Stew Milne/USA Today Sports

Friars arrive in North Carolina, prepping for Aggies

March 14, 2018 - 7:02 pm

By John Rooke


Leaving the snow, ice and frigid temps from the latest Nor’easter behind them at home, the Providence Friars flew south Wednesday to Charlotte, NC to begin preparations for their NCAA 1st round game with Texas A&M.

But while they were greeted by only slightly warmer temperatures and sunnier skies, the Friars did manage to bring something from home along for the ride to North Carolina – a sizeable contingent of students, fans and donors packed the plane that brought the Friars to the postseason.

“I’m always appreciative of our fans, of our cheerleaders, of our band, our administrators and how they treat us, and you as the media,” head coach Ed Cooley said as the team stepped into their Charlotte headquarters Wednesday afternoon.  “It’s an honor and a privilege to be on a plane with so many great people.  Thanks for following us.”

After a few team meetings later in the evening, the Friars will hold an open practice session at the Spectrum Center Thursday morning, and meet with local, regional and national media covering the tournament games in Charlotte.  Of major concern from the Providence point of view is competing on the boards with a physically strong, long and tall Texas A&M team.

“It will be a very physical game,” Cooley said.  “They play very physical basketball, they play inside out and have a lot of game changers.  Defensively and offensively, we’re going to have to rebound the ball – they’re one of the better rebounding teams in the country – they have a lot of length at the rim, so hopefully we can secure them to one and done.”

The Aggies start 6-10 Robert Williams (the SEC co-defensive player of the year), 6-10 Tyler Davis (3rd in the SEC in rebounding) and 6-9 D.J. Hogg on the front line.  A&M is 5th nationally in total rebounds per game, while the Friars struggled at times with better rebounding teams they’ve face through the regular season.

 “Our guys are prepared for this, and we can draw back on the experience we had last week,” Cooley added.

And speaking of the experience from last week – three straight overtime games on the way to a Big East Tournament runner-up slot after dropping the finals to Villanova – Cooley said he believes there’s still some emotion behind the roll the team started in New York.

“I think everybody wants to cheer for the Friars,” the coach reasoned.  “We’re gonna appreciate the moment.  “It’s really hard to get to these tournaments, we’ve had an up and down year that’s headed up at the right time, but we’re going to take a minute to really appreciate where we’re at today.

“And I‘ve told the guys, don’t take this for granted,” he added.  “Do a really good job of staying in this moment, sometimes it can be overwhelming when you’re on this national stage.  Try to keep our composure, our poise and try to be the tougher of the two teams on the floor.”

NCAA Tournament Notes

The Friars’ charter flight from T.F. Green airport was filled with cheerleaders, band members, some students, administrators, media and team members as it touched down in North Carolina just before 4:00 pm ET Wednesday afternoon.  The team will hold its’ open practice session Thursday following an interview session beginning at 10:20 am ET, with Coach Cooley to follow just after 10:30. The practice will begin at 11:00 am…the first of eight open practices for fans in Charlotte on Thursday, featuring all of the teams playing in the North Carolina pod…the Big East Conference has announced they have extended the contract of Commissioner Val Ackerman for three years, through June 30, 2021.  Ackerman is the Big East’s fifth commissioner, taking over the position in 2013.  “We are fortunate to have someone with Val Ackerman’s leadership abilities and acumen at the helm of the Big East Conference,” said Providence College President Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., who also chairs the Big East board of directors.  “Val understands the business and marketing aspects of sports at all levels, and how they intersect with the product on the court.  Based on the popularity of and attendance at the most recent Big East Tournament this past week, I would say the conference is very healthy and in great hands.  Val’s contract extension is well-deserved,” Fr. Shanley said…with the 64-team field beginning play Thursday, the Providence-Texas A&M game will be the first game of the day on Friday, and locally it will broadcast on 103.7 WEEI-FM (and with pregame beginning at 12 Noon, tip-off scheduled for 12:15 pm ET…