Where: Madison Square Garden – New York, NY
How: Fox Sports 1 (Justin Kutcher and Tarik Turner) /WEEI 103.7 FM (John Rooke and Joe Hassett)
- The Friars and Red Storm have met 5 times all time in the Big East Tournament. PC has a 3-2 edge in the series but the two teams haven’t met in the Big East Tournament since March 6, 1996. The only other time they met in the 4 vs. 5 game, 4 seed PC took down the 5th seeded Redmen, 80-51, on March 5, 1987. I think 1987 was a pretty good year for PC.
- Bryce Cotton leads the nation in minutes per game with 40.1. He is averaging a mind boggling 41.9 mpg in Big East contests. Cotton played a total of 754 minutes in the 18 league games this season which gives him 2,385 career Big East minutes played. That number is good for 5th all time in Big East history and 2nd all time for the Friars in the Big East behind Vincent Council’s 2,498 Big East minutes played which is good for 2nd all time in Big East history. Despite the Friars double digit defeat in Omaha on Saturday, Cotton was able to rack up a few more PC all-time records. Saturday’s game was his 126th career game as a Providence Friar. That passes Dickey Simpkins and his 125 career games for most games played all time at PC. He is now the sole owner of the single season minutes played record, passing Billy Donovan and his 1,234 career minutes played in his senior season. Additionally Cotton now owns the record for minutes played in a career, passing Donnie McGrath and his 4,128 minutes played. On the season, Cotton is 9th in the nation in points per game at 21.7, 11th in the nation in total points scored at 674, 21st in the nation in assists per game at 5.9 and 8th in the nation in Free Throws made at 198. Cotton remains in 5th place all time on the PC scoring list with 1,886 career points in a Friar uniform. He surpassed the great Marvin Barnes for 5th all time by hitting a pair of free throws early against Marquette last week.
- Bryce Cotton is 2nd in the Big East in scoring (21.7 ppg) and D’Angelo Harrison is 3rd (17.6 ppg).
- Bryce Cotton is 1st in the Big East in assists (5.9 apg) and Rysheed Jordan is 12th (3.1 apg).
- Kadeem Batts is 3rd (7.7 rpg) and LaDontae Henton is 5th (7.3 rpg) in the Big East in rebounds while Jakarr Sampson is 8th (6.1 rpg).
- Line opened at PC +5.5
Note: Rankings reflect Conference Games Only
Well this is it. The chance to dance on that Blue Carpet is in the Friars’ grasp on Thursday afternoon. While nothing is set in stone, it appears the winner of this 4 vs. 5 matchup in the Big East tournament will at least make it to Dayton in a First Round Play-in game as a 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The loser is destined for the NIT for a second consecutive season. For the Red Storm, it would be the first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since Coach Steve Lavin’s first season in 2010-2011. The Friars haven’t be to the Big Dance since Ryan Gomes’ Junior season in 2003-2004. But the NCAA Tourney talk needs to be put on the back burner as both teams are focused on Thursday’s contest in the Quarterfinals of the Big East tournament with regular season Big East champs, Villanova waiting in the semi’s.
These two teams split the season series with both teams winning on the opponent’s home floor. The Friars victory in early January at Carnesseca Arena on St. John’s campus was a thrilling double overtime game with Bryce Cotton hitting the game winning shot with 9 seconds left in the 2nd overtime. That win was number 2 of a 5 game winning streak that got PC out to a 5-2 conference start. St. John’s on the other hand, fell to 0-5 after that loss to the Friars. But then they went on a run. They disposed of Ivy League foe Dartmouth and then went on to win 10 of their remaining 13 Big East games with their 3 losses coming against the top 3 teams in the conference, @ Creighton, @ Villanova and home vs. Xavier. The next time these team’s met at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in early February, St. John’s got off to a blistering shooting start and ran the Friars out of their own building. PC was able to make a comeback from being down 16 at the half and got the lead down from 20 to 6 with a second half run led by Bryce Cotton and his game high 32 points but they fell short in the end.
The key to St. John’s turnaround appears to be the play of Rysheed Jordan. When I saw the Johnnies play in Queens in January, they seemed like a team without a leader of the offense. There was a lot of dribbling around and not a lot of ball movement. Rysheed Jordan really came on right when this team took off and it allowed D’Angelo Harrison to be the shooter and not have to run the offense too. Lavin didn’t look long for this world after that 0-5 league start but he has now gotten St. John’s to the edge of the Big Dance and garnered himself a nice 6 year contract extension in the process.
Now to this game. The keys to this game will be tempo and rebounding. If St. John’s can get out and run in transition, they will be tough for PC to handle. But if PC can slow the game down and make it a half court slugfest, that really benefits them. If PC opts to play zone against the Johnnies that could prove to hurt them on the glass and with second chance scoring. It will be interesting to see how many minutes Carson Desrosiers gets in this one.
Providence has struggled mightighly at MSG in March the last few years but the more troubling part isn’t so much the losses, its the lack of showing up. They have struggled to score early in games in the BET and gotten behind early. They absolutely cannot allow that to happen Thursday. St. John’s shot lights out in Providence including 54.5% from deep. I have a feeling that shooting performance won’t be repeated. I do think this game will be much more of a half court game which favors PC but not as much as it did in January against this St. John’s bunch. I wouldn’t be surprised if 40 minutes isn’t enough to decide this one. Both teams know what’s on the line and will fight, scrap and claw to get there.
Prediction: St. John’s 72 Providence 73 (OT)