Take a rewind back to November 2012. We had just found out that Ricky Ledo will most likely not be playing this year. Questions were being raised if Kris Dunn would be able to play this year because of his shoulder injury, or if he’d have to redshirt. We were fielding an already thin team with two key frontcourt players – Carson Desrosiers and Tyler Harris – ineligible this season due to transfer rules, and another frontcourt member – Sidiki Johnson – not able to play until Colgate for the same reason. Then, Vincent Council, our ONLY senior and ONLY true point guard at the time, got injured within minutes of the first game.
If any of you honestly said “you know, I think this team will definitely win at least 8 Big East games, get hot in February, and be just shy of the NCAA bubble” you were either:
- On an illegal amount of Prozac and medical marijuana
- Both 1 and 2 but not 3
And yet, here we are, now 8-8, definitely .500 overall for the season, and currently listed as the 8th or 9th team out of the NCAA tournament (or, if you’re Jay Bilas, we’re in the top 68 but not really). Sure, nothing is set in stone for the NCAA tournament, but did you honestly think we’d even be having this discussion back in November?
Better question – is there any doubt about this team left?
You know how this works, let’s dive in!
Battle for the Baskets: One thing to note about this win over St. John’s is that neither team shot the ball particularly well. Both had plenty of attempts – St. John’s shot the ball 67 times, Providence 59 – and neither team shot better than the other, both at 37.3%. In one of the more bizarre stats I’ve ever seen, the losing team actually converted on more shot attempts than the winning team. That’s right folks – Providence hit 22 shots, St. John’s hit 25.
There’s two reasons Providence ended up winning despite this (and remember, Providence only won by three points, 62-59), free throws and three point field goals. Yes, seven of those 22 converted shots came from three point territory, whereas only one came from beyond the arc for the Johnnies. That helped a lot. The thing that really sealed the deal was the Friars shooting 50% from the free throw line. Yes, I know this is subpar to what it should be, but 11-22 was enough, especially when it mattered most. When St. John’s was fouling at the end and PC had the pressure turned on, they responded. Cooley did take responsibility for the poor free throw shooting after the game, but you know what? It’s much easier to teach a lesson after a win than a loss, so hopefully this never happens again.
Icy Shivers: Let’s talk about a Friarblog favorite for a second, Bryce Cotton.
Actually, he’s more like an everyone favorite. What’s not to love about him? He plays team basketball, he’s always positive, he’s a role model type player that the kids love because he’s cool and the parents love because he’s, well, he’s a role model. Also, he plays great basketball and leads the Big East in scoring. So there’s that.
But let’s talk about him in terms of a clutch shooter context. You know clutch shooters – the guy making it most when it counts. Well, Bryce Cotton is that shooter. It was obvious at Nova when he hit the game winner, it was obvious at Rutgers when he hit the three pointer that sparked a 19-0 run at the end of the first, and it was obvious against St. John’s when he started making it rain threes in the second half.
So why are we calling this section “icy shivers”?
Cotton has been doing something interesting lately. For a guy leading the Big East in scoring, he’s not hitting a lot of shots to start. He’s actually struggling quite a bit to find his rhythm at the start of the game. Looking at St. John’s alone he more than tripled his scoring efforts from the first half to the second. Yup. 5 points in the first half, 19 in the second. That’s a free throw shy of quadrupling, so tripling doesn’t even begin to highlight it (and, as Cooley reminded Cotton in the press conference, he missed two free throws).
Am I chastising Cotton for this? Absolutely not. I’m stunned at how talented he is, and his ability to respond to pressure is going to get this kid so far – if not on a basketball court than in a job somewhere, because there’s always pressure out there – but it’s confusing to me because he was so consistent before. The only reason I can think of this being a problem is that the team responds to his offensive efforts, and when he can’t get it going the rest of the team seems to have a hard time as well. But still, it’s good to know we have a clutch shooter, because we’re going to have plenty of scoring options in the future.
Batty-Batts-Batbat: I think it’s fair to say that we’ve all been served with a nice tall glass of shut up juice from Kadeem Batts with the way he’s played this season (bam, wrestling reference. You’re welcome.). When he had a flatline season last year (sans Louisville) questions arose about his ability to play. Welp, we’re two games away from the regular season and the kid is a sneeze away from averaging 15 points a game (currently at 14.8) and 7 rebounds a game. And before you think it I already checked – these aren’t inflated from exceptional OOC performances. In conference games alone Batts is averaging 13.8 ppg and 6.6 rpg. That’s exactly one point less and .4 rebounds less than his season average.
Why point this out now? With two games left? Isn’t it POSSIBLE he completely shits the bed? Sure, it’s possible, but so is me becoming an actor. Kadeem has improved, a lot. I’ve said that, a lot. But the more the season draws closer to it’s March 9 conclusion the more obvious it’s becoming that this wasn’t some fluke or some sort of luck – this truly was hard work that paid off. I’m proud to have him as a Friar.
Oh, and he had 15 and 9 against the Red Storm. BAAAAAAAAAAAAM!
Postseason Roastseason: I asked for the comments, and you gave em! Now let’s talk about a few of the things fans are saying. Now, mind you, these are from the Rutgers recap so things changed slightly, but I’m still going to respect the timing they were written.
The Friars have just climbed on the bubble. There is only one way to the dance: beat the teams that are already in it. That said, BET final will get it done.
Agreed – the best way to break through a bubble is to pop it, and Providence has needed to do that. Fortunately it does have some wins over teams on the bubble/supposedly in the NCAA in Nova (twice), Cincinnati, Notre Dame, and now St. John’s. Given the upcoming games Providence needs to win out, but they need to win the Big East tournament to really make their mark (plus the Big East is the only way the Friars will get a stab at NCAA tournament quality teams after UConn).
Also (for what it is worth) the Selection Committee “claims” to look at last 10 games as a factor. If the Friars win-out that makes them 8-2 to end the season. The Selection Committee also “claims” to look at injuries. Again those early losses could get admonished to an extent based on that. But who knows… I have been a Friars fan since I could walk and whenever we are “on the bubble” it seems we do not make it in.
This is true – the NCAA does take injuries into consideration, and the Friars have had plenty of those to go around. But I don’t want to put our bubble hopes on Bryce Cotton’s knee injury or Vincent Council’s hamstring.
As far as what it will take to go to the big dance, it’s probably going to take getting to the Big East Championship. I hear the talk about 2 BET wins, but considering 1 of those presumably is against a bubble team (the 7-10 or 8-9 matchup), that probably is an elimination game instead of a helpful game. Then projecting a win againat the 1 or 2 seed would be fantastic, but that STILL only puts them at 1-5 against the top BE teams. That doesn’t scream I’m in to me. So win the semifinal as well and I think you can realistically hope for a selection. However, I think they have to win the tournament outright if they don’t win their last 3 regular season games, and there is no guarantee of that.
- Steven R. Hanley
This highlights one of the most important thing in the Friars discussion for NCAA hopes – assuming they win out (we’re 1/3 of the way there), how many wins do they have to get in the BET to lock an NCAA bid? Conventional discussion seems to be locked in at 2 (which would put us at 20 wins on the nose) and would also conclude a very strong end of the regular season, but I just don’t know if I’m convinced about 20. Steven makes a good point that the first game we play (which will be on Wednesday) is less likely to be a helpful game, and more likely to be an elimination game against a bubble team. So, say we win that – great, but we still have a lot left to prove, and winning one more is nice and probably helps our NIT chances (not complaining about that) but it doesn’t put us inside the bubble necessarily.
Win out and get 2 BET wins and they dance. That being said, thats a LOT of wood to chop.
I may have been a dick putting this right after Steven’s comments. Sorry Fryah. That said, Fryah brings up a point that really can’t be overlooked – we’d have to have won at least 5 games in a row at the time that comment was written, including two BET wins. That’s a huge order for this Friar team, and a lot of Friar teams before this one (remember, this was a team that just won four league games in a row for the first time in almost a decade this season). We can’t overlook how tall of an order this really is for the Friars to pull off.
The friars were in a similar position to this in 09, where they were heading into the big east tourney 18-12 10-8 in the big east, the exact same record this pc team would have if it won out. That team had a horrific loss against northeastern, just like this 13 team against brown, and i believe if that result was different they would have been in. Unfortunately, i feel that if this years friar team won the brown game, or maybe even won the penn st game things would look okay, and i would get pretty hyped up about our chances, but i think dropping both is unacceptable to the selection committee. Pc, in order to get in, would probably have to win out and win two in the big east tournament, and even if they did that the bid would be in question. the 09 team won one in the BET and got a 5 seed in the nit, so they might even need more than two to get in the big dance seeing how badly they treated the 09 team for only getting one. Either way, i am looking forward to seeing them play a couple more games at the Dunk and going to see them play down at MSG. Whether an ncaa bid is out of reach or not, ill still be rooting for them to win and to continue to improve for next year.
Ah 2009 – my first year as a student at PC. Things were looking so good that season with a senior laden team…you know what I’m not going to reminisce about them. I do want to highlight a couple things:
- That 2009 team beat DePaul in the BET – the year DePaul went winless (which one, amirite guys?!) and somehow beat Cincy in the first round. Big East Tournament or not that win wasn’t going to mean anything no matter what.
- Northeastern and Brown are pretty comparable, but I would say the Northeastern loss is a bit better than the Brown one.
- Wins over Penn State and Brown definitely would help solidify that this team is legit, but I don’t think it would’ve been enough to put this team over. Those games are the classic “win and it just reaffirms you’re a team who’s in contention, lose and it hurts you” and I mean that with no slight to Brown or Northeastern (I like both teams very much). It just speaks to the position the Friars have been in.
- This man is a true Friar fan.
According to ESPN’s BPI (http://espn.go.com/mens-colleg… there are 10 teams standing between the Friars and an NCAA At-Large Bid. (Including Villanova) According to ESPN’s Bracketology right now there are 7 teams from the Big East in the Tourney with Villanova and StJ’s in the “First Four Out Category.” So it seems that in order for PC to get to the NCAA is beat StJ and win at home against Seton Hall. The UConn game isn’t necessarily a deal breaker if we lose because according to the BPI it’s a game we “should” lose. The Win over StJ plus the Hall win would/should ensure that heading into the Big East Tourney we’re regarded as a better candidate than StJ and Nova, because we could very well end up with the same record as the two with Wins over both. With Connecticut ineligible that would give us the 8th best candidacy of the Big East teams with 7 expected right now, but those 2 wins will absolutely move us up on the BPI to a legitimate Bubble Team heading into the Big East Tourney. If so we will most likely be looking at the 8 seed in that, matching us up with the 9 seed first round; Nova or StJ, more than likely Nova. If we can win that we’ll be 18-13 (10-9), which is definitely borderline. A Win there also matches us up with the #1 Seed, right now Georgetown. That win would give us 19 overall and 11 Big East wins which in my opinion is a Tournament team, easily. However a loss and we’re still borderline. I do think however if we can win our last 3 games and 1 in the Big East Tournament we’ll be in, but nothing is guaranteed.
- Brad Kelly
Brad, you sly novelist you. I do agree that the win over SJU does help us improve our chances as a candidate, and right now we’re tied with SJU in the standings (8-8) and Nova has one more win than us (9-8), but we beat them twice so that does help. I disagree that UConn being ineligible helps our case though – the committee won’t necessarily say “oh we need one more from the Big East cause UConn can’t play” they’ll just pick the next best team regardless of conference. UConn being out doesn’t help us any more than it hurts us. Speaking of UConn too, I don’t think we can lose to them and still hope for an NCAA bid. I say that because we need to prove we can beat those teams, not that we can lose games we’re supposed to. But Brad, you make a lot of great points with a lot of acronyms and numbers.
That’s all for this time. I’m currently in a Starbucks writing this because I don’t have internet in my apartment yet. Yay me.