Providence and Connecticut, two passionate New England rivals with no love lost between fanbases, are meeting for the third time this season after splitting the two games in Big East conference play. The 2:30 afternoon match-up is building up to be the most anticipated quarterfinal match-ups in Big East Tournament history. Ticket prices certainly reflect that. PC and UConn fans will be descending upon The World’s Most Famous Arena and the adjacent watering holes early Thursday.
This game is in many ways a tale of two teams heading in opposite directions. For Connecticut, it is a chance to build on the late season momentum they currently possess and potentially secure a 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. Providence, on the other hand, is looking to find its footing after an abysmal close to an otherwise successful season.
The Huskies open as 7 point favorites, and the game will be jam-packed for a Thursday afternoon quarterfinal match-up. This is the first time Providence and Connecticut are matching up in the Big East Tournament since 1998.
Below, we break down what we’ll be watching for and what the Friars need to do to secure the victory.
On senior day, the Providence team carried over the issues of recent into the Seton Hall game and were thoroughly outplayed by an undermanned Seton Hall Pirate team. Seton Hall decisively beat the Friars 82-58. What is worse than the shellacking is that Providence seemed completely content with letting the Pirates dominate in all facets of the game. There was little to no energy or life in the game besides a minor spurt in the second half that was quickly put out by the Pirates.
This game was objectively the worst showing from a Providence team this year. They are uncharacteristically limping into postseason play when you want them playing their best.
I would say that preseason expectations for this Friar team were realistic. Most Friar fans thought this team would take some time to gel and inevitably stumble early while they got used to playing with each other (they replaced five starters!), but that they would begin to click in February and March in time for the Big East Tournament. That timeline was surprisingly sped up, as PC hit an earlier than expected groove in December and January. It now appears this team is playing worse as they play more with each other. It’s incredibly bizarre and downright confusing, to be honest. I know a lot of folks inside and outside the program are left scratching their heads as to how the Friars have arrived at this point.
Traditionally, Ed Cooley’s teams begin to peak in February as they make a push in the Big East Tournament, but this iteration of the Friars are significantly regressing from where they were early in the year. There are a lot of red flags right now.
We break down below what went wrong in this one and try to come up with ideas on how to right the wrongs of this Friar squad.
Providence has been in the thick of things when it comes to New England recruiting in the Class of 2024. George Turkson Jr. is one of the many New England recruits PC is pursing. Turkson Jr. is another Mass Rivals AAU and Bradford Christian Academy product. If that AAU team rings a bell, it is because Providence has a long history of recruiting the prestigious AAU program, with 2024 being no different. PC is actively recruiting 2024 Mass Rivals products Teng, Turkson, Mills, and Dortch. At Bradford Christian Academy, Turkson Jr. is also teammates with 2024 4 star Kur Teng.
Turkson Jr. in his own right has seen his stock steadily rise this season. We break down his recruitment below, talk a bit about his game, and discuss where the Friars stand.
The Friars wrap up the 2022-2023 regular season Saturday afternoon, as they play host to the Seton Hall Pirates. PC is coming off their first home loss of the season in a 94-89 loss to #19 Xavier on Wednesday night and will be looking to get back to their winning ways at the AMP. It is also senior night (day) for the Friars. Jared Bynum, Ed Croswell, Noah Locke, and Clifton Moore will suit up for one last game in Providence. There is a lot at stake to for the Friars, as a victory and some scoreboard watching would likely yield them a 3-seed in the Big East Tournament.
I’m not one of the “sky is falling” type fans after every loss (although some of my network may disagree), but I do think it is important to analyze why the Providence Friars have hit a downward trend of recent.
To start, this isn’t a gut reaction to one loss. If you have read our previews and listened to our podcasts, we have clearly pointed out a few things we’ve noticed of recent that are causing some concern between Mike and myself. Below, we break down what we think needs to be improved upon so that the Friars can find some March magic.
The first match-up was another one of the many classics between PC and Xavier. Xavier came out on top at home 85-83 in overtime when a Jared Bynum three ball rimmed in and out. The stakes are high for this rematch at the AMP, as the winner of this one puts themselves in the driver’s seat for the 2 seed in the Big East Tournament. Additionally, a win here helps bolster the NCAA resume for both teams.
We break down what we expect to see during the game and the keys to a Friar victory.
If you were to tell me that Bryce Hopkins would finish with only 6 points, I would have said Providence may have been on upset alert. Due to foul trouble, Bryce only played 17 minutes, but it did not matter, as the 4 other starters each poured in at least 12 points. Led by Croswell’s 25 points, 13 rebounds, and 6 assists, Providence held a significant lead for the majority of the game on their way to the 13th win of the conference.
We break down below the keys to the victory over Georgetown.
Well, our last opportunity to sweep a team didn’t go so hot. Yes, the Friars were taken to the woodshed at UConn on Wednesday night but the game is in the rear view, and we are onto Georgetown. For the Friars it’s a game you certainly don’t want to drop, but the Hoyas are still battling amidst their poor season. The Hoyas hung tough in a 74-62 loss at Providence, and they were able to to snap a 22-game road losing streak with a win at Butler. Unfortunately, the selection committee doesn’t care that Georgetown is playing hard, and it would be a detrimental for the Friars to drop this one.
Ed Cooley thought the Friars effort in Storrs was “bullsh**”. After a few days to get over an 18 point loss, the Friars need to refocus and get this victory in DC. Let’s take a look at what to watch for in this one.
It pains me to not remember the origin of this saying, but one of my favorite quips from a college coach is, “The other team gives out scholarships too”. So often, it is easy to be critical of your team and point out the mistakes they committed while not giving the necessary credit to the opposition for playing well. It was not so much that Providence lost the game with poor play, but rather that the Huskies played really damn well. And that is okay. These things happen in conference play.
Connecticut put together one of its more efficient offensive games of the entire season on the way to a thorough beating of the Friars. They shot 53% from the field and 48% from deep. You aren’t going to beat many teams when they are putting up those numbers, no matter who they are. With all the hoopla surrounding the game ($2 dollar beers, senior night, white out), this game had all the makings of one that would slip away from PC. The dam eventually broke, and this will be a good learning experience for this Friar squad.
Friar fans will be upset about this one because it was a beatdown in conference play against a rival, but it is a testament to where the Friar program currently is that Connecticut pulled out all the stops above just to maximize the likelihood of securing a win. Providence is one of the top dogs in the Big East and is being treated as such by their brethren in the Big East.
While this one certainly stings, it is just one game, and the Friars need to ensure this doesn’t snowball into a loss Sunday against Georgetown. We break down what went wrong for the Friars in this game below.
The Friars will travel to Storrs on Wednesday with a massive opportunity. With a victory the Friars would keep pace for the Big East regular season crown and get a huge win in the metrics, we know how Husky fans love those, for their resume. the Friars once again find themselves with a chance to sweep a Big East foe.
It would be quite the feat considering Providence hasn’t swept UConn since well technically last year. In all seriousness it will in fact be a tough task when you think about how top Big East teams defend home court and the Huskies are looking to close the season strong as March fast approaches.
If the Friars want to avoid the 8/9 line a win at Connecticut would all but solidify that. The Friars were able to beat the Huskies 73-61 back in January when UConn was ranked 4th in the country. The Huskies remained within the top-25 since then despite going 6-5 during that stretch. UConn was able to avenge road losses against Marquette and Seton Hall, can they do the same against the Friars? Should be a great game so let’s take a deeper look.