Let’s not waste any time this week. Here’s the latest edition of the WPRI12 College Hoops Column.
Thoughts and observations are below. You can always reach out with comments or questions via email email@example.com or Twitter @MHershgordon.
No. 17 Providence
Record: 17-6 (9-3 in Big East, tied for 3rd place)
Last: 85-83 OT loss at Xavier
This Week: Host Georgetown Feb. 8 at 8 p.m., Visit St. John’s Feb. 11 at 12 p.m. on FOX Providence
Plain and Simple: Friars can still create path to Big East title
A quick glance at the Big East standings and the Friars appear to be further from the top than they truly are. Approx. 72 hours after PC tipped at Xavier — when Ed Cooley’s team entered tied for first place — it now sits in fourth, due to a tiebreaker loss to Creighton. The three teams above PC all won while the Friars were idle this weekend. However, the Friars are still in the thick of the regular season championship race. Two inferior opponents this week offer a chance to at least remain even with Creighton in the loss column. The swing game will be the Valentine’s Day clash with the Blue Jays at the AMP. If the Friars can finish the month 5-1, they will enter March at 14-4 with as good of a chance as any to win and repeat.
Hard Truth: Looking like a return to last year
It seems like Jared Bynum is back in his 6th man role. Ed Cooley has yet to go on record specifically stating that, however in our latest chat on Sunday night’s ‘PC Hoops with Coach Cooley’ (10:30 p.m., FOX Providence) the head coach acknowledged that Bynum is a central figure to the ‘closing lineup’ and that his presence off the bench gives the Friars more depth. Last year, Cooley made mention Bynum has fresh legs and an advantage against tired/winded opponents when he summons the guard into games. Right now, all signs are pointing toward Bynum permanently returning to the spot he thrived in last year.
Miss the second episode of Season 2 of ‘PC Hoops with Coach Cooley’? Click here.
Record: 8-14 (4-6 in Atlantic 10, tied for 11th place)
Last: 64-50 loss at Saint Joseph’s
This Week: Visit Saint Louis Feb. 7 at 9 p.m., Visit George Mason Feb. 11 at 2 p.m.
Plain and Simple: We warned you of this last week
Following their best week of the season, URI turned in its second worst offensive scoring night of the season in a 14-points loss at St. Joe’s. The 50 points in Philly, just one better than the 49 the Rams scored in a four-point defeat at Boston College in the fall. If you’re a regular here, or read last week’s column, then the result was nothing shocking. Here’s an excerpt from last week:
“As much as fans might think Miller’s program is making a turn, I caution them to think back to the Dan Hurley era. The climb is slow and arduous. Some early, unexpected high’s (like knocking off Dayton) is evidence the ship is headed in the right direction. But that doesn’t mean it will always stay on course going forward.”
Hard Truth: Saint Louis will be out for blood
For a team with the most returning experience of any in the league, this was supposed to be the year Travis Ford got SLU back to the big dance; but it hasn’t gone according to plan. The Billikens have underachieved this season. Their NCAA Tournament at-large hopes are on life support. And they have lost two straight and are out of mulligans. If they want to even sniff the dance, shy of winning the A10 in March, they’ll most likely have to win out. And it begins on Tuesday with URI at Chaifetz Arena. It won’t be any fun for the Rams for 40 minutes.
Record 15-8 (6-4 in America East, tied for 3rd place)
Last: 70-46 win vs. New Hampshire
This Week: Visit Albany Feb. 8 at 7 p.m., Visit UMBC Feb. 11 at 1 p.m.
Plain and Simple: Taking care of business
Their mojo is back. Two wins and a jump up to third in the conference has the Bulldogs feeling good about themselves again. Now the test this week? Repeat the performance on the road. Jared Grasso’s team has another sweep-able, two-game week but they’ll have to do it away from the Chace Athletic Center. Albany should present no problems. Saturday’s game at UMBC is big on a number of fronts.
Hard Truth: Bulldogs will have to fight to finish second
Let’s begin this section by saying Bryant still has a chance to win the regular season title. It trails Vermont by 1.5 games. But with the Catamounts already winning the first matchup, the probability the preseason favorite coughs up at least a few more games is low. This column operates as an unbiased, realistic look at the college basketball scene in Rhode Island. With that in mind, the second seed is mathematically the highest and most likely spot the Bulldogs will finish. The No. 2 seed is more valuable than No. 3 because the conference tournament is played at the sight of the higher seed. Assuming all higher seeds advance in the postseason, the No 2 seed would be assured at least two home playoff games of the three that is needed to reach the NCAA Tournament while No. 3 would only be assured one game at home. Currently a half game behind UMass-Lowell, Bryant needs to continue preying on the bottom half of the league so the rematch against the River Hawks on Feb. 15 could deterime which program gets the inside track to finish second.
Record: 12-10 (5-4 in Ivy League, tied for 3rd place)
Last: 68-65 win at Harvard
This Week: Host Cornell Feb. 11 at 2 p.m.
Plain and Simple: Brown’s biggest weekend in three years
With their season on the line, the Bears cashed in a pair of much-needed wins to jump up the standings and position themselves well for the stretch run. With just four weekends (five games) remaining in the regular season, Brown controls its own destiny to reach the Ivy League tournament for the first time in school history. The victories were the biggest Friday/Saturday results since Feb. 7 and 8 of 2020 when Brown beat Harvard and Dartmouth at home to get to 4-2 in the conference. Bruno ended up jumping out to a 6-3 start but stumbled late to a 2-3 finish and missed out on the Top 4 due to a tiebreaker.
Hard Truth: Mike Martin stuck with his guns
In what may have seemed like a roll of the dice, head coach Mike Martin — who tied Stanley Ward’s program record for most wins by a head coach with a 133 — stayed true to his coaching style in an important game on Saturday. With a limited rotation due to injury and foul trouble in the first half, Martin opted to keep several players on the floor despite picking up a second foul in the first half. Dan Friday’s came in the game’s first 4:38. He played just about eight of the remaining 15+ minutes until halftime (and didn’t pick up his third). Nana Owusu-Anane was whistled for his second foul at the 5:27 mark. Martin kept him on the floor for 3:14 of that (and didn’t pick up his third). Martin also kept Aaron Cooley and Kino Lilly Jr. in the game after they each committed two first half fouls. Neither drew a third foul as well. In all, those four players played about 12.5 minutes out of roughly 25.5 with two first half fouls. And according to KenPom, an advanced metrics system for college basketball, this is the norm for the Bears. KenPom tracks a stat called 2-foul participation. It’s defined as the percentage of time that a starter with two fouls in the first half has been allowed to play. Brown ranks near the top of the country averaging 44%, double the national average. Against the Crimson, that number was at 49%. When I asked him about it postgame, Martin said he doesn’t view foul trouble until a player is at his third or fourth. He said his coaching style in February will mirror what he does in November and December.