Despite Close Championship Game Loss, Madison Square Garden Rejuvenated the Friars

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What a difference a week makes.

Prior to going into the Big East Tournament, the Providence College Friars season was on life support. They had some nice wins. But they had too many bad losses. And they had not proved they could beat good teams outside of The Dunkin Donuts Center.

They weren’t going into the NCAA tournament.

And then a trip to Madison Square Garden changed everything. That trip breathed new life into the season, which is now far from over.

If You Can Make it There, You Can Make it Anywhere

I’ve written before that the Providence College Men’s basketball team has a nasty Dr Jekyll/Mr. Hyde act, which has lasted all year. http://www.rirelevant.com/sports/2017-18-pc-friars-jekyll-hyde-story/

When they’re good, they can beat anyone. When they’re bad, they can lose to anyone.

But Mr Hyde thankfully never showed up at The World’s Most Famous arena. Instead, we got the Providence College Friars that fans love.

They played stingy defense. Their opponents scored practically no easy baskets. Despite featuring some smaller (overall) lineups, they crashed the boards hard. They took care of the basketball.

And they were clutch.

The Providence College Pep Band weren’t the only ones playing well at Madison Square Garden.

Against Creighton, a solid opponent by anyone’s estimation, they hung tough all game long. Tough defense kept them in the game. They protected the ball, not turning it over. And they got more rebounds. Even when you’re not shooting well, that’s a recipe for victory. It’s toughness.

Kryon Cartwright, PC’s Own Superman

In overtime, superstar Kyron Cartwright, who played more like superman than a real human being all tournament long, nailed a jumper with just 20 seconds left that effectively won the game.

It was against Xavier, now a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, where they showed real promise. They stumbled out of the gate, getting down by as much as 17 points. It would have been easy for them to quit and coast. After all, Xavier is a great team.

But instead, the Friars showed us character, perseverance, and tenacity. They fought back. They got the game into overtime. And there was Kyron Cartwright, yet again, to seal the victory with a clutch play on defense, drawing a huge charge, that again sealed the victory.

In the Big East Championship, Las Vegas has them as 14 point underdogs. But it never seemed like they didn’t belong in the game. Instead, they took another number 1 seeded NCAA Tourney team to over-time. They ultimately succumbed, but the Friars again showed that when they’re playing their game, they can beat anyone.

PC Can Hang

Shooting guard Alpha Diallo scored points in bunches. At 6’7, he was routinely taking his defenders to the basket or into the post. And forward Rodney Bullock was strong on both sides of the court.

Before last Thursday, I don’t think there was any NCAA Coach in the country who feared playing Providence College.

Tonight, there’s no team that’s looking forward to playing them. Mission Accomplished.

Now, the Friars begin their bid to win a National Championship in earnest. They’ll play a tough, but vulnerable Texas A&M team next Friday at 12:15. 

If they can win that game, they’ll likely play what’s become a regular NCAA foe–the University of North Carolina, who has beaten PC in 2 of the last 5 years.

Providence would love nothing more than a rematch. Sending home the defending champs would be a fantastic feat that Providence would relish.

Given their recent performances, does anyone doubt that they can do it?

 

Russell Moore
Russell J. Moore is the publisher and founder of rirelevant.com. He’s been writing about Rhode Island since 2005. You should definitely follow him on twitter @russmoore713. If you want to send him email, you can send it to russmoore713@gmail.com
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