The college basketball offseason is one that is very long and mundane. As spring turns into summer, rarely comes news that is worth discussing regarding Friar Basketball. Well yesterday was that rare moment as PC announced their non-conference schedule for the upcoming 2018-2019 season. While news of potential games broke through the Twittersphere over the past couple weeks, today the dates and times were finally posted. Here are three of my takeaways for PC’s upcoming non-conference slate.
Do the Big Names Provide Big Game?
My first impression of PC’s upcoming non-conference schedule is that they did a great job of adding big name programs. The Friars will be playing against the likes of Wichita State, University of Texas, University of South Carolina and the University of Michigan this upcoming season. Of those four programs three of them have made the Final Four this decade and the University of Texas is known for producing lottery picks in the NBA Draft such as Mo Bamba, Jarrett Allen, Lamarcus Aldrige, Avery Bradley and Kevin Durant. While these are all big name schools I wonder how good these teams will actually be this year.
Wichita St, whom the Friars will play on Navy’s campus for the Veterans Classic Nov 9, was a Top 25 team all season last year but this upcoming season they will be lucky to crack the top 3 of a weak American Athletic Conference. The Shockers return only 11% of their minutes from last season and while they do bring back big man Markis McDuffie the loses of Shaquille Morris and Conner Frankamp (finally) to graduation and Landry Shamet early to the NBA Draft is just brutal. The University of South Carolina have had a major fall from grace after an improbable Final Four run in 2017. Frank Martin’s Gamecocks were just 17-16 last year, kicked freshman Rakym Felder off the team and found out incoming transfer and former Louisville commit Brian Bowen would be ineligible due to his involvement in the FBI probe. At this point I’m surprised Frank Martin hasn’t had a Bobby Knight-esque tirade.
While the University of Texas returns a guy who can jump out the gym in Kerwin Roach and have a good incoming recruiting class, the Longhorns lack that NBA Lotto pick on their roster that we are accustomed to seeing. The Friars don’t play them until December 21st in Austin, so we should know more about what we are dealing with by then. I expect the defending runner-up Michigan Wolverines to be good next season despite the loss of their best player Moe Wagner (VAG-NER). At this point you just got to trust that Jon Beilien will have a great squad because it’s starting to become a trend. So much so that the Detroit Pistons interviewed the 65 year-old coach for their head coaching vacancy. This will be the likely opponent if PC wins their opener in the Hall of Fame Tip Off Tournament at Mohegan Sun, however Friar fans may not want to count their chickens before they hatch. Last year PC had full intentions on meeting Buzz Williams and Virginia Tech in the final of last year’s 2K Classic at MSG but the Hokies didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. The Friars instead faced a team which at the time we thought was a tough opponent in St. Louis. The Friars demolished the Billikens and STL ended up having a terrible season. I think that game gave us a false sense of confidence that prevented us from getting the 10 non-conference victories Ed Cooley covets every year. However if the Friars do draw the Wolverines it provides PC with the opportunity for their biggest non-conference win and Friartown needs to be in full force at “Dunk South”. While I’m not sure exactly how good these big name programs will be next season they certainly should provide opportunity to build a good resumé.
Revenge Against the Rams
Last season the Friars had their 7-game winning streak against URI snapped in a loss to the Rams in Kingston. URI went on to have one of their better seasons in school history and even advanced in the NCAA Tournament, something the Friars couldn’t do. However life that is for a mid-major basketball program with success comes the improbability of sustainability. That was most evident when head coach Dan Hurley left the Rams to rebuild a UConn program that has suddenly fallen hard times. The Rams wisely chose assistant coach David Cox to be Hurley’s successor but this year will be his first experience being the head of the helm during the Battle of the Ocean State. I think next season the Friars should have no problem avenging the loss against the Rams. Citizens of Rhody Nation may say “Crier the Rams return some good players and have a solid incoming freshman class. Plus the Friars have a lot of guys who will have to take on more responsibility next season” but their takes are pathetic. There is no chance in hell that the Rhody Rams exit the Dunk Saturday December, 1st with a W. NONE! PERIOD! Friars by 100!
The House of Horrors That is Conte Forum!
After Providence demolished Boston College last season 86-66 at the Dunk I thought to myself I better this now because the return game will be here before we know it. As a Boston resident I will be attending Tuesday December 4th when PC makes the trip to Chestnut Hill but I’ll be honest I’d rather get a root canal. There is almost nothing more certain in life then the Friars losing at the Conte Forum. Death, Taxes and losing at the Conte Forum every 2 years. The last time PC won at the Conte Forum the Boston Red Sox had yet to end the curse of the Bambino. February 14th 2004 was the last time the Friars left Chestnut Hill with a smile on their faces. Think about that for one second! Oh hey thanks for the 20 and 11 RYAN GOMES! Boston College was still in the Big East and Ed Cooley was an assistant for the opposition thats how long we are talking here. It doesn’t matter if the BC Eagles brought out the Fab Five or the Jackson 5 the Friars will still find a way to lose at Conte, its infuriating and unfortunately I don’t see it changing next season. The Eagles lost Jerome Robinson but still have Ky Bowman, fake crowd noise and a hockey rink that’s dressed like a basketball arena. In Cooley We Trust but I got to tell you I think we are losing this one, sorry.
So there you have it those are my three take aways from the release of PC’s upcoming non-conference schedule. While I am a big fan of summer I find myself counting down the days until the season starts, as I’m sure the rest of Friartown is. When the next news of substance occurs regarding the PC Friars, the Crier will sure to have some content but until that time I’m going fishing.