One more time, for old times’ sake

Posted in Preview on March 9, 2013 by SM

In the spring of 2011, Ed Cooley addressed the Providence College fan base for the first time. “We’re going to set this place on fire,” he said. “And if you’re late, don’t come in.”

Is it just me, or is it getting warm in here?

In many ways, this season has defied all logic. Entering the year, we were picked to finish 15th in a 15 team conference. Surprising, to say the least, even at the time. After all, we had just picked up a top 10 recruiting class, even if Kris Dunn would be out with a shoulder injury until late December and Ricky Ledo’s status was still up in the air. How could we finish last in a conference that has DePaul and USF in it? Then, the opening game happened, and suddenly, last place didn’t seem so farfetched. Against a bad NJIT team (really, how good could they be with a starting center named Sean McCarthy?), the Friars just barely eked out a 1 point win, with our preseason all-Big East point guard Vincent Council hitting the bench with a strained hamstring just three minutes into the season. That injury changed the complexion of the season immediately, and made things a lot more bleak for a fan base that hadn’t had much to be hopeful about in years prior.

The Bryant win followed, a win in which the Friars were dominant in every phase of the game, and Kadeem Batts emphatically announced his presence as a drastically improved player. Suddenly all was not lost. The combination of Batts and Bryce Cotton seemed up to the challenge of weathering the storm. Of course, as maybe we all should have expected, Ice went down next, with knee issues. The injury bug had bitten in the worst way, decimating the team. And yet, they fought on. Most notably, though they lost in OT to a putrid Penn State team, the Friars battled with everything they had despite having only 5 scholarship players (plus Ted “White Lightning” Bancroft) on the active roster. It was that game that affirmed, at least for me, that this team was something special. Keno-ball was dead, as evidenced by the grit, hustle, and (gasp!) defensive intensity shown by this group.

A flurry of wins followed after Puerto Rico, and the team seemed to gather momentum as players began returning from injury. Ice came back and established himself as a premier scorer. Kris Dunn entered the fray and immediately made an impact, notching a freshman record with 13 assists in a dominant win for the green-clad Friars. And then, as suddenly as the winning streak came, it vanished with a loss at a bad BC team, followed by a vomit-inducing collapse versus an even worse Brown team. I followed up that game by immediately going out and getting drunk. The shitty beer and even shittier Springsteen cover band improved my night, but I woke up then next morning with a hangover and a serious doubt about the resiliency of a team that just a month earlier had battled their asses off in the face of devastating injuries.

The road forward didn’t get any easier, with losses to top tier Big East talent. The team lost 9 of its first 11 in Big East play, culminating in a heartbreaking loss to those gaping assholes from Storrs at the Dunk. The team did show signs of progress in the last few games of that run, showing flashes against a solid Pitt team, a good Marquette team, and a decent (although too illiterate for it to matter) UConn team, although at the time, I don’t think many noticed. It all felt too familiar, like the season was collapsing on top of us like it had every other year. Prior to the following game after the UConn loss, a Sunday noon game at Villanova, the announcement came that Sidiki Johnson, the transfer that was supposed to bolster our front line, had left the team for mysterious personal reasons. I distinctly remember an exchange I had with Dave over at Friarblog:

@friarblog: This season sucks.
@TTAPCBBall: @friarblog Every season sucks.

And then, just like that, Bryce Cotton saved the season. All year, Ice had been putting up big scoring totals. At that Villanova game, he did that, and also demonstrated his ability to hit big shots in clutch situations. I think it’s fair to say that his game winning three that afternoon saved not only that game, but also this season, and maybe several Friar fans from taking a bath with a toaster. Since that shot, the Friars have won 7 of 8, and suddenly find themselves in 8th place in the Big East, staring down a 7 seed in the final Big East tournament in its current format, maybe, just maybe, a spot in the NCAA tournament.

So, just to review: I began this season expecting slight overachievement. I then became deeply concerned about the team’s immediate future. Then, I was proud of the team for fighting through adversity. Then, I hated the team enough to go slam 9 Miller Genuine Drafts and sing along to a crappy version of Darkness on the Edge of Town. Then, it somehow got worse, and then, everything turned around 180 degrees to bring us to where we are now, and now, this is my favorite Friar team ever. Although it doesn’t seem to get talked about much, that Villanova game changed everything. The chemistry is there now. The coaching is there. The talent is there. This team is dangerous. No one wants to play against the Providence Friars. The situation is different from anything I have ever experienced as a fan of these Friars, dating back to the day I arrived on campus in the fall of 2007.

So that brings us to our opponents today. At high noon, we play our final regular season game as members of the Old Big East, and of course, as fate would have it, we’re playing it against our rivals (whether those self-righteous douchebags want to call it a rivalry or not), the program getting left behind in the Moreau Division of the Grand American Abomination Experiment 12, the University of Connecticut, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

There have been countless great moments between our Friars and the Huskies over the years. The 1994 Big East Tournament. The 2004 Ryan Gomes game, which spawned my favorite press conference of all time:

The time my roommate, and esteemed co-founder of this blog, yelled “Hey Dyson, go smoke some weed” during the National Anthem. The time I told Hasheem Thabeet it looked like his parents whacked him in the face with a 7-iron every night before bed when he was a baby. The time I told Hasheem Thabeet he was destined to be the next Yinka Dare, and I was totally right (those three moments all happened in the same game). And of course, who could forget the Marital Aid Game?

This particular game, in fact, goes beyond the personal rivalry between Providence and UConn. It’s really much deeper than that. UConn has been the biggest critic of the split between the Catholic Seven and the remaining football schools, mainly because the ACC has no interest in taking them. Prominent figures such as the president, AD, and women’s basketball coach, whom I have no interest in even addressing by name, have publicly whined about being left in the Purgatory Conference, spreading blame around to everyone but themselves. There has been a convenient selective memory disorder overcoming the population of Storrs, causing them to forget that they announced their intentions to bail on the Big East roughly 10 seconds after Syracuse and Pitt walked. The bleak outlook that they suddenly have to live with is no one’s doing but their own, and yet, the fanny-pack wielding horde insists on blaming the Seven for destroying a great conference. Many members of the Huskies’ sheeplike following have now resorted to insults regarding PC’s recent record of relative futility. For all of these reasons, it is incredibly important that Providence wins tomorrow. Not just for the sake of our tournament aspirations. Not just so that we close out our last Old Big East regular season slate with a victory against a rival we may not see again for a while. Rather, for the New Big East, as a sign that the future is on our side.

And OK, maybe as a big “FUCK YOU” to all the UConn fans that love to talk shit about Providence basketball.

No matter what happens from here, this season has affirmed what we all hoped when Ed Cooley took the reins in 2011. This Friar team is on the rise, and is going to make noise in the near future. Even if we don’t beat the odds and snag an at-large bid this year, the future is bright, and we’ll certainly be back and contending next year in the first season of New Big East play. I think I’m speaking for just about everyone when I say that I am extremely proud of the way this team has turned things around this season, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying this has been my favorite season of PC basketball to date. It’s early March, and I spent much of the week this week checking bracketology blogs and reading the Scout forums, trying to absorb as much as I can. This is how March should be. Hopefully it will be this way for many years to come.

Let’s go Friars, and let’s fucking BEAT UCONN.

-SM

PS: I know it’s been posted on the Scout boards multiple times today, but it literally can’t be seen enough. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, the legendary “Why we hate UConn” post from The Godfather:

Originally posted by Godfather1

1) The Fans

Without question the most ignorant, arrogant, obnoxious, insufferable bunch of nouveau riche gasbags in the Big East, easily taking the title previously held by Syracuse fans. UConn fans are the basketball equivalent of the internet billionaire who crashes a blue blood party on Ocean Drive, farts in the buffet line, eats the caviar with their fingers, takes a leak in the bushes, pinches the hostess’ ass and then can’t understand why no one thinks they’re cool.

If you’ve never seen them at the Civic Center (and if you haven’t, you must not be paying attention because there are 3,000 of these losers there every time we play them), as a public service allow me to provide you with a brief description:

The Men- fat, loud, stupid. Thinks basketball was invented in 1990 during “The Dream Season” (a season where they went no farther than we did in 1997, but somehow still inspires grown men to weep in the Nutbag State). Thinks “The Shot” was the defining moment of the 20th Century, slightly ahead of World War II and landing a man on the moon. Spent the day after winning the national championship speed dialing WFAN demanding respect. Can’t understand why Tate George isn’t in the NBA.

The Women- fat, ugly, obnoxious. Resplendent in full Huskie regalia (UConn sweatshirt, Huskie-blue fanny pack, Rebecca Lobo bloomers, national flag blue and white pom poms). Thinks someone outside the state of Connecticut actually gives a flying crap about women’s basketball. Cried at Jennifer Rizzotti’s wedding, and when Shea Ralph blew out her knee. Writes long, impassioned letters to the Hartford Courant after each season that always end with “Thank you for making us proud. You’ve done so much.”

UConn fans should be considered armed and extremely dangerous, and should be approached only with extreme caution. If you want to have some fun with them, just sneak up behind them and yell “Christian Laettner” and watch their heads explode like a scene out of “Scanners.”

2) The Media

Unless you’ve ever actually lived in that miserable state (and I did 15 years hard time there), it’s hard to put into words just how bad the gushing, adoring media there really is when it comes to their Huskies. The main culprits are The Three Stooges- The Hartford Courant’s Ken Davis, The Manchester Journal-Inquirer’s Phil Chardis and The Norwich Bulletin’s Peter Abraham (each of whom wept openly at courtside when they won the national championship), but the conspiracy extends far beyond these three bozos.

Connecticut is like the USSR, and the Courant is like Pravda- anti-UConn sentiment is simply not tolerated, and dissenters are dealt with swiftly and harshly. Mike Francesa once said that Rod Sellers was a thug (which he was), and Billy Packer said that Chris Smith palmed the ball every time he touched it (which he did), and to this day neither of them can enter the state without
Secret Service protection. The scary part is that Calhoun honestly thinks this lapdog, spoon-fed, kneepad-wearing media is still too rough on him. And if you really want to hear something that will turn your stomach, just throw on WTIC’s Joe D’Ambrosio some time. “Joe D” makes Johnny Most look like Edward R. Murrow- without a doubt the biggest shill for any team in any sport that I’ve ever heard. One of my simple pleasures in life (and one I would encourage all Friar fans to join me in) is listening to Smokin’ Joe after a UConn loss- you’ve never heard such a whining, petulant, defensive jerk, looking to pick a fight with anyone who dares to deviate from the hear-no-evil, see-no-evil Husky party line. He is an absolute disgrace.

They call these clowns “The Horde”- they should call them “The Whores.”

3) The Coach

There’s just no nice way to say this- Jim Calhoun is the single biggest jerk in all of college basketball. There isn’t enough cyberspace on the internet to detail all of Jimmy The Shriek’s transgressions, though some of his most memorable moments have come in post-game press conferences- eyes bulging, spittle flying, barely coherent, blaming his players for anything that went wrong (I would have given 5 years off my life to have heard him after the BC game). I particularly enjoyed his performance after we kicked their ass in the Big East Tournament in 1994, and he spent almost an hour throwing back-handed compliments at us while still insisting that the real best team in the Big East didn’t win the conference championship. Classic.

Any respect I might have had for him (and believe me, it wasn’t much) went out the window years ago when he chickened out of playing UMass while Calipari was still there. Opposing coaches despise him for his arrogance, big mouth, incessant whining about the officials and negative recruiting (yes Jim, we know all about Ruben Garces). Opposing fans hate him because he’s an idiot. Simply put- he doesn’t win with class, and he doesn’t lose with class.

Actually, Buf-houn and Connecticut are a match made in heaven- a petulant, defensive insecure loser presiding over a state with a gigantic inferiority complex. And to think we actually considered hiring this blowhard before we signed Pitino in 1985. I wouldn’t trade all his wins and his one lucky national championship for having this guy represent the face of Providence College basketball for all the dope in Khalid El-Amin’s gym bag or all of Marcus Williams’ laptops.

Class dismissed.

Part 2

CHICKENING OUT OF PLAYING UMASS

This is one of the great untold stories of New England college basketball in the 90s. While UConn was starting their fraudulent rise to national prominence, Husky pups were noticing disturbing rumblings to the north. Snake oil salesman John Calipari was building a powerhouse in the Huskies’ back yard, and Husky Nation absolutely could not deal with it. Say what you want about Calipari, but he would play anybody anywhere, and the team he really wanted a crack at was UConn. One problem though- Jim Calhoun was too chicken to play him.

The most egregious example of this was the 1995 Great Eight. Both UConn and UMass were eligible based on their finishes the year before, and ESPN was salivating at the thought of having UMass/UConn as the marquee matchup for that made-for-TV snoozefest. Except there was a problem- UConn said they wouldn’t play in the Great Eight unless ESPN guaranteed that they would not play UMass. Think about that for a minute!

You’d have to be Freud to understand why the powers that be at UConn avoided UMass like the plague for the entire length of the Calipari regime. Maybe they were pissed about the time CBS put Calipari on the phone to talk about why UConn wouldn’t play them while undefeated No. 1 ranked UConn was getting embarrassed by Kansas on national TV. Maybe they were jealous that UMass was playing- and beating- nationally ranked teams on the road every year while UConn got their jollies by beating up the Yales and Hartfords of the world by 80. Or maybe it was because deep down inside they knew they weren’t good enough or tough enough or ballsy enough to beat UMass and Calhoun simply couldn’t deal with it.

Now they play every year in some abomination called the Mass Mutual Classic, and all is well in Hooterville because Calipari is gone and UConn wins every year. And for all the Dumpsters of the world who will whine that UConn agreed to play them before they knew Calipari and Camby were going to leave, I don’t even want to hear it. Bottom line- in the mid 90s it was the game everyone wanted to see- not just in New England but nationally- and it never came off because UConn was too chicken and fraidy-scared to lose.

JIM CALHOUN

It would take a Ken Burns documentary to adequately chronicle all of Haystacks Calhoun’s crimes against humanity, so I’ll only focus on a couple of my personal favorites:

1) During the same game when Lew Perkins had his nervous breakdown, Eric Murdock fouled out of a tie game in overtime. As if that wasn’t bad enough, after the foul was called we were treated to the spectacle of Calhoun running around the sidelines like a chicken with his head cut off, waving five fingers and then practically kissing assistant coach/chief sycophant Howie Dickenman. I can see a fan acting like that, but a coach? Pathetic.

2) After winning their lucky national championship, the Huskies gave a championship ring to Jim Nantz. Let me repeat that folks- they gave a championship ring to Jim freakin’ Nantz! Why, you ask? A couple of reasons. First, it was their feeble attempt to suck up to the national basketball media. Second, and more importantly, it was a deliberate slap at Billy Packer, who about ten years before committed the unpardonable sin of saying Chris Smith palmed the ball every time he touched it (which he did). Boy Jimmy, you really showed him!

3) At halftime of their Final Four game against Ohio State, after blowing a big lead, Leslie Visser asks Calhoun if the roof is caving in. Instead of laughing it off, Haystacks actually looks up at the ceiling and hisses “Roof? Caving in? I don’t see any roof caving in.” Great. In the immortal words of Sergeant Hulka, “Lighten up Francis.”

4) Refusing to go on Mike and the Mad Dog for almost ten years after Francesa calls Rod Sellers a thug (which he was). Again, calling Dr. Freud. He wants respect so bad he can taste it, but instead of letting his record speak for itself he resorts to begging for it, then pouts if he thinks he’s not getting his props.

5) Earlier this season Jimmy The Shriek goes off on some poor little administrator in the UConn athletic department about their schedule because the Huskies start their season playing about once every ten days. Uh Jim, isn’t it the head coach’s responsibility to set up the schedule? It was classic Calhoun though- blame everyone but yourself. Listen to how he blames his players after a loss, the old “I coached good, but boy did they play bad” theory. I can hardly wait to hear him once UConn starts getting into the meat of their Big East schedule (sorry Husky pups- you can’t play Virginia Tech 16 times), and it finally dawns on Husky Nation that their beloved coach didn’t recruit anyone who can hit a 15 foot jump shot.

NBA Draft Recap

Posted in News & Notes with tags , on June 27, 2011 by SM

The 2011 NBA Draft was considered by many experts to be the weakest draft in years, and they may be right. For Providence basketball fans, however, it turned out to be the brightest spot the program has seen in a long time. As a recent graduate of PC, it was the best possible way to cap off the last four years, which were filled with more frustration and losing than anything else. Marshon Brooks, a player that had come to PC in my class, who I had personally watched struggle through three years of relative obscurity before finally emerging as The Man in his senior year after taking a giant leap forward both physically and mentally in the offseason prior, had made it.

For most Big East schools, getting a player drafted in the first round is a frequent occurrence. Yes, there were several handfuls of fans in UConn jerseys who stood and cheered when Kemba Walker was drafted (for the record, I booed, in a respectful fashion, of course), but you got the feeling that they took it for granted. By contrast, there was a significant smattering of Providence fans in the crowd, one that far exceeded my expectations. I expected to be one of the only people wearing the black and white at the Rock; turned out I wasn’t the only one with a PC jersey on in my section. When Marshon Brooks was drafted by the Celtics at #25, several groups of Friar fans turned up on the jumbotron absolutely going nuts. You got the feeling that if the Providence contingent was just a bit larger and more concentrated in one spot that David Stern might be in danger of getting trampled by a crowd storming the stage (this is Providence College, after all). On my way out of the Rock later that night, I was practically assaulted with congratulatory high fives by a couple of Johnson & Wales students who had become PC fans. Maybe the greatest compliment of the night occurred when a 12 year old kid in a Kemba Walker jersey walked up to me and said, “Marshon Brooks? You think he’s going to save the Nets? Sorry man, he sucks.” When fans of the reigning national champions are going out of their way to insult your player, at least on some level, you have to feel like that player has made it. The whole night felt like a win for Providence College, and more importantly, one with a more lasting effect than some of the recent on-court upsets.

It should be fairly obvious what getting a player drafted in the first round of the NBA draft can do for a small program. High caliber recruits want to go to the NBA. They want to go to a school that can get them to the NBA. What Marshon Brooks did was prove that Providence College can get you to the NBA. And not just as a second round afterthought either. It’s been a while for Providence in the NBA draft. Currently, there is one other Friar in the NBA, Ryan Gomes, who was drafted in the second round. In fact, no Friar had seen the first round since Austin Croshere went as a lottery pick in 1997. For a school that has gone so long without having a first round pick, Marshon’s entry into the NBA should make Ed Cooley’s job easier as a recruiter.

From an NBA standpoint, the Nets make sense as a destination for Marshon, and I don’t just think so because I’m a lifelong Nets fan. The Nets’ most glaring weakness was an inability to score, finishing 28th in the NBA in scoring at 94.2 PPG. We’ve all seen what Marshon can do on the offensive end, and he should be able to help in that department. Their defense wasn’t much better, especially from the smaller  guys in the lineup, as New Jersey finished dead last in steals per game. I’m not saying Marshon is exactly a defensive wizard, or anything close to it (Thanks, Keno), but his defense did show improvement in his senior season, and his quickness and length paired with the defensive coaching philosophy of Avery “Squeaks” Johnson could make him a solid defensive contributor. With Deron Williams entrenched for at least the next year (and hopefully much, much longer) at the point, and young talent at the center and power forward positions in Brook Lopez and Kris “Humpty Hump” Humphries, the biggest need for the Nets was a slashing scorer at either the 2 guard or small forward position. Enter Marshon. As for you disappointed Celtics fans out there, the move made sense from their standpoint. With Kevin Garnett getting old and the midseason departure of Kendrick Perkins, the Cs’ biggest need going forward was some toughness down low. While I’m sure a lot of you guys would’ve loved to see Marshon in green like Ryan Gomes and Eric Williams before him, he just wasn’t a commodity Boston needed.

What happens with Marshon’s career is largely up to him. With a team like the Nets, he is, as Avery Johnson has already said, going to compete for minutes, and may find his way into the starting lineup at the shooting guard position in year 1. He showed in his senior season that when he is out to prove himself, he can step his game up and open some eyes. I sincerely doubt he’ll be the next Kobe Bryant (seriously, calm down, people), but he’ll have every opportunity to have a long, productive career in the NBA. He has said himself he plans on being with the Nets for quite some time, saying, “You guys will be seeing me for the next 10 years with this organization” at his introductory press conference. Here’s hoping he’s right.

Make us proud, Marshon.

While I’ve got you guys here, I’m also announcing my retirement from this blog. With Friarblog and Friar Basketball available as more in-depth, informative blogs, The Truth About PC Basketball always existed primarily to fill the student-run blog niche. I’m now a PC alumnus, so this blog can’t serve that purpose anymore. I’m also heading off to Penn State for grad school to go do scientific things, so I’m going to have significantly less time. Since I only wrote occasionally when I did have some time, I figure I’ll never post anymore anyway. It’s been fun, if only because the blog let me publicly gripe about Jeff XavierGreedy Peterson’s miniscule basketball IQ, and Ken_ _avis and gave me a soapbox to denounce Hasheem Thabeet from. There was also the added bonus of having 20,000+ page visits (probably coming from about 12 people, but still), which we never expected when we started this blog back in the winter of ’08. Thanks to everyone for reading over the last few years. Hope you enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Let’s go Friars.

-SM

P.S. For those of you following @TTAPCBBall on Twitter, I’m keeping that alive for the foreseeable future. You’re welcome, America.

The End of an Error

Posted in News & Notes on March 13, 2011 by SM

A lot has changed in the last few days. The season is over, Keno Davis is out, and the search for the 15th head coach in Providence College history is on. A few thoughts heading into the offseason:

-Keno Davis had to go. I don’t think anyone will disagree with that. Hell, even the donors over on the Scout forum who freak out anytime someone “discredits the program” were calling for his head. The final nail in his coffin had to be the Duke Mondy affair, which we’re all still waiting for answers about. Definitely legal trouble. Had to be. We’ll find out soon enough if he’ll be back next year. Regardless, he was 5th player and 4th Keno recruit to find himself in hot water, which is entirely unacceptable, especially considering the product on the court. I mean at least the St. John’s teams of the late 1990s-early 2000’s were good.

-It certainly didn’t help that at the end, it seemed pretty clear that the team had quit on Keno. The end of the Louisville game was a prime example. I actually found myself enjoying watching it, even though PC looked like the Washington Generals. Marshon Brooks looked like the only one who really cared down the stretch, unless you count Vincent Council’s sudden interest in padding his own stats at the expense of the rest of the team.

-Speaking of VC, I think he quietly took a bit of a step back this year. Not a huge step, but he wasn’t the guy I expected to see this season. Last year he was making dazzling passes and showing flashes as a potential star facilitator. I can’t recall seeing any really special feeds this year. Yes, he was second in the Big East in assists when all was said and done, but there were stretches this season particularly at the end where he looked like the only thing he was concerned about was scoring. Going forward, his focus should be on creating opportunities for the true scorers on the roster, like Gerard Coleman and Kadeem Batts.

-The biggest step backwards on this team was, of course, Bilal Dixon. What a tremendously disappointing season. I lost about all the patience I had with him when he complained on Twitter about playing time after the biggest win of the season over then #7 Nova, going so far as to compare himself to LeBron James. Seriously. I’m not kidding. THAT LeBron James. The one that’s good at basketball. The handling of his situation spoke volumes about the Keno Davis era, as Dixon didn’t just start the next game, but actually got MORE playing time. Another instance of Keno letting his players get away with just about anything off the court.

-Gerard Coleman looks like he could have a bright future ahead of him, as long as he can play with some consistency. He also has to learn that his strongest offensive talent is his ability to cut to the basket, NOT shooting threes. He didn’t shoot an inordinate amount of threes this season, but when he did, they were often less than great decisions. As long as he doesn’t get too enamored with the 3-ball a la Jeff Xavier, he’ll do fine.

-Ron Giplaye has got some real potential. He’s undersized for a power forward but he’s got the toughness that has been in such short supply over the last few years. Yet another shortcoming on Keno’s long list was his decision to give Ray Hall extended minutes, taking away valuable experience from Gipper and Kadeem. Ray was a fun player and a good story, but it wasn’t like he was winning any games for us with his 1.1 points per game and 3 inch vertical leap.

-That said, I will absolutely miss the Ostrogoth.

-Kadeem Batts drove me nuts this season. Obviously, he’s another guy with potential. He had games like the Cincy game (17 pts, 11 rebs), or the first South Florida game (19 and 11). For every double double though, he’d throw up a line like he had against Marquette (6 and 3). He’s going to need to put on some muscle in the offseason and really work on his toughness down low in order to really compete in the Big East. He’s also gotta learn that the occasional jumper could be a good thing, but constantly taking mid-range jumpers is not what we need out of him.

-Duke Mondy turned out to be a force on defense, ending up a quiet second in the Big East in steals. His absence was painfully obvious down the stretch. From a basketball perspective, I’d love to have him back next year, since no one else that’s coming back has done anything to instill confidence in their defensive abilities. If the rumors about what the hell he did are true though, he has no place at Providence College.

-All the others… I mean… fuck, I don’t know. Bryce Cotton was a pretty decent scorer off the bench, but the rest of them are useless.

-And that brings us to Marshon S. Brooks. I’ve given him plenty of shit over the years on this blog and elsewhere. Hell, I once asked on this blog whether he was smoking dope before the games because he sure played like he did. Now it’s time to give credit where credit is due. He really was a different player this year. Coming into the year I really had no idea what kind of leader he’d be. He never seemed to be a guy who would take charge of a team. And yet he answered those questions. Regardless of what the rest of the team did, he had a season that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. He completely put the team on his back multiple times, most notably the Georgetown and Notre Dame games, when he was literally the ONLY reason the Friars were even close. He went out and gave everything he had, regardless of how little the games mattered. You can say he was only trying to improve his draft stock or get individual attention, but you absolutely can not say he didn’t play his ass off, which is more than you can say about a lot of the other guys on the team. Quite simply, he deserved better.

-So now here we are, without a coach and little hope for the immediate future. What now? A lot of names are being thrown around, and it seems like the favorite among PC fans is the assistant that got away, Pat Skerry. Here’s my thoughts on Skerry: He is NOT the answer. His proponents cite his legendary recruiting skills. Here’s my question: who did he ACTUALLY bring in? OK, fair enough, Khem Birch followed him. But who else? Shabazz Napier committed to UConn before he left. Joe Young decommitted afterwards, but he didn’t follow Skerry to Pitt. Same with Naadir Tharpe. The Ricky Ledo fiasco happened well after Skerry left, so he clearly wasn’t a factor there. Besides all of that, does anyone know anything about his actual coaching skills? He seems to me to be a recruiting specialist and not a real X’s and O’s guy. The best way to sell your program is to win games, and you can’t do that unless you can draw up plays, design defenses, and effectively coach your guys. Keno Davis made that crystal clear. The other major candidates at this juncture are Herb Sendek, who recently finished in the basement of the Pac-10 (yawn), and Ed Cooley, who has done a nice job at Fairfield. Cooley could be a good fit, and by all accounts, he’s a hard-nosed coach who expects a lot out of his players, which is exactly what this team needs. That said, I have to say I’m a bit leery about hiring another mid-major coach, even if he does have more experience under his belt than Keno did before he came. I’m more intrigued by Mike Hopkins, who a few years back was picked to be the heir apparent to Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, and is still waiting. Good enough for Cuse, good enough for me. And who better to turn around our defensively challenged program than a guy who has spent the last 15 years studying under one of the greatest defensive coaches of all time? As for recruiting, it seems like he’s more than capable, as he’s had a hand in several of the big names that have come through Syracuse over the years.

-Of course, we’ll probably end up with another bad fit, because it appears that Bob Driscoll will be remaining in power, despite this week’s acknowledgement that Tim Army and Keno Davis, two Driscoll hires, were both mistakes. Army and Davis were just two more additions to a long list of failures on Driscoll’s resume. The best way to get the program moving in the right direction at this point is to continue cleaning house and get rid of Driscoll or at least get some other opinions involved in the coaching search. But then again, what do I know? As Driscoll himself said, “The vast majority of folks who criticize me have never hired a basketball coach or a hockey coach. Or played sports.” So really, as long as we can find a good coach who doesn’t mind working for a pretentious jackass, we’re all set.

-SM

Vaya Con Dios, Brah

Posted in Game Recap on March 2, 2011 by SM

The Anti-Charlie Sheen

Sure looked like the team was concerned about saving his job tonight. …NOT. Losing, anyone?

-SM

(But in all seriousness, we’re probably stuck with him because PC doesn’t have the money to buy him out. Shit.)

Seton Hall 81, Providence 71

Posted in Game Recap on January 30, 2011 by SM

I really have no idea what to make of this team. Some games (i.e. the last 2) they come out with a lot of heart, a lot of fight, and play cohesively as a team. Other games (this one, Rutgers, etc.) they come out looking sloppy, with no discernible game plan, with players looking to get their own points first. Besides that, it always seems to be the case that this team plays to the level of its competition, which leads to a bad loss for every upset win. Part of this can be chalked up to the fact that the current edition of the Friars are just not good on the road, which itself is likely a function of the youth of the team. That said, it’s tough not to think that on some level, the coaching needs work as well. One of the most frustrating constants in the Friars’ Big East losses this season has been an apparent lack of organization on the offensive end of the ball. Yes, the Friars can score in the transition game with just about any squad in the country, but when the turnovers just aren’t coming, there has to be an effective halfcourt offense to fall back on. Today’s game was a prime example of this issue, with much of the first half’s offensive halfcourt sets consisting of one of the wings charging haphazardly with no apparent exit plan into triple or even quadruple teams and throwing the ball wildly at the rim. I like the idea of getting to the line, and it is true that a common trademark on big Friar wins this year has been a strong free throw differential (PC got to the line 7 more times than Louisville and 20(!) more times than Nova). That said, you can’t assume the foul, and you have to have some kind of strategy if you get into trouble. The defense has certainly taken a big step forward from last year, and I have to credit the coaching staff for that, but if Keno and Co. want this program to really make moves forward, fixing the halfcourt offense should be a priority.

Some other notes and observations:

-Jeremy “Dumbo” Hazell was held to only 10 points, and was 0-7 from 3 point range after torching Syracuse earlier in the week. Instead, the combination of Jeff Robinson and Herb Pope torched the Friars for a combined 43 points. The Friars always seems to do a decent job of holding the opponents’ best player to low point totals while other players come up big. I have no idea what this means, but it’s still an interesting trend.

-Other than Keon Lawrence, who scored 10 for the Pirates, Seton Hall’s fairly deep bench was held to 2 points. I suppose this stat would be more relevant if Providence had gotten more than 5 total bench points.

-After his post-Nova rant on Twitter, Bilal Dixon had a strong game with 17 points on 6-7 shooting and 10 rebounds. It was his first double-double since December 6th vs. Brown and his first double digit scoring night since December 28 vs. Syracuse. It certainly would help going forward if Bilal could get going again, and this game was a step in the right direction. Not sure I’m a fan of Keno’s decision to actually respond to Bilal’s tweets, however. It appeared at times that Keno was going out of his way to keep Bilal in at the expense of Kadeem Batts’ (0 pts, 4 rebs in 17 min) minutes. Rewarding  that kind of behavior sends a message to the rest of the team that you can do whatever you want, and that is not going to help this program going forward.

-The Friars did not hit a three pointer until 11 minutes into the second half. Ended up not being a huge factor, since Seton Hall actually shot at a worse clip from downtown overall. Still, 21% from three point range is not something you like to see.

-Free throw shooting was a huge factor. The Friars did actually get to the line 9 more times than Seton Hall (31 attempts), but shot an atrocious 54.8% once they got there, as compared to Seton Hall’s 81.8%. For all the emphasis Keno Davis places on getting to the line, he’s going to need to convince his players to put in the extra hours at the gym to practice freebies.

-The other two huge, and very telling stat disparities between the two teams: Turnovers forced: SHU +9; Assists, SHU +10. Very reflective of the kind of recklessness in the halfcourt offense that plagued the Friars especially early.

Good opportunity to get back on track Wednesday at home for USF. Here’s hoping the Friars can take advantage in front of what I would guess will be a diminished home crowd as compared to the last few games.

-SM

Finally.

Posted in Game Recap on January 23, 2011 by SM

A few quick notes from last night’s huge win over #15 Louisville:

-In an otherwise great year for Rick Pitino, his former team has now gotten the best of him twice. Ricky Ledo is not walking through that door.

-For a lot of this game, this was one of those games where I felt like we should have been down by much more than we were. The offense had some rough patches, including a long scoreless stretch in the second half. The defense was quietly and very surprisingly stifling, however, as the Friars got away with the offensive lulls without taking much damage. The stat that jumped out to me the most was the fact that Louisville, the best three point shooting team in the Big East, did not hit a single three pointer in the second half. After a stretch of games where even below average three point shooting teams were shooting the lights out against us, this was particularly refreshing to see.

-On the other side of the ball, the Friars hit 40% of their threes, well above the season average. I wouldn’t get used to it, because this team is not exactly stocked with sharpshooters, but this game was largely won and lost at the three point arc.

-Bilal Dixon is a big concern going forward. Definitely a low point in the Friar lineup with 0 points in only 15 minutes. He’s going to need to get straightened out if we want to see more Big East wins, because we’re not going to have many great three point shooting games.

-The crowd was a big part of this win. There were 2 reasons for this. First, it was the first game back from winter break, and really the first “important” game this season for which students were on campus. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, 5 pm is really the perfect time for a Saturday game. It’s late enough to drink before hand but it’s early enough that you don’t lose the all-important “this game is going to cut into my drinking time” demographic. Bob Driscoll: Schedule more 5 pm Saturday games.

-Also, for those of you not on Twitter, I’d like to once again point out that I predicted this win right here on this blog back in November. I’m awesome.

If you want a full, detailed recap of this game, I suggest you go check out Friar Basketball’s take on the game, which pretty much covers all the relevant analysis.

-SM

Friars Dismantled By West Virginia

Posted in Game Recap on January 14, 2011 by SM

So much for heart, huh? After most Friar fans (myself included) were singing the praises of this young Friars team for showing up and battling to the end against top 5 ranked Syracuse and Pitt, they have now taken 2 giant steps backwards by sleepwalking through two straight games. The biggest bright spot for this team so far in the winless Big East season had been the amount of fight they showed, never going down without a late charge. That kind of fight was not really there against a very bad Rutgers team earlier in the week, and last night there was no trace of it whatsoever outside of Ray Hall. The Friars let this one get away VERY early, and never really did much to stop it. Once West Virginia had built a fairly sizable lead, as Len Elmore pointed out on the broadcast, several Friars seemed to take the game as a lost cause and simply attempted to get theirs, taking poorly selected shots and really doing nothing to even try to get the team back in the game. That tells me that the discipline problem that plagued the program last year never fully went away and is beginning to show up again. The task for Keno Davis in the coming days is to get those issues firmly in check and get this team back on track for an eminently winnable game at a weak USF team. I’m not ready to hit the panic button on the future of this team just yet, but I certainly will be if the Friars don’t put a W on the board against USF. You would have to think an 0-6 start including losses to Rutgers and USF would make Ricky Ledo at least start to think twice about his decision, and a decommitment would be nothing short of devastating to Providence basketball.

A few other thoughts:

-As Friar Basketball points out, Bilal Dixon, Ray Hall, and Ron Giplaye were the only Friars able to shoot at a decent clip, while the wings struggled, especially from long range, again shooting under 30%. The game plan has to change. Fewer 3’s, more high percentage shots in the paint. Keno has to notice this, right?

-The aforementioned Ray Hall had a career night, and was possibly the Friars’ MVP last night. It’s a shame it happened on the road, because a performance from him like that would’ve blown the roof off the Dunk. He’s the most popular Friar since Thomas Aquinas. All of that said, if Ray Hall is your team MVP on any given night, you’re probably losing big.

-Who the hell is John Flowers? Sounds like last year’s trend of getting torched by a random role player is making a comeback.

-Outside of The Ostrogoth (9 boards, 7! offensive), the rebounding was atrocious. The Mountaineers didn’t miss many shots (48.6% shooting), and of those they did miss, they were able to grab their own rebound about 50% of the time. If you let that happen, you’re going to lose. Simple as that.

Let’s hope this team figures out a way to bounce back quickly, because this program needs a win on Sunday. Desperately.

-SM