Earlier today I post a little something on Facebook asking you all what article you’d like to see – a Cincy recap, a postseason discussion, or a reflection on one particular player.
Thankfully, you guys picked the postseason article. Because God knows deep down I was going to do everything in my power to avoid doing a Cincy recap.
So, you asked for it, now you got it! Hit the jump and let’s talk about the Friars in the postseason!
And that should be it, right? We’re not getting in, so we’re not talking about it anymore, yes?
Well, not really. The NCAA tournament is kind of important to talk about because, for the Friars, this was a very realistic goal towards the end of the season.
Let’s rewind prior to the UConn part deux game. The Friars were easily the hottest team in the conference, and they came out of literally nowhere. You’ve heard it all before, “the Friars were picked to finish last” “the Friars were dealing with injuries” and on and on it would go. We were picked last, this is true. And we were dealing with injuries, also true. That’s why being considered to get an at-large bid was so huge for the Friars. We had overcome so much.
One thing we couldn’t overcome, however, was the record prior to the UConn game. We did have some losses – some bad losses. Brown, DePaul, Boston College, Penn State, and UMass were all considered by many to be bad losses, and that this was going to work against us for the NCAA tournament. In fact, there were a few people out there who felt that these losses were already too much, and that the Friars wouldn’t get a bid because of them. Still others felt that these losses were because of injuries (sans DePaul I guess) and that they wouldn’t count against us as severely as they would’ve if we had everyone.
In the spirit of papal elections, I’m going to play devil’s advocate. Of these losses, only Brown, Penn State, and halfsies on DePaul were really the bad losses. Let’s start with Penn State, easily the most injury-ridden game we had played. Still a bad loss, regardless. Penn State is god awful, and quite honestly the fact that they had to beat us in overtime is even worse. I think we could have one that game, even with our incredibly depleted roster. They had one good player who was out for injuries, and we still had Batts and Henton. Brown was a game we owned up until the last few seconds, when they hit three 3-pointers in a row. But again, even without Cotton and Council and Dunn just coming back, we still had a solid frontcourt. DePaul…just no. That was an egg. We didn’t come out ready or prepared at all.
UMass and Boston College have stepped their games up. UMass finished sixth in a pretty strong A-10 and really did have some quality pieces in place. I’ve liked the direction their program has been heading in, but it doesn’t take rose colored glasses to see that they’re really building something there, and this year was a good year for them. They finished 19-10 overall and had a winning record in their conference. Boston College is much harder to make a case for, but still – we don’t play them well on the road, they turned out to be a surprise team who, like us, was picked to finish last only to exceed expectations and finish middle of the pack ACC (okay, 8th out of 12 is pushing it for middle, but c’mon work with me here) and finished the season with a .500 record. Yeah, they sucked early on, but you also have to remember they had one critical player in Ryan Anderson who ended up injured early on. They turned it around and actually moved their season forward a bit more after winning their first game in the ACC tournament today.
So okay, now we’ve eliminated two bad losses and we’re playing UConn. We again lose to UConn in overtime after winning the previous three games. Many said we had a tall order to fulfill by winning out the last four games and winning two in New York in order to get a bid, but that’s six wins in a row – not exactly something this team has done recently. Plus, we haven’t won in New York for as long as I can remember (and before I get comments with the “we beat DePaul in 09!” I just want you to know that I know that, but I don’t count that as a significant win, nor should you). So we lay an egg against UConn and it became “get to the finals and you still might have a shot.” So that should’ve fired this team up to play for keeps in the mecca, right?
I’m not doing the Cincy recap. You know what happened.
Point is we were there, we had it. I’m not going to say this team blew it because, honestly, just to have been in talks for a bid after being thought so little of was impressive enough. It was there’s for the taking from a neutral perspective, but this team has it’s limitations. They’re learning how to win, and they’re not totally there yet, but if anything this season has shown us that they can win, and they’re learning how to win the right way a lot faster than we thought they would.
NIT! NIT! NIT!
So it looks like the Friars are headed to the NIT. They finished .500 in conference (9-9) and above .500 for the regular season (17-13) and, according to everything I’ve read on the counfangled interwebz, that’s a basic requirement. We met that. Awesome.
The Bracket Project, which seems to be the most level headed, has awarded us a 4 seed in the NIT. That means we get at least one home game barring a 1/8 upset. Currently it has us matched up against Ohio, a team that you might remember is Alex Kellogg’s chosen school of transfer from Providence after he left – excuse me, after he escaped – Keno Davis’ tutelage (or lack thereof). They also have made a few NCAA trips in the past few years, and beat Georgetown in 2010 in the first round, hosted in Providence, RI. So…fun facts. It should be noted that this was done prior to our loss to Cincy, so who knows if it will stay the same or drop according to them.
Statsheet seems to agree but has been way more generous in the past. Right now we’re considered a three seed. All season Statsheet has put us anywhere from CBI to NCAA bubble team, but it seems like for the majority of the time we were a middle-of-the-pack NIT team. Hey, again, I’ll take it.
The question now is, what will the Friars do with this bid? Obviously we want to see this team come out and make noise, make a return trip to New York City, and win the whole damn thing, but is it possible? Honestly, I have no reason to believe it isn’t – so long as they play to the team they are, not the one they think they are. They need to show up. The past two games shot us in the foot because they came out without any offense and lackluster defense. Remember 2009? We got that bid and then just completely shit the bed? Yeah, that can’t happen again. NIT, NCAA, doesn’t matter – we’re playing in March, and this team can win if they want to. I expect Cooley to have these guys fired up to take the marbles for this tournament.
It should be noted too that if we do get a bid and pull off two home games, the second game will be played in the Ryan Center because the Dunk has been booked already for the time the second game would be at. So…go ahead and make some jokes to your URI friends. Or have them make jokes to you. Or something. I don’t know. There are jokes in there somewhere but I’m too tired to figure them out.
CBI, etc. Yeah, not happening. Cooley said it himself that he’d turn it down. So…there.