the Big East in games not in Providence: 0-6, PC is outscored by 20.2 points per game. Since 2008, 0-4, outscored by 26 points per game. One of those games was at Madison Square Garden in the Big East Tournament in 2011, the other three were games at the Bradley Center. Needless to say, I don’t think there is much debate or thought here.
vs. Connecticut: The common theme for PC is definitely who do they have the number of, who do they play well? UCONN is definitely one of those teams PC usually matches up pretty well against. UCONN fans love to look down at PC as that crappy Big East team with no success, but then why have the Huskies not won in Providence since 2006? PC has won their last three games at home against UCONN, including an exciting 72-70 win last year. Just look back on that, and remember UCONN has lost Lamb, Drummond, Oriakhi, Smith, and various others from that game who made a big impact and PC has basically kept their core in tact. Maybe I have too much faith, but based on recent history, this is another game I have to give PC the WIN.
My Projected PC Record After 9 Games: 4-5
Big East Standings After First 9 PC Games:
Notre Dame: 7-3
St. John’s: 5-6
Seton Hall: 3-6
South Florida: 2-7
Again, what is wrong with ‘Nova?
Look, I just hate their schedule, it is actually really tough their first 10 games. The teams they are pretty close to in reality (USF, PC, DePaul) they have on the road. The teams that are challenging (Syracuse, Pitt, ND) they have on the road. There have long been questions about Villanova when they start to spiral, and to me it just looks like they have bad matchups early on.
Who Do You Have Syracuse and Louisville Losing To?
The Big East is still very tough this season, and I see these teams losing tough tests on the road to good teams.
For Syracuse, I had them losing at Louisville and at Pittsburgh.
For Louisville, I had them losing at Villanova (yes, their one win) and at Georgetown. I think Villanova is a tough matchup for Louisville, especially in Philly. It really was a tossup game to me, and usually toss-ups go to the home team, especially where Louisville has lost recently.
Do You Remember the Goal I listed on the first page?
I said my goal for PC would be for them to get a first round Big East bye. Halfway through the Big East I have them in that position. I don’t think that is necessarily an optimistic look at things. I am doing this based on math. PC has good matchups at home, teams they have played close home and on the road.
Stay tuned for Part II later this week.