So the Friars have been the last team in Joe Lunardi’s “Next Four Out” section for the past couple of nights on Bracketology after the win over Seton Hall. ESPN also updated their Bubble Watch, which finally includes the Providence Friars.
Providence [17-12 (9-8), RPI: 77, SOS: 59] How soft is this bubble? Soft enough that if you stare really hard at it, you come to the at-first baffling conclusion that you must at least consider Providence at the very tail end of at-large tournament contention. To be honest, like fellow fringer Iowa, Ed Cooley’s team has been a lot better than you think this season (albeit not as good as the Hawkeyes — just similarly underrated). Their resume, on the other hand? Other than two home wins over Cincinnati and Notre Dame, a suddenly impressive sweep over Villanova and seven wins in their past eight, there’s still not much there. But would a win at UConn on Saturday get them close? Closer, at least. Worth keeping an eye on.
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?
If you said “yes” to the above, these words are dedicated to you.
Check out Bryce Cotton’s awesome half time buzzer beater layup against Fairfield last night. It came in at number 10 on SportsCenter’s Top Plays last night. Thanks to everyone who Tweeted at ESPN to help promote it!
Meanwhile, PC coach Ed Cooley is dealing with a more pressing matter. He’s hoping that star recruit Ricky Ledo can get a waiver to play or at least be on campus this season as his academic reports go through the Eligibility Center. Cooley would take Ledo on campus, even if he’s not eligible. Kansas had a similar situation with a stud recruit last season when Ben McLemore didn’t get eligible but was at least on campus and around the team last season to learn the system and adapt to the program. Ledo, who has lacked stability during his career, would benefit from being in one place for a few seasons.
Providence over Connecticut, Tuesday: Traditionally, the Huskies haven’t played well at Providence. And the pressure will be immense on UConn to win this game after failing to score on a final possession against Syracuse. Providence has the offense to score against Connecticut from the perimeter. Of course, the question will be whether UConn has the focus to lock in and defend the Friars in what is a must-win game. Can the Huskies lose this game, beat Pitt on Saturday and make a mini-run in the Big East tournament to still earn a bid? Yes. But falling to PC would zap them of any momentum, save a return to the bench by Jim Calhoun if his surgery goes well Monday.
Cooley’s pitch takes a page from the Olive Garden: when you’re here, you’re family. That the head coach is repeatedly taking road trips to see the likes of Sampson helps separate the Friars, what may put them over the top is their family approach to recruiting.
Back in August, Cooley explained this approach to CBS’s Gary Parish, “When I sell my background to the kids and my vision to their families, I always tell the kids that if I get the opportunity to know them and they get the opportunity to see who we are as a family and what we do as people during the recruiting process, when it comes time to make a decision on a school, they will have a brutal time telling me no. They might tell me no. But they’ll have a brutal time doing it.”
You don’t even have to look at the article, really.
16. Providence: The Friars have just two wins since the New Year and the schedule offers little in the way of optimism. This week, Providence has to face a hungry Cincinnati team before hosting Georgetown.
The Friars finished at -.10 (also 14th place) in efficiency margin in conference play last year.
And finally, the Providence Friars are the butt of everyone’s jokes, the losers of the league, the 98-pound weakling. But their season has shown a lot of promise. The Friars continue to play in close games despite playing six players most of the team’s minutes. Their efficiency margins have been going up each week.
But the Friars have been outscored in the second half for five straight games (including a win against Rutgers) – the fatigue factor seems evident.
Ed Cooley will want to find something different to do with his defense next year, however – the Friars can’t stop three-point shooting, don’t force turnovers, and aren’t getting defensive rebounds.
According to Ledo the two prospects talk all the time via Twitter and texting. Cooley has also made a strong effort to attend many of their games.
Cooley has two headlining stars. To go along with Dunn and Ledo is knockdown shooter Josh Fortune and transfer Sidiki Johnson.
But Cooley isn’t done. Oh, he’s far from done.
17. LaDontae Henton, Providence Friars
Did you seen Henton going to war against Syracuse in PC’s 87-73 loss last week? Someone forgot to tell him that was the No. 1 team in the country he was facing. The box score (11 points, 13 boards) really doesn’t do justice to the fearlessness displayed by a 6-6 freshman in a game where the Friars basically had no business being as competitive as they were. Coach Ed Cooley’s stylistic peculiarity is that players he likes never come out of the game, and if Henton doesn’t drop dead from exhaustion, he’ll make a name for himself.
16. Providence: The Friars are what they are — young and limited. They simply aren’t ready to win Big East games, even when they try to make them as ugly as possible, as they did in a competitive loss against Georgetown.
Andy Katz previewed the upcoming game against Syracuse in his Weekly Watch video.
“Could be a difficult game at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center because Providence certainly has the possibility of knocking off the Syracuse Orange if they shoot the basketball well. Vincent Council has to have a monster game”.
Oh, and Andy – Providence beat #1 Pittsburgh 3 years ago, not last year!
2. Providence: Yes, the Friars made the grade this week. They won easily at rival Rhode Island, which might not mean much considering the Rams have only one win, but it was a strong statement for first-year coach Ed Cooley, who has his program trending upward heading into Big East play.