Thoughts from the Road: Providence Comes Up Short in the Semi’s

This thoughts from the road is me cheating a little. I’m writing this from the press room in Madison Square Garden. The brownies are so good, can you blame me?

  • Ed Cooley took the high road after the game when he responded to a question asking for his thoughts on the foul call at the end of the game.

“The last play of the game was a 50-50 call. I think we have the best officials in the country. I think the Big East has always had the best officials in the country. It doesn’t come down to one play. I’m pretty sure everybody’s going to ask me about that. At the end of the day, we have the best officials in the country. It was a 50-50 call. It can go either way. It just didn’t go our way tonight.”

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  • Cooley’s postgame press conferences are generally filled with a fair amout of “in the country’s” and platitudes like “50-50 call” and “it just didn’t go our way tonight”. He has certainly come a long way from the St. John’s postgame press conference after his first Big East game as the Providence coach. I’m not going to try to think what Cooley maybe wanted to say about that last play but I’ll say the following. The Big East needs to take a long, hard look at some of the officials this offseason. There have been numerous occasions – not just in games involving Providence – where a Big East referee has made a horrendous call or shown up a player or coach or some other ridiculous thing. The fact that I recognize and know most of the guys by their face and name is probably not a great sign. The old adage “people don’t go to the games to watch the refs” comes to mind here. Do I want to go to a Big East basketball game to see Tony Chiazza jumping up and down while he calls a charge? Do I want to go to a Big East basketball game see John Gaffney call fouls that don’t exist to anyone but him? I certainly don’t want to go to a Big East Tournament semifinal game at Madison Square Garden to see Brian O’Connell rip the game away from the players and call a questionable foul that decides the game.
  • This space has been filled with all kinds of praise for Kris Dunn and that won’t stop now. Dunn was a total beast again and was on the verge of a double-double and not too far from a triple-double. Dunn finished with 22 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds and 2 steals. In another game where LaDontae Henton struggled to score it was Dunn who took control as he has been doing for much of the last month+.
  • Henton cannot have another game like this in the NCAA Tournament if Providence has any hope of going on a run beyond the first weekend. It has been hard enough for Providence to win at times when both Dunn and Henton have been on but it will be nearly impossible for them to win if Henton shoots 2/9 for 9 points.
  • Ben Bentil started off a bit slow but the freshman ended up having a very good game and played all 40 minutes, except the final 3.1 seconds. He finished with his second straight double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He finally caught one of Dunn’s slick passes and converted. He also played solid defense down the stretch, the foul call at the end of the game not withstanding.
  • Another freshman who had a very good game was Jalen Lindsey. Lindsey hadn’t seen a lot of playing time recently and when he did it was mainly to come in and play defense. He hit a 3-pointer late in the first half and when Providence was looking for an offensive spark Cooley turned to Lindsey at the 13:40 mark of the second half. Lindsey delivered some key points from behind the 3-point line and also attempted a dribble drive from the wing. Perhaps this is the kind of game that can restore some confidence to the young man. Cooley praised Lindsey’s mental toughness after the game saying, “it’s a big-time credit to him to come off the bench in this type of game and pull through like that.” If Lindsey is going to be able to knock down a 3-pointer every now and then it would really go a long way towards spacing the floor for Dunn to operate in the lane even more.
  • Providence has been solidly in the field of the NCAA Tournament for a few weeks now. They have basically been playing for seeding and to avoid bad losses down the stretch. They managed to do it and nearly pulled off a huge neutral court win in this game against a top 5 team in the land. Even with a loss to Villanova I still believe Providence should be a 5 or 6 seed. Their numbers aren’t fantastic in terms of some of the advanced metrics like Kenpom.com but the Friars are playing well and have the kind of grinder style that can make some noise in the NCAA Tournament. Providence is hosting a Selection Show viewing party at Alumni Hall on campus on Sunday beginning at 5:30pm. The CBS Selection Show begins at 6pm and that’s when we will all find out what Providence’s seed is, who their opponent is and where their first game will be (come on Jacksonville!). Ed Cooley said it best when asked if he thought Providence’s performance against Villanova would help their seed in the NCAA Tournament: “Just invite us to the dance so we can have a party.” Let’s have a party, Friartown. The Friars will be dancing again next week.

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