Team Name: Providence Friars
Coach: Ed Cooley
Top Performer: Bryce Cotton (21.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 5.9 APG)
Providence’s Season: This season has been a roller coaster ride for the Friars, as they have experienced extreme highs and lows. They started off the season 10-2 with losses to Maryland and Kentucky. Then, they proceeded to lose 3 straight with losses to UMass and Seton Hall in overtime and a blowout loss to Villanova on the road. After going 6-1 in their next stretch, they went 1-4 with losses to St. John’s, Xavier, Georgetown and a double overtime loss at home against Villanova. Providence closed the season strong, going 3-1 with road wins at Butler and Seton Hall and a thriller against Marquette, although they lost on the road at Creighton on Senior Day. The Friars close the season ranked 53rd in KenPom’s rankings with a record of 20-11 (10-8 in Big East play). They closed the season on a semi-high note and expect to make some noise in the Big East Tournament behind the play of their stud guard Bryce Cotton.
Providence’s Road: Thursday 2:30 PM vs. St. John’s, Friday (if necessary) vs. Villanova
Providence’s Prospects: They start the Big East Tournament against St. John’s (KenPom: 37th) in a tough 4 vs. 5 matchup. It is also essentially a road game for Providence due to St. John’s having played 9 games at the Mecca of Basketball (MSG) already this season. The matchup will be tough because of the way St. John’s closed the season (8-2) and the Madison Square Garden atmosphere. The Johnnies lost a tough road game at Villanova and had a let-down game against Xavier before bouncing back with wins against DePaul and on the road versus Marquette. Both teams will be fighting for their NCAA tournament lives in this game, and the winner will move on to play either Villanova or Butler/Seton Hall. Serving as a rubber match after splitting their first two games against each other, expect a very tough game in Round One between Providence and St. John’s.
NCAA Prospects: With 20 wins (10 in the Big East), as well as being ranked 53 in KenPom and 55 in BPI, the Friars are a definite bubble team. They are currently among the First 4 Out (according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi), and will need a big showing in the Big East Tournament. That begins with the game Thursday against fellow member of the First 4 Out group, St. John’s. Realistically, the Friars will have to make a run in the Big East Tournament to give themselves a substantial shot at an at-large bid, and that would mean beating Villanova, a team they are 0-2 against this season. In all likelihood, Providence is destined for the NIT this season.
Mr. Potato Head’s take: Providence has been an up and down team all season, but the roller coaster stops here. I think that St. John’s has yet to play their best basketball, and the Johnnies are ready to put it on display at Madison Square Garden in front of many of their fans. With both teams fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives, I see St. John’s taking down the Friars and sending Providence to the NIT.