That was fun.
By now there’s no doubt a flooding concern on whether or not Providence College will find themselves on the right side of the bubble come selection Sunday. After starting off the Big East strong, Providence has dropped 4 of their last 5 games and are now at 6-6 in conference play. Now, on their last 1/3 of the schedule, the Friars need to find a way to keep their hopes alive.
It’s not going to be easy, and the margin of error for this is razor thin, but there is still a chance to right this ship. Here’s a breakdown of what needs to happen:
1) Providence needs to win 5 of their remaining 6 games.
It can’t be just any five games either. As it stands right now the schedule looks like this:
- vs. DePaul, Feb 15
- vs. Villanova, Feb 18
- @ Butler, Feb 23
- @ Seton Hall, Feb 28
- vs. Marquette, Mar 4
- @ Creighton, Mar 8
So with three home games, three away games, and two ranked teams, the Friars need to make some magic happen.
Firstly, Providence needs to win out at home. They need to beat DePaul and Marquette and take care of business against the top team in the conference, Villanova. Of the three Villanova is undoubtedly the toughest. DePaul needs to be swept and given that it’s on Alumni Weekend there will be a good crowd atmosphere to help push for the win. Villanova coming three days later will be tough because we’ve all seen how Providence does with short gaps between games, but hopefully home court will help.
Of the three teams though Marquette is the biggest question mark for me in a lot of areas. DePaul is down after losing Cleveland Melvin earlier this week, and I don’t know what to predict against Villanova other than that it will be a rough fight because of their talent, but Marquette is an enigma. They started the season down, seemed to have found their footing, and what’s worse they’ve had the Friars’ number for the past few seasons. They know how to wear down PC and, given our lack of depth, that’s going to be a huge challenge to overcome. Marquette is on Senior Night however, so good crowd support and some energized seniors looking to leave their home court with a win could be the push needed to get the Friars over the hump.
The road leg is a different beast entirely. Fortunately with first two games there’s enough spacing where the Friars will be able to get some rest. PC will have four days off between Villanova to Butler, as well as Butler to Seton Hall, which could be a godsend for this team’s NCAA hopes. Both teams are beatable – Providence beat Butler this season and Seton Hall, while getting the best of PC in double OT in New Years Eve, isn’t invincible on their home court, but fresh legs and clear heads will be needed for both these games. Kadeem Batts can’t play like he did at points against Georgetown and Bryce Cotton can’t play like he did at points against Xavier. These are games where leadership brings home the victories, and both players will need to be focused for the win to come.
Creighton is going to be the ultimate test for the Friars. Coming after a three day breather from Senior Night the Friars need to head to Omaha to an arena they’ve never played in before and take on a team that will be thirsty to send their senior All American candidate out with a win. To make the best case for their NCAA Tournament resume, Providence needs to win this game. A road win over a top-of-the-conference team will do a lot more for this team than wins over DePaul, and while winning over DePaul is critically this is equally important.
So where’s the one loss come from? Real talk? Seton Hall. I think that is the only game that is forgivable enough as a “bad loss” where if you win the other five it won’t matter as much because at that point you’ll have two solid road wins, three home wins and two wins over top-25 teams. I don’t think losing to Butler is as forgivable. That’s not a knock on Butler so much as it is the fact that we’ve already beaten them once and they’re also dead last in the conference.
Alternative: if you lose to Villanova or Creighton and you clean up the rest of the schedule we’re still in. It can’t be both and if it has to be one it should be Creighton over Villanova. Creighton on the road is much more understandable in my opinion than Villanova at home when you’re comparing the two.
2) Gardens and Records
By the time we head to Madison Square Garden we need to be at 21-10 and 11-7 in the Big East. 20-11 doesn’t cut it. 21 is the magic number.
But say we do have 20 wins going into MSG, what then? It’s hard for me to make a prediction on what we’ll need at that point because I don’t know who we’ll be matched up against in the Big East Tournament. If we get a third stab at Seton Hall in the first round and win that’ll help. If we get paired with Nova and beat them that may be the answer. It’s a coin flip because, truthfully, I don’t know how much weight is put on postseason tournaments compared to regular season resumes.
Looking at how the new bracket is set up, our matchups would look like this if the tournament started tomorrow:
So, we’d have to get through Marquette in the first matchup and then Seton Hall, Villanova, or DePaul in the second. Assuming we beat Marquette and the matchups play out as you might expect, we’d have Villanova in the semi-finals. If we have 20 wins and we’re the runner up in the Big East Tournament I believe that will be enough to make the push for the NCAA tournament. Clearly not an easy feat, but when is it ever easy?
3) No Excuses
We need strong leadership. It’s a given. The past two games have not demonstrated that for a full 40 minutes. Xavier completely shut down Cotton and Kadeem looked like his talent was stolen from the Martins in Space Jam at points against Georgetown. The thing is both these performances are atypical of these players. They can and have played much better.
We’ve discussed fatigue before so this is the only time I’ll mention it: fatigue affects them. There.
What I’m now saying is that there needs to be one final push from the seniors if they want to get this team into the tournament. I understand exhaustion, I understand the effects it takes on players. Now I’m saying it needs to be thrown out the window. If they can find a way to push through the exhaustion they’ll get to the tournament, if not then we’ll all be filling out NIT brackets.
In the past I’ve discussed how they’re exhausted from a limited bench. It’s a disappointment but it’s time to move on from what we don’t have. This team has proven they can win without the ammunition they thought they’d have, now they have to continue doing so.
It’s very simple: to make the NCAA Tournament this team needs to push through exhaustion and make it happen. Be like Nike: Just do it. We can justify quite easily why this team shouldn’t make the NCAA tournament by throwing out these reasons, but if they want to make it, they have to overcome these things.
Nothing in life worth having ever came easy, the same goes for this tournament bid. It’s an uphill battle but the grit and fortitude of this team and fanbase will need to persevere to get to what we want. It won’t be handed to us and it won’t come easy, but if there’s a shred of hope for this bid – and as we live and breathe right now there still is – everyone needs to get on board and believe in it. Go Friars.