Providence coach Ed Cooley

Steven Branscombe/USA Today Sports

Same story, third verse? That’s Providence’s goal

John Rooke
March 11, 2019 - 1:32 pm

There is an adage in sports – college basketball, especially – that says simply “it’s hard to beat a team three times in a year.” 

First of all, that may be true if you’re playing a team for a 3rd time in a single season.  It may also have more to do with the quality of that opponent, however, than it does with any sort of magic, mojo or wizardry.

One particular piece of hoop research, courtesy of Jordan Sperber (@hoopvision68) on Twitter this week was enlightening.  Sperber’s research showed the number of college teams who played games against an opponent on three different occasions during a single season – with one team having won the first two match-ups – and those 2-game winners were victorious again in the 3rd game at a 72% clip.

These numbers come from the past 10 seasons of college basketball play.

Which means next-to-nothing, really, for either Providence or Butler Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.  But it might give Friar fans a bit of a confidence boost, and it might give Butler fans a bit of hope that Wednesday won’t be a lost cause.

But it’s not a fait-accompli.

The Bulldogs were a postseason contender, considered an NCAA bubble-team prior to meeting the Friars for the first time at Hinkle Fieldhouse this season on February 26th.  Providence controlled that first game most of the way before Butler forced overtime, where the Friars outlasted their comeback effort in a 73-69 win. 

That loss was the second straight in a five-game span that saw the Bulldogs lose four of five – including the regular-season finale against the Friars in Providence this past Saturday, 83-70. 

“It’s postseason play now,” Butler’s head coach LaVall Jordan said Monday.  “You have a couple of different seasons when you are on the journey for a full year.  We’re looking to see what went wrong, but you can’t change everything in just two days, we’re going to have to play with confidence and try to make adjustments where you can.”

For PC’s Ed Cooley, any advantage or disadvantage for a team in his situation – or Butler’s – comes from the matchups.  “You’ve got to get lucky, sometimes it’s a game of matchups with the opponent, you’ve got to be healthy and your seniors have to lead you and the young guys need to follow,” Cooley said.  “It’s definitely a challenge (to beat a team three times).  

“The teams that play connected with emotion are the teams that are going to hoist the trophy come Saturday night, and that’s our goal,” he added.

Match-up advantages are a telling factor in beating a team on multiple occasions, and for the Friars to pull off the trifecta it will require attention to Butler’s three-point prowess – specifically from redshirt junior Sean McDermott and grad senior Paul Jorgensen, who was named as the Big East’s 6th Man of the Year.

“His (McDermott’s) ability to stretch the floor from deep in the scouting report means it’s high alert on all those shooters for our players,” Cooley said.  “They’ve have done a good job in recognizing that so far, paying attention to the scouting and we have to make sure we’re dialed in and not allow those threes to get up at all.”

Defend the three, in order to win three straight from the Bulldogs.  Sounds like a plan, even if the Friars will need to win four in four days to hoist that trophy. 

NOTES

With Friar junior forward Alpha Diallo earning a spot on the all-Big East second team, he also finished tied for 1st in the league with nine total double-double games (double figure points and rebounds).  Diallo was named to last season’s all-Big East Tournament team as Providence lost the championship game in overtime to Villanova.

And while Seton Hall’s Myles Powell took the final Player of the Week honor, PC’s senior forward Isaiah Jackson earned a spot on the Big East Honor Roll for his 41 points and 13 rebounds in two games (Creighton and Butler), while also scoring his 1000th career point against the Bulldogs.

The Big East released more award winners Monday:

Big East Defensive Player of the Year:  6-5 junior guard Justin Simon, St. John’s

Big East Most Improved Player:  6-9 sophomore forward Paul Reed, DePaul

Big East Sixth Man of the Year:  6-2 senior guard Paul Jorgensen, Butler

Jorgensen helped Butler this season largely in a sixth-man role scoring 11.8 points per game, which ranked second on the team.  The senior guard from New City, N.Y., and transfer from George Washington, started only three of 18 league games.   Jorgensen also finished second on the team in 3-pointers made with 68 and second in 3-point shooting, hitting at a 38.9 percent clip.  He reached double figures in nine of the final 10 league games of the regular season. 

Butler’s senior center Nate Fowler also took the Big East’s Sportsmanship Award.

The Coach of the Year, Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year will be announced Wednesday afternoon in New York.

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