Getting an Invitation to the Big Dance: Providence Edition

– Posted by Zurg –

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Led by Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts, Providence sits at 15-5 overall and 5-2 in the Big East. Ed Cooley has his Friars trending upward and firmly inside the NCAA Tournament field headed into February, according to the lead bracketologists.

January 28th: Jerry Palm at CBS Sports has Providence as an 8-seed in his latest bracket playing Shaka Smart and VCU.

January 28th: NBC Sports’ Dave Ommen puts 9-seed Providence up against 8-seed Gonzaga.

January 27th: Daniel Evans at Rush the Court has Providence as a 9-seed against Ohio State.

January 30th: ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Providence as a 10-seed in his latest bracketology update this afternoon.

Therefore, as of today, it is clear that Providence would be the fourth Big East team to have its name called on Selection Sunday.

Ed Cooley still has another 11 Big East games to coach, though – and another hotel stay he hopes lasts a week during the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden – before he can settle in to hear Greg Gumbel call his team’s name on March 16th.

So what does Providence need to do between now and then to solidify its spot in the field of 68?

For starters, Providence needs to take care of business at home. The Friars are 11-1 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center thus far this season with its lone loss coming in double overtime to Seton Hall during a three game slide in late December/early January. Since dropping its first two Big East games, however, Providence is 5-0, including an impressive home win over Creighton.

Next, Providence needs to improve upon its shooting percentages. Bryce Cotton is to thank for most of what has gone well for the Friars of late, but he has taken 45 more 3Ps than anyone on the roster and shoots at just 32.5%. The team’s effective Field Goal Percentage is 281st in the country and 6th in Big East play – and its 2P% and 3P% rank 293rd and 201st nationally. For Providence to be able to win games on the road in the coming 6 weeks, it needs to be able to score efficiently and consistently.

The team plays four of its next five games on the road, starting tonight at Marquette, and will need to find wins away from the comforts of Rhode Island. Providence has only played four true road games this season, beating Rhode Island and St. John’s by a total of two points. Its two losses came at Massachusetts (in overtime) and at Villanova (a 30-point drubbing). To make the NCAA Tournament, Providence needs to win at least four of its last seven road games (at Marquette, at DePaul, at Xavier, at Georgetown, at Butler, & at Seton Hall).

Ed Cooley will lean on his two senior leaders, Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts, to bring the trio to their first NCAA Tournament – and Providence’s first since the 2003-04 squad led by Tim Welsh lost as a 5-seed to #12 Pacific in the First Round.

KenPom projects the Friars to finish the Big East with an 11-7 record (21-10 overall), which will likely land them squarely on the bubble. In that scenario, Providence will head to New York City needing at least one win to complete its case for an at large bid.

Ed Cooley’s team will have its fair share of chances to take care of business before then, though. A good place to start solidifying the résumé? Tonight at Marquette, 7pm on Fox Sports 1.

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