After a complete buzzkill loss at Syracuse a lot of fans entered this game pretty skeptical I feel. It’s reasonable to feel skeptical after losing your previous matchup in such a disheartening way. And hell, for the first 16 minutes of the Rutgers game, it looked like we could’ve had a far more frustrating loss.
And then, the Friars came to life in a way that only a GIF could accurately describe:
A 19-0 run to close out the half pushed the Friars into…well why am I telling you this now? Keep reading after the jump!
19-0: Might as well started where we left off. The Friars were down 33-23 in what was quickly becoming another “out of hand” game. Nothing seemed to be falling, the Friars were struggling to find their groove on both ends of the floor, and Rutgers seemed to be in complete control. Then, Bryce Cotton did what he does best. He started a fire. And the fire rises.
One jumper was worth two points, but the effect it caused was worth the win. Providence went on a 19-0 run to close out the half. Four minutes and 41 seconds of the Friars hitting everything, and Rutgers watching a double digit lead dimish into nothing. Closing it out was Cotton doing what he does best – converting a three pointer in crunch time. As the final buzzer sounded the Friars were now looking at a much different tune, and they lead the half 42-33.
Mr. Clutch: It’s becoming more and more apparent over these games that Bryce Cotton is a clutch shooter. No, I don’t mean the “oh he scores a lot of points” type clutch (he does do that though), I mean the type of guy who responds to pressure. The real type of clutch shooter.
The game at Villanova is the most obvious example, but the more I watch the Ice Man drop shots in crucial moments the more I’m starting to realize that this kid just simply isn’t afraid. He’s not the one who’s going to shy away from taking a shot with his team down, he’s going to be the one asking for the ball because he believes he can make it. That belief is starting to yield results.
It’s about confidence in who you are as a player, and a lot of Friars were struggling with that from the Keno era. They played like they didn’t believe in themselves. Or, even worse, they played like they believed they could do anything, and that cost us a lot of close contests. But Cotton hasn’t developed into an overly cocky player, he’s developed into one that knows what he’s capable of doing, and isn’t afraid to execute it with the pressure on him.
Cotton finished the game with 22 points on 7-18 shooting. He struggled to find his shot at first as he’s done most games during this part of the season, but one of the key things with Cotton is that when he misses a few he doesn’t let defeat himself. He’s a shooter, he knows this, and shooters hit slumps. Cotton has the ability to pull himself out of a slump in crunch time because he’s confident. Make sense? Good.
Buckets Goes HAM: All season long I’ve been watching LaDontae play while thinking to myself “I know his box score will tell me otherwise, but he’s just not the player I thought he was freshman year.” And, you know what, that one’s on me. It’s not that Henton has underperformed so much as it is that I’ve had astronomical expectations for him. Sure, statistically he had a stronger freshman season by a sliver, but is it really that bad. Let’s compare just a few numbers:
- Field Goal %: 2012 – 45%; 2013 – 41%
- Rebounds per Game: 2012 – 8.6; 2013 – 8.3
- Blocks per Game: 2012 – 1; 2013 – .5
- Turnovers per Game: 2012 – 1.7; 2013 – 2.3
- Points per Game: 2012 – 14.3; 2013 – 13.7
Honestly, not that much of a difference. Sure, slight decrease, but he had an amazing year as a freshman.
Needless to say though, his performance against Rutgers was one that I reflected on and said “yes, that is in fact the LaDontae Henton I know. Bam.”
7-11 shooting, including 3-4 from three point territory, arguably his weakest area of his game this year. 10 man boards (for the record, a man board is when the phrase “GET SOME SUCKER” comes naturally off the tongue after watching a rebound get pulled down), and 18 points for yet another double-double. His defense, though having it’s lapses, was and continues to be much improved from earlier in the season. And his sole miss from three point land (an airball) was recovered by Dunn and kicked out to – guess who? – Cotton for a three point shot that he did convert, making LaDontae’s airball one of the slyest pass-to-assists I’ve ever seen.
So What Now: I mean, everyone wants to talk postseason at this point – what can we do to get in the NCAA tournament, did we already ruin our chances, how heavily do injuries get factored in?
I’m by no means an expert on how the NCAA selection committee works. I know a popular opinion among fans is that if we win out these remaining three games (vs. St. Johns, vs. Seton Hall, @ UConn) and win two in New York then we’ll get a bid, but I don’t know if the selection committee will buy it. I’m not trying to make a case against the Friars – just the opposite, I want them in (it makes me job fun) – but I don’t know how sold the NCAA selection committee will be when they see Providence’s resume and notice losses to PSU, Brown, and DePaul, which in my opinion are pretty bad losses. I don’t think the BC and Louisville hurt us as bad as it might’ve felt at the time. I don’t think the blowout against Syracuse is as damning as it may seem. But I ultimately think that, when it comes to making a case, the selection committee might feel that there just simply isn’t enough there unless we really do damage in the Big East Tournament (and “damage” is a relative term that could mean anything from really cleaning up in our first two games, to winning the whole thing).
But let me ask you (and please, comment with your answer because I’m NOT an all knowing genius on these things, and I do welcome discussion/debate) is missing the NCAA tournament really that bad? This win over Rutgers guaranteed the Friars a .500 record for the season (not including the BET), and gave PC a first round bye in New York for the last real Big East Tournament ever. It helped further make our case for a postseason appearance in the NIT, and helped continue momentum for the Friars to close out the season. Personally what Providence has done this season has been nothing short of impressive, and I for one hope that they do go to the NCAA’s, but I’m also very happy with the NIT and everything the Friars have accomplished.
So let me ask you, readers of Friarblog, do you think the Friars can make the NCAA tournament? What will it take? Are you happy with their position now? Comment, I’ll comment back, and maybe do a follow up post this week (it’s a long week of no games, and no games or Friars make Warrior Friar go crazy).