It’s here. The day the smallest state with the longest name in the US of A drops everything they’re doing for once a year (maybe twice, shout-out VJ Day). Providence. URI. Friars. Rams.
What does it mean to the state of Rhode Island? It’s a year’s worth of bragging rights. It’s determination of which team will be the pride of RI for the rest of the season, regardless of what happens in March. For a guy who grew up a stone’s throw away from URI’s campus, went to Jim Baron and Tim Welsh basketball camps growing up, and is still paying off the student loans used to pay for a strong education and the best four years of his life at Providence College? It means one of my absolutely favorite fucking weeks of the year.
As I mentioned in my last blog (sorry or not posting again until now, I’ll be better) I’m from North Kingstown, RI. When I was a very little kid, during the Cuttino Mobley and Lamar Odom years, my father had season tickets to URI. You could catch toddler me in Keaney Gym for every home game. This was also the case for many of friends growing up. As we grew older we’d go watch Dustin Hellenga try to take down Jameer Nelson and Delonte West on an undefeated St. Joes team. For my friends, this was the college basketball that stole their hearts. For me, it was just fun to catch a game. I was really just hoping my buddies Scotty, Nate, and Kirn would have an extra ticket and a seat in the car to head north on route 4 to 95 to go catch the Friars at the Dunk.
Being from southern Rhode Island, and especially with the recent success of URI under Danny Hurley, where I’m from is Rams country. However, that’s not to say that there is some sort of boundary dividing the state. My aforementioned Friar Fanatics, none of which ended up attending PC as I did, remain part of a large in-state contingent that proudly boast their fandom. I mean, shit, sitting through Tim Welsh being fired for not getting us to enough tournaments and Keno Davis pounding the rest button on the program like I pound beers in the downstairs of Trinity before the tip each week, you’ve earned the right pick your head back up during the Ed Cooley era.
So what does this game mean to me? It’s the one week per year I HATE URI. For pretty much all Rhode Islanders it’s the only week per year that they HATE whichever team they don’t typically support (don’t let Barstool URI’s newfound #FuckPC little brother syndrome fool you, that kid was 10,000% not from the 401). Historically, the approach by both fan bases has been similar to how smart college basketball fans feel about their conference foes -root for them OOC, and then be out for blood in conference. PC vs URI is a once per year one-week rivalry, and especially in recent years, it’s finally getting the attention it deserves as one of the most underrated ones in the country. Fans (should) root for the other team all season outside of this week. With Providence dominating the match ups over the past decade the protagonist versus antagonist disposition owned by the primarily raised-out-of-state student and alumni base for the Friars seems to have cooled. I fully expect to see some of that back today with the Ram’s taking their first victory in the Rhode to Perdition in 8 years.
As I mentioned, it’s really a one-week rivalry, which truly makes it a unique one. I can’t say who URI’s rival has been historically, but I can say that URI has never really been PC’s ultimate rival. When I say that I mean if a broadcast were to list rivals, in the way the NCAA Basketball EA Sports game used to (man I miss that franchise) URI would’ve never been listed for PC and PC would’ve never been listed for URI. PC historically would’ve been BC before they bounced to the ACC well in advance of the “old Big East” breaking down. After that the penultimate rival was UCONN. Well, UCONN wouldn’t schedule PC after realignment, and now it seems that PC is the one disinterested (although I could see that changing soon). I can’t say that I know who PC’s rival is now. For the first time in my life I think that this beautiful, messy, one-week rivalry is the one. With both team’s recent success, failure to develop another true rival, I think we are in the golden era of PC vs URI rivalry. Neither has anyone else to point to as their greatest foe. What a fucking week.
What do I expect today? I expect the Dunk to be sold out. I expect to see the place get LOUD. I expect to see David Duke and AJ Reeves some out and probably shoot their first few shots super long (the adrenaline they’re going to get from finally playing in this game will be a lot to handle). I expect Fats Russel to get buckets. I expect Alpha Diallo to be PC’s anchor. I expect to lose my voice during the intros. I expect bragging rights to return to Providence and I expect the Friars to handle ownership of bragging rights for the 401 with much more grace than the baby brother Rams. What I expect most of all is another tight game, great atmosphere, and the 401 to show out as they do every single motherfucking year.
As I will be putting in any game-day blogs I write going forward here is your ultimate Crier pregame crawl for today:
Providence Coal Fired Pizza –come grab some food and root for the Georgia Bulldogs (fuck Bama)
Black Sheep –slam some Bud Lights to grease the wheels pregame
Trinity Brewhouse –come get the father, son and the holy spirit of pregames before heading into the Dunk
I’ll see you there. Go Friars.