The Fun Ride of the Friars Ends with Sweet 16 Loss to Kansas – A Season Reflection

The toughest thing about being a college basketball fan of any program is the quick finality of it all, unless you’re the last team standing. In a year full of great and even historic moments for the Providence Friars, seeing that run come to end Friday night was a tough pill to swallow. Hell, why’d you think it took us the entire weekend to write this thing? Even though the Friars fell to the Jayhawks 66-61, disappointment is not the feeling Friartown has about this group. While everyone may be bummed the ride is over, this season was an unmitigated success. There’s a great sense of pride for what this team was able to accomplish this season, and we are so appreciative of everything this team did.

This was a team that was projected to finish 7th in the Big East. In November, we didn’t quite know what to expect from this team. However, it did not take long to see a team that was well connected and focused on winning games. The early road win at Wisconsin was encouraging, but then they faced their first setback against Virginia 3 games later. How did Them Dudes respond? By rattling off the next eight contests, including wins versus the now famous St. Peter’s Peacocks, Texas Tech and the first three Big East contests. This team showed a resilience and a responsiveness that we haven’t seen in all our years as a Friar fan (remember we are class of 2011 and 2012).

It was the Texas Tech game that made us hopeful they could have a special season. This team went 12-3 in games decided by 5 points or less, and the late game execution was superb. These guys were the definition of clutch, exemplified by having a four game stretch where they went 3-1 with all of the aforementioned wins in overtime.

One of the best traits with this team was that anyone of the main rotation players could go off on any given night. Six different players were the leading scorers in games this season. It just further goes to show this team had a belief in each other and left their egos at the door. It was truly “we before me”, and I think that is the most endearing characteristic of this team.

They captured the program’s first ever Big East regular championship and continued to make history in the NCAA Tournament. They constantly had to hear the chatter about how they were lucky and instead of letting that phase them, these guys used it as fuel to keep winning. They were one of the lowest favored 4 seeds in the opening round of NCAA tournament history, yet put away South Dakota St with relative ease. They then achieved the program’s first Sweet 16 since 1997 by beating Richmond with actual ease. I’m sure Pete Gillen was smiling down upon this group.

Cooley has told this team throughout the season to leave their mark, and they certainly did. Nate Watson had team goals that he spoke into existence. Al Durham and Justin Minaya left a lasting impression in only one year with the program. Noah Horchler will be a Friar folk hero for years to come. AJ Reeves showed all of us if you water your grass, good things will come. While Ed Croswell and Jared Bynum will likely remain in Friartown, their development this season was fun to watch. Need evidence this team rallied a community? Look at their send off before the game against KU.

Sure, the Friars shot poorly in the first half against Kansas and couldn’t quite complete the 13-point comeback, but even in a loss they showed what this team was all about. They fought to the final whistle and showed they belonged on the stage. Consider this: 3 of the 6 loses this team had this year came to teams that are in the Final 4. These Friars certainly made their mark and set a new standard for the program. Nothing about this season was lucky.

From a program level view Providence seemed to have a ton of momentum in 2020 before Covid cancelled the NCAA. After a down 2020-2021 season, this group was able to regain that momentum and then some. It was a pleasure to watch Them Dudes all year long, and we won’t forget the wild ride they took us on for years to come.

Make no mistake: every single player on the Friars this season will be remembered fondly and are already instant legends for what they were able to accomplish. The overwhelming sentiment is sadness in that we won’t be able to watch these guys play together again. There’s no frustration or anger that they couldn’t get over the hump against Kansas. This was probably one of the most connected Friar teams ever. No loss will take away from all the good this team accomplished and for that we are truly appreciative. This was a special group that will be talked about fondly for years to come. Thank you, boys.

Go Friars.

3 thoughts on “The Fun Ride of the Friars Ends with Sweet 16 Loss to Kansas – A Season Reflection”

  1. As a member of PC Class of 1981, there is nothing in this post I can possibly disagree with, and I’m sure that even alumni and fans who go back to the Vin Ernst and Jimmy Walker and Ernie D and Marvin Barnes and Joe Hassett etc years feel the same.

    But my question is this:

    Does this season that just ended represent a turning point in the program? Will what happened this past season be the sign of even better years to come or were we just, as the media and college hoops analysts and so called experts kept hammering home, just “lucky” and that what we saw transpire over four months just a nice little anomaly?

    Villanova went thru, in many ways, the same kind of path that we are on now, having good not great seasons but after the tenth or so year after Jay Wright’s tenure, their path changed and became one where they’ve won two national championships and are now vying for a third.

    Can what happened to Villanova happen to us?

    I’d like to think so, only because of the Big East Coach Of The Year and possibly the NCAA Coach Of The Year who has an office at the Ruane Friar Development Center and listens to “One Shining Moment” in his car every day. Coach Cooley, as Reggie Jackson once said, is the straw that stirs the drink, and as long as he remains our coach, I think that we may be closer to the mountaintop than we ever could have been with Gavitt, Barnes, Pitino, Gillen, etc.

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    1. That’s the hope right? You look at the facilities that PC has and really the community that surrounds the program there is no reason why Providence can’t become their own version of a Villanova or even if you look west Gonzaga. These things take time and as a fan base we need to be patient but with the momentum this team has built got to hope that is sustained and bigger/better things yet to come

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