(WPRI) – Over the course of the next few weeks we’ll revisit the season predictions, preview conference tournament and hand out final grades before diving into each program. So, we’ll keep this opening section brief one final time until it’s a dead sprint until the end of the year.
With that, let’s get to the latest edition of the WPRI12 College Hoops Column.
Thoughts and observations are below. You can always reach out via email firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @MHershgordon.
No. 20 Providence
Record: 20-7 (12-4 in Big East, tied for 2nd place)
Last: 85-72 win vs. Villanova
This Week: Visit No. 18 UConn Feb. 22 at 6:30 p.m., Visit Georgetown Feb. 22 at 12:30 p.m. on FOX Providence
Plain and Simple: Championship chase is on with four games remaining
It’s time to scoreboard watch. 22 hours before the Friars tip with the Huskies, Creighton will host Marquette in a matchup of two of the top teams in the league. Why should Friar fans be glued to FS1? If the Blue Jays can beat the Golden Eagles, that would open the door to another Big East regular season title.
Here’s how it works: If Marquette loses on Tuesday and PC wins out (at UConn, at Georgetown, vs. Xavier, vs. Seton Hall) the Friars would either win the league title outright or tie one or both of Marquette and Creighton. However, if the Golden Eagles win on Tuesday it’s still not a lock that Shaka Smart’s squad takes home the crown. Their final three games are against DePaul, Butler and St. John’s. Sure, Marquette should be heavily favored in all three, but each of those teams have a marquee win. The Blue Demons and Bulldogs each knocked off Xavier and the Red Storm have beaten UConn and PC.
Hard Truth: NCAA Tournament seeding up for grabs
According to Bracket Matrix, a website that pools together dozens of bracketologist’s around the country, the Friars are slated as the third No. 7 seed right now. Whether or not they have a chance to win another regular season title, the final four games (plus the Big East Tournament) are crucial to the chances of making another deep run in March. Two Quad 1 games remain (Uconn, Xavier) with potentially a third or fourth at Madison Square Garden depending on the opponent. If the Friars can add another pair of Q1 wins to their resume — and avoid any damaging losses — they should be able to play their way on to the No. 6 line. Realistically, the highest PC could climb is the four or five line. That would require a near perfect record until the bracket is revealed on March 12. Avoiding the 7-10 line means not having to potentially face a No. 1 or 2 seed until at least the regional semifinal. That’s a major advantage.
Miss the fourth episode of Season 2 of ‘PC Hoops with Coach Cooley’? Here’s our 1-on-1 with the head coach.
PC Hoops with Coach Cooley
🏀 1-on-1 with Coach Ed Cooley
🏀 “Be Them Dudes” Play of the Week
🏀 Trivia Question of the Week
🏀 Five Friar Fast Facts
Record: 8-18 (4-10 in Atlantic 10, 14th place)
Last: 69-45 loss vs. UMass
This Week: Host George Washington Feb. 22 at 7 p.m., Visit Fordham Feb. 25 at 2:30 p.m.
Plain and Simple: Need a win to feel better
I’m sure the current five game slog feels more like 10 for the guys in the locker room, but they need a win badly to feel better about themselves. Their play against the top teams in the league has been commendable and they’ve deserved to win a few more. Wednesday’s loss at the buzzer to VCU was the latest in a season full of gut punches.
Hard Truth: Playing spoiler will be Rhody’s role
The Rams have zero expectations heading into the final three weeks of the year. Given how they have competed agsinst the upper echoleon of the conference, is that enough to rally around? Sometimes knowing there’s nothing to play for can spark a bit of a run. Rhody certainly has a stretch of games it can here before heading to Brookyln.
Record 16-10 (7-6 in America East, tied for 4th place)
Last: 85-71 loss vs. UMass Lowell
This Week: Visit NJIT Feb. 22 at 7 p.m., Host Vermont Feb. 25 at 4 p.m.
Plain and Simple: Bulldogs just aren’t good enough right now
Bryant is the definition of a middle of the pack team. It has beaten up on the bottom tier teams in the league and is 1-4 against the three teams above it in the standings. Jared Grasso was honest with us in the postgame press conference on Wednesday night. He said that his team struggles during hard times. He admitted he’s seen it since June. For someone who’s been around a lot of conference championship teams — both as a head coach and assistant coach — he knows this group is far from competing for one.
Hard Truth: Bulldog bigs shrink against superior competition
Earl Timberlake, Kvonn Cramer, and Antwan Walker can all wow viewers with highlight-reel type plays. But the trio of Bulldog bigs have come up small in the most important games of the season so far. In three games against the top two teams in the league (Vermont, UMass Lowell), the Bulldogs are 0-3 and have lost by an average of 14.3 points per game. Timberlake has two assists to just 14 turnovers in those contests. Antwan Walker has fouled out in two of those. And Cramer fouled out against the River Hawks on Saturday in just five minutes. He turned the ball over twice and did not accumulate one point, rebound, assist, steal, or block. If Bryant is going to do anything of note in March, their frontcourt will need to be markedly better.
Record: 13-12 (6-6 in Ivy League, tied for 4th place)
Last: 90-69 loss at Penn
This Week: Visit Columbia Feb. 25 at 2 p.m.
Plain and Simple: Bears get a reality check
Three straight victories. Head coach breaks the school’s all-time wins record. Sights set on a regular season championship. Flush all that down the drain. Brown laid an egg this weekend at Princeton and Penn. A chance to take huge step toward reaching the program’s first ever league playoff, the Bears turned in their two worst performances of the season. The road trip is historically tough on visiting Ivy teams, and has certainly been a challenge for Bruno in years past. Hopes of reaching the postseason are not eliminated, but now there is no room for error.
Hard Truth: We’ve seen this movie before. Will the ending be the same?
Twice in the last three seasons Brown has been snake bitten and lost out on reaching Ivy Madness during the final weekend of the year. In 2019, it dropped a win-and-get-in game at Penn. The Quakers and Bears were both 7-7, along with Cornell, and it was the Quakers that advanced. The following season, the pandemic shut down the sport in early March, but if there was a tournament the Bears would have been watching from their couch. Again, they were tied with Penn at 8-6 but came up short on a tiebreaker. Now heading into the final two games, the Bears are locked with Cornell at 6-6 for the fourth and final playoff spot. Both teams end with first place Yale and last place Columbia. The Bears get the Lions, then the Bulldogs. The Big Red has to play the Bulldogs then the Lions. Can Mike Martin’s team regroup and win in New York City on Saturday? Or will we see the same ending we’ve grown accustomed to?