Providence coach Ed Cooley

Steven Branscombe/USA Today Sports

Friars prep for Big East tournament

John Rooke
March 10, 2019 - 9:05 pm

Madison Square Garden has been good to Providence Basketball over the past few years.  It will need to be extraordinarily friendly this week for the Friars to earn a sixth straight invitation to the Big Dance the following week.

Following a 17-14 regular season record (7-11 in Big East play), the Friars earned the 8th seed in this year’s Big East Tournament in New York, which tips off Wednesday night in New York.  It’s the 37th consecutive season for MSG to host the Big East – and from all appearances this version may be the most unpredictable of them all.

“We had a couple of teams up at the top, but basically a game-and-a-half, two games separated 3rd through 10th for the entire season,” Providence head coach Ed Cooley said Sunday as his team began preparing for a 7:00 pm meeting with Butler – the 3rd game with the Bulldogs in the past two weeks.  “We’re really looking forward to getting down to ‘Dunk South’ as we’ve had some success there recently.”

The Friars have played at MSG once already this season, beating St. John’s 70-56 on February 9th.  Providence played three straight overtime games in last year’s Big East Tournament, ultimately falling in OT to eventual national champ Villanova in the finals. 

PC has won three of the past four, and 12 of the past 17 games they’ve played in the building facing either the Red Storm, or Big East Tournament opponents since 2014.

“Our older players have an understanding of the history behind the building and playing on that floor,” Cooley said.  “But the younger guys get it, too, with the bright lights, the national TV and playing in New York.  The moment hasn’t been lost on them.”

Playing Butler for a 3rd time in a two-week span hasn’t been lost on the team, either.  A Saturday win at the Dunkin Donuts Center gave PC a sweep of the home-and-home series this year.  While Providence did take three games in a season from the Bulldogs just three years ago, it has traditionally been a hard feat to accomplish – if only due to complacency or overconfidence from the two-game victors. 

“We have to come out with intensity like we did in each of those two games,” senior forward Isaiah Jackson said, after scoring 20 points against the Bulldogs in Saturday’s 83-70 win.  “They’ll be mad, we have to match their emotion and just do the things we know how to do against them.”

“Our biggest challenge will be to anticipate how they might adjust to us after the first two games,” Cooley added.  “We’ll take a close look at that before Wednesday and decide what we need to do to adjust as well.”

Should Providence get past Butler Wednesday night, a quick turnaround awaits with a 12 Noon tip Thursday against the defending national champs – and Big East regular season titlist Villanova.  But the Wildcats come into the tournament having lost five of their last eight games, adding to the uncertainty – or unpredictability – this year’s Big East Tournament appears to project going in.

“We’ll be ready, for four games in four days,” Cooley said.  “But it starts with the first one.  Can’t wait to get to ‘Dunk South.’”

 

NOTES

Providence junior forward Alpha Diallo was named to the all-Big East second team, after finishing the regular season averaging 16 points per game, with 8.2 rebounds per game (2nd best in the Big East).  Diallo was the only Friar to receive post-season honors this year and was also the only player in a power league to lead his team in scoring, rebounding and assists…we’ll preview the tournament bracket and offer some favorites to look for this week, plus provide coverage here on weei.com throughout the week.  Post-season honors, including Coach of the Year, Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player will be announced Wednesday afternoon.

ALL-BIG EAST FIRST TEAM
Jessie Govan, Georgetown, C, Sr., 6-10, 255, Queens Village, N.Y.
*Markus Howard, Marquette, G, Jr., 5-11, 175, Chandler, Ariz.
Shamorie Ponds, St. John’s, G, Jr., 6-1, 180, Brooklyn, N.Y.
*Myles Powell, Seton Hall, G, Jr., 6-2, 195, Trenton, N.J.
*Phil Booth, Villanova, G, Sr., 6-3, 194, Baltimore, Md.
*Eric Paschall, Villanova, F, Sr., 6-8, 255, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.
 
ALL-BIG EAST SECOND TEAM
Kamar Baldwin, Butler, G, Jr., 6-1, 195, Winder, Ga.
Max Strus, DePaul, G, Sr., 6-6, 215, Hickory Hills, Ill.
Sam Hauser, Marquette, G-F, Jr., 6-8, 225, Stevens Point, Wis.
Alpha Diallo, Providence, G, Jr., 6-7, 213, New York, N.Y.
Naji Marshall, Xavier, F, So., 6-7, 222, Atlantic City, N.J.
 
BIG EAST HONORABLE MENTION
Ty-Shon Alexander, Creighton, G, So., 6-4, 195, Charlotte, N.C.
Martin Krampelj, Creighton, F, Jr., 6-9, 235, Grosuplje, Slovenia
 
BIG EAST ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM
*Marcus Zegarowski, Creighton, G, 6-2, 180, Hamilton, Mass.
*James Akinjo, Georgetown, G, 6-0, 180, Oakland, Calif.
Josh LeBlanc, Georgetown, F, 6-7, 230, Baton Rouge, La.
Mac McClung, Georgetown, G, 6-2, 185, Lake City, Va.
Joey Hauser, Marquette, F, 6-9, 230, Stevens Point, Wis.
Saddiq Bey, Villanova, F, 6-8, 220, Largo, Md.
 
*Denotes unanimous selection.

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