Happy Monday, Friar fans! While some of you may be nursing an Alumni & Family Weekend hangover I’ll do my best to give you some news and notes from around the Providence basketball world to get you caught up on the on-court product and recent recruiting tidbits. Obviously Saturday’s win was a big one against 22nd-ranked Butler in front of a sold-out crowd at the Dunk, but the Friars still have a lot of work left to do if they want to keep dancing in March for a fourth straight season.
One national media bracketologist that thinks Providence’s resume is attractive enough to earn an at-large bid right now? Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com. Palm’s latest bracket was released on Monday morning and he has Providence as an 11-seed playing in one of the First Four games in Dayton against fellow 11-seed Syracuse. That would be fun to watch. Personally, I don’t think the Friars should be in the field of 68 at this point but perhaps the bubble is just that weak this season. ESPN.com’s Joe Lunardi put his latest bracket out on Monday too and he doesn’t have the Friars anywhere near the Field of 68.
Providence has some chances down the stretch of Big East play to make themselves look better to the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee and the first chance comes Wednesday night when 2nd place Xavier comes to town for a 6:30pm tip on FS1. The Musketeers are coming off a trouncing at home against Villanova over the weekend and may be without leading scorer Trevon Bluiett who re-aggravated an ankle injury during that 73-57 loss. Xavier will definitely be without starting point guard Edmond Sumner who tore his ACL on January 29th in a game against St. John’s. The Musketeers were ranked 24th last week before going 1-1 with the win coming at home against DePaul.
On the recruiting front, Providence hosted top local talent on Saturday for their upset win against Butler and there was also a little known 2019 guard from Chicago in attendance. The locals were 2018 AJ Reeves and Cole Swider. Both were sitting behind Providence’s bench and both appeared into the game, especially down the stretch when Providence jumped ahead. Swider has been to a number of Providence games this season and usually prefers not to sit behind the Providence bench so he can try to blend in and not be noticed. This wasn’t Reeves’ first Providence game either, but with both he and Swider were offered by Syracuse and Villanova last week and Northwestern over the weekend so the Friars aren’t exactly locks to get pledges from these two talented players.
A new name was also in attendance on Saturday afternoon. Chris Burnell is a 6’3 guard from Rockford, IL and is a member of the class of 2019. Burnell attends Rockford East High School and will run with the Illinois Stars on the NY2LA circuit this spring and summer. Burnell is very early in the recruiting process but Providence assistant coach Jeff Battle has been the one reaching out to his coaches. According to MaxPreps.com, Burnell is averaging 13.7 points/game, 6.3 rebounds/game and 2.5 assists/game through 26 games this season for Rockford East. Burnell is a name I’ll be keeping an eye on in April to see if Battle or any other Providence coach tracks him with the Illinois Stars.
The Friars hosted 2017 forward Daniel Mading for an official visit almost two weeks ago and got positive returns from Mading’s first of five possible officials. This past weekend Mading tripped to Texas Tech and saw the Red Raiders nearly knock off Kansas before the Jayhawks pulled that game out with a Josh Jackson free throw with 2.8 seconds left. Mading, a one-time Arizona State commit, has three more official visits available to him but none are currently scheduled.
The Friars are likely to host another 2017 player at some point in the next couple months. Guard Greg Elliott told Landof10.com that he has three more official visits to take after going to Rice and Toledo. He also knows which three schools will be getting those remaining officials: Marquette, Michigan State and Providence. Ed Cooley went out to Detroit to see Elliot play on January 17th but the Friars haven’t offered yet. That hasn’t stopped Elliott from pegging Providence as a place he’s interested in visiting. “I like their playing style,” Elliott told Landof10.com. “They play uptempo. They let their guards go after it. That’s real good, especially with me being a guard.” Marquette and Michigan State have both offered and Elliott wants to visit the Spartans last, though no dates have been set for any of these three visits.
Providence has five more Big East games between now and the end of the regular season on March 4th. Three of those five are at home and the game at Creighton, while always tough to win at the sold-out CenturyLink Center, comes after Providence’s 2nd week-long bye. The Friars finish the season at Madison Square Garden and will be looking for revenge against St. John’s. Depending on whether Bluiett plays on Wednesday, Providence will be favored to win two or three of these closing five games with Xavier and St. John’s being toss ups at the moment and Creighton being the only matchup that will have Providence 100% as the underdog. I’m not saying I think Providence makes the NCAA Tournament, but there’s a path to make it happen over the next 19 days.
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