I did a post like this after the news of Paschal Chukwu’s transfer broke back in May of 2015. That edition of “Deep Breaths, Friartown” was more about trying to make lemonade out of lemons while trying to shake of the seemingly illogical move by Chukwu to leave a starting role with a lottery pick point guard in Kris Dunn. Time — and plenty of on-court success since the big man went north to Syracuse — has moved Chukwu’s out of nowhere decision off most Providence fans’ radars. The current hot button topic that is the motivation for this post is the no-show performance by Providence in their Big East Tournament quarterfinal game on Thursday night. While it was painful to watch and I’m sure Friar fans turned off the TV or walked out of Madison Square Garden with a bad taste in their mouths, it’s important to keep things in perspective. And that’s ultimately why I’m writing this. Perspective.
Providence’s loss in the quarterfinals was the first time the Friars have failed to reach the semifinals in this current configuration of the Big East. Think about that for a second. Providence, a team that hadn’t even sniffed a Big East Tournament final since they won their first one in 1994 has been to the semifinals each of the last 3 seasons and won it once in 2014. Ed Cooley’s record in the Big East Tournament now drops to 5-5. He’s still tied with Rick Barnes and Pete Gillen for the most Big East Tournament wins by a Providence coach. Tim Welsh’s record? 1-9. Keno Davis’ record? 1-3. Perspective.
Providence finished off the season on a six-game winning streak that saw them improve to 10-8 in Big East play. Do you know the last time Providence has ever won six or more straight Big East games? It was a stretch from February 7th to February 29th back in 2004 when a Ryan Gomes-led Providence team beat Syracuse, Villanova, Boston College, Miami, Notre Dame and St. John’s to win six in a row against Big East foes. That team would famously lose to 12 seed Pacific. Before Cooley arrived that was the last Providence team to make it to the NCAA Tournament. Perspective.
Here’s a streak that will keep things in perspective. The 2009-10 Providence Friars lost their final 10 Big East games and followed that up by losing to Seton Hall, 109-106, in the Big East Tournament. Davis followed that up by losing 7 straight Big East games before finishing the regular season with a win over Rutgers. The next game would be Keno’s last at Providence. It was a loss to Marquette in the Big East Tournament where the Golden Eagles jumped out to a 17-0 lead. It was also the game in which Jay Bilas said the infamous “they should call him Keno Avis because his team has no D!” Perspective.
The Friars have won 10, 11, 10 and 10 league games the last four years with their worst finish in the league standings being 5th. Cooley has only had 1 losing season, his first in 2011-12. Since then Providence has won at least 19 games in every season — 20 or more each of the last four including this season. The Friars made the NIT quarterfinals in 2013 and they are on the cusp of a fourth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, a feat that has NEVER BEEN ACCOMPLISHED IN SCHOOL HISTORY. Perspective.
Should Providence hear their name called on Sunday as an at-large entry into the NCAA Tournament — and that certainly seems like it will happen — it would mean Cooley has led the Friars to five straight seasons of postseason basketball. He’s already the 5th winning-est coach in Providence history, in terms of overall wins and winning percentage, with a record at PC of 123-79 (.609 winning percentage). Davis was 46-50 in the 3 seasons before Cooley arrived on campus and Welsh won 160 games in 10 years at Providence but also lost 143 for a .528 winning percentage. Perspective.
Finally, fans should realize that the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee doesn’t just get together on Sunday morning and throw the at-large selections together and seed every team then and there. This is a process that has been ongoing. In fact, right about the time Providence and Creighton tipped off on Thursday night the Selection Committee had already selected 32 at-large teams.
With 32 automatic bids, that means the other 36 spots are made up of at-large teams that don’t win their conference’s automatic bid. Of the 32 teams already selected, some will win their conference tournament on Saturday and/or Sunday and move from at-large to one of the 32 automatic bids opening up spots for more at-large teams. So take a deep breath, Friartown. Take Cooley’s tactic after Thursday night’s loss: don’t watch it again, throw out the tape and hope the Friars get invited to the party on Sunday to redeem themselves. Perspective.
Follow me on Twitter @pcbb1917