In the World’s Most Famous Arena, Providence was lifeless for the majority of the game. It wasn’t until the final few minutes that Providence miraculously found life and almost closed the gap against the Connecticut Huskies. UConn held a significant double digit lead for most of the game (at times 20+ point lead), but that lead seemed to evaporate at the drop of a hat when Providence shrunk the lead to five.
While sitting in the arena after a Hurley timeout when the lead was cut to five, I was completely shell-shocked that PC was able to flip the switch that quickly. I don’t think anybody in the building expected that game to get within single digits, let alone a two possession game. Nothing that was transpiring leading up to that moment made you feel as if that was a possibility. This never give up attitude is one of the hallmark traits of an Ed Cooley squad.
Unfortunately, Connecticut showed some maturity and resilience out of that timeout. A few timely three pointers by Connecticut ultimately helped them prevail as they advance to the Big East Tournament semi-finals. For Providence, it awaits its fate on Selection Sunday. The Friars, as of this writing, should be in, but crazier things have happened.
We break down the game and what the Friars need to tighten up before March Madness.
Revisiting the Preview
High Level Thoughts Post Game
It may be easy to compare the first 30-35 minutes of this game to the Seton Hall debacle, but I don’t think that is fair to Providence and the team. As much as it pains me to say, Connecticut is clearly the superior team. I think the massive lead by Connecticut spoke more to the talent of Connecticut than it did around some of the things that have been ailing the Friars of late. I thought Providence actually played semi decent basketball for most of the first half. Connecticut’s defense is overwhelming and engulfs its opposition. When you couple that with a hot shooting night, the Huskies are going to roll most teams. This Connecticut team is a Final Four caliber squad.
With all that said, PC cannot continue to start slow. It is the same theme over and over again. Providence starts slow, finds another gear to get the game close, but ends up falling just a bit short. You can set your watch to it.
I don’t know the answer on how to fix this, but I will say that our comebacks of recent have been with Corey Floyd Jr. on the court. Who knows how much longer this season goes, but his energy and enthusiasm for the game of basketball is night and day compared to some of our other backcourt players. He has earned more minutes and should be first off the bench at worst. I wouldn’t even complain if he was inserted into the starting line-up. Something is amiss with this team at the start of games, and he may be the cure-all.
Beyond that, I’m hoping the 5-10 minute spurt at the end of the Connecticut game helped this team find some of the magic it had earlier in the year. Basketball is supposed to be fun, and this team of recent looks like it abhors playing basketball. Who knows what is exactly going on in and out of the locker room, but they need to find some joy again in simply playing the game of basketball. I’m hopeful the end of yesterday’s game will serve as the catalyst for that.
Other Key Takeaways
Press Defense Works – I’d like to see Providence implement a full court press moving forward. They have the bodies in the backcourt in Breed, Pierre, Bynum, and Floyd Jr. They are deep at the guard spot, and Cooley should use that to his advantage. You can use those guys interchangeably and speed up the opposition. Connecticut had 18 turnovers yesterday, and a lot of that was due to the press. It will also get Providence in transition more, which is where I personally think they thrive.
Less Three Pointers, Please – Providence went 26% from deep yesterday and shot 23 total threes. I get that the game was out of reach quickly, but I’d like to see Providence shoot 15-20 three’s a game. The Friars, outside of Locke, don’t have reliable deep ball shooters.
Barring a wacky few remaining days, I think Providence should be safely in the tournament. A lot of the “bubble” teams had their bubble popped (UNC, Villanova, Wisconsin, Michigan, etc.), and there aren’t many bubble teams still in play outside a few like Rutgers and Arizona State.
If I had to guess Providence is one of the last 10 seeds, but it wouldn’t surprise me to be an 11 seed. I would be shocked if they are in the play-in games. If they are, PC has nobody to blame but themsevles.
If they get a 10 seed, the path to a Sweet 16 isn’t as difficult as some may perceive. Playing a 7 seed like Northwestern, for instance, wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. If they get lucky and get paired with a UCLA or Tennessee, who are trending on the 2 seed line, I’ll be optimistic about the Friars. Both of those teams have suffered season ending injuries to key players and may not be as strong as their seeding would indicate.
See everybody Sunday.