Friars vs. Tar Heels: Dancing in Texas
Friday, March 21, 2014
Game time: 7:20 pm
Location: AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
Radio: WEEI 103.7 FM
Providence College takes on the University of North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA tournament tonight at 7:20 in San Antonio, TX. This marks the first appearance in the NCAA's since 2004 when PC lost to the University of the Pacific in the first round.
History Between the Teams
UNC holds a 2-1 edge against the Friars all time. However, that one victory for the Friars was a memorable one as PC defeated the Tar Heels 61-59 at the Providence Civic Center. The game was played in the aftermath of the Blizzard of 1978 as 7000 fans walked for miles in order to see the Friars pull out the victory.
Keys to the Game
The Matchup of Point Guards
Bryce Cotton is the leader of the Friars averaging 21.4 points and 5.8 assists per game while Marcus Paige leads the Tar Heels averaging 17.4 points and 4.3 assists per game. The winner of this matchup very well may decide who will be the winner of the game. "I thought I played a lot of minutes until I started looking at his stats," Paige said about Cotton Thursday, "and seeing how many minutes he played this season...and how he's still able to be effective the entire game despite playing that many minutes. It's going to be a fun match-up."
Rebounding is going to be a huge factor for the Friars. North Carolina is the 9th ranked rebounding team in the country. They have four players averaging five or more rebounds a game led by James Michael McAdoo who pulls down 6.7 rpg. If PC wants to play zone against the Tar Heels it will be imperative to box out on the boards. An early indicator on how the game is going is how many second chance opportunities North Carolina gets on the offensive glass. "Off the top of the head actively, athletically, I'd compare them from the Big East to St. John's a little bit," Kadeem Batts said of North Carolina's frontcourt. "But the way they run the floor, the way they play above the rim, it's nothing we haven't seen."
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
North Carolina has had some great victories this year against such powerhouse teams as Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke, and Louisville. They also have a couple of unexplainable losses against Belmont and University of Alabama at Birmingham. If the UNC team that beat Michigan State and Louisville shows up it will be a long night for the Friars.
Slowing the Pace of the Game
PC will need to keep the score in the 60s in order to have a good shot of winning. North Carolina is a long, athletic team that likes to get out and run. They average over 76 points a game and thrive in an up tempo pace. The Friars are at their best when they can take a little time off the clock each possession and keep it a low scoring contest. This helps keep the Friars from being fatigued and also helps keep them out of foul trouble. PC needs to take the break when it is there, otherwise they need to keep it a half court contest.
Contributions from Everyone
Everyone for the Friars needs to step up tonight. Batts and LaDontae Henton have to have solid games and Tyler Harris and Josh Fortune need to continue their improved play. If only two or three guys are scoring the Friars are in trouble. "When I look at Providence, there is really not any weakness," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "They really have the whole package. They had some games throughout the course of the year that they didn't play well, just like we did. But man alive, did they play great down the stretch."
This is a major key for every Friar game. All five Friar starters need to stay on the floor. If anyone on the bench other than Carson Desrosiers needs to play meaningful minutes the Friars may be in trouble. North Carolina has 9 or 10 guys playing significant minutes so PC can not match them foul for foul. Batts, Desrosiers, and Harris are all prone to picking up quick fouls. In this game PC can't afford to have any of the three get in serious foul trouble.
The Friars would love to play a lot of zone against the Tar Heels. UNC is not a very good three point shooting team with only Marcus Paige and Leslie McDonald being legitimate outside threats. If they can limit Paige's outside looks the zone could be very effective for PC, provided they box out and keep the Tar Heels off of the glass.
Keep it Close
This is the first time in the NCAA tournament for just about everyone on the team (except for Tyler Harris, who played sparingly as a freshman at NC State before transferring) so there is naturally going to be some early game jitters. It is very important that they don't let the more experienced Tar Heels build up a significant early lead and let the game get out of hand. A hot Bryce Cotton nailing a couple of early threes would be huge in this game.
What This Game Means
This game is a celebration for all Friar fans. It is so much more than just the first NCAA tournament game in 10 years. It is a validation for all the hard work that Ed Cooley and his players have put in the past three years. Yes, a victory would be great but this year is already a huge success for the PC program. Everything else is gravy. And who doesn't love gravy? "This is our last go around," Cotton said, "so we wanted to make sure we could make it a run to remember for our team and for the guys we love."
Follow Craig on Twitter: @Craigl78
Related Slideshow: PC’s Top Post-season Teams
There may, or may not, be any debate on this subject among Friar fans. But there might be a debate over where the 2013-14 Providence team ranks among some of the better teams - and better stories - on post-season teams in their history. So...from the early days of Lenny Wilkens and Joe Mullaney, to Dave Gavitt's Final Four Friars, to Rick Pitino, Rick Barnes and Pete Gillen-led teams, we've included them all. Where do the current Big East Champion, Ed Cooley-led Friars fall in this mix?
1972-73 NCAA Final Four
Led by Ernie DiGregorio, Marvin Barnes and Kevin Stacom, this was Providence's best shot at winning a National Title...until Barnes went down with a knee injury in the semifinals against Memphis State. An anticipated matchup for the championship with Bill Walton's legendary UCLA Bruins never materialized. But this team did finish 27-4, and entertained scores of fans across the country...while creating a buzz about PC hoops that still exists today. (rirhof.org)
1986-87 NCAA Final Four
This wasn't the best Friar team of all time...and probably not the most-talented. But it was, perhaps, the most magical. And it did have talent, led by Billy Donovan, Jacek Duda, Dave Kipfer, Ernie "Pop" Lewis and Delray Brooks. But the best attribute of this team was shooting the three, and believing in themselves. These Friars finished 25-9, and lost in the National semifinals to Syracuse. (realclearsports.com)
1996-97 NCAA Elite Eight
This Providence team was one of the most-talented teams ever assembled on Smith Hill...but as the legend goes, had a hard time getting along with each other. Pete Gillen led these Friars to within a missed jump-shot of a berth in the Final Four, but did get into overtime in the Regional Final against eventual national champ Arizona before falling. God Shammgod, Austin Croshere, Jamel Thomas, Ruben Garces and Derrick "Flight" Brown whipped Duke along the way to a 24-12 record, gaining legendary status, fame, and perhaps near-fortune. (friarbasketball.com)
1959-60 NIT Finalists
No, this team did not win the NIT...which at the time was considered the TRUE National Championship Tournament. But it was this team (along with the NIT team in 1959) that helped create the passion for Friar Basketball in Providence, and throughout the state of Rhode Island. Led by Hall-of-Famer Lenny Wilkens, and head coach Joe Mullaney, PC arrived on national scene as well. Big man James Hadnot led the Friars in scoring and rebounding. (providence.edu)
1960-61 NIT Champions
It wasn't the NCAA Championship, but at the time, the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) WAS the national championship, and the Friars won it in 1961...defeating St. Louis 62-59 at Madison Square Garden in New York behind Vinny Ernst and James Hadnot. PC finished 24-5, Hadnot averaged nearly 20 points and more than 16 rebounds per game, while Ernst was a whirling dervish on the floor (look that one up)! (providence.edu)
1962-63 NIT Champions
There was one more championship team in Providence history, as two years after the first one, the '62-'63 Friars returned to the NIT throne room by winning 15 straight games to finish the season at 24-4. Former Boston mayor and US Ambassador to the Vatican Ray Flynn led PC in scoring, along with legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson, Jr. Vinny Ernst was also on this team as a senior, winning two titles in his Providence career. (Flynn & Ernst, providence.edu)
1993-94 Big East Champion
In the Big East era, it's tough to leave this team off of any list...even though they did not have success in the NCAA Tournament in 1994. But PC's first Big East title came after a talented team caught fire in the '94 event at the Garden, led by Rob Phelps, Eric Williams, former Central HS and CCRI star Abdul Abdullah, Dickey Simpkins and Michael Smith - one of the best rebounders the league has ever seen. The Friars finished 20-10, winning the Big East, but lost to Alabama in the NCAA Tournament 1st round. (Williams & Phelps, wordpress.com)
2013-14 Big East Champion
It's hard to say, when they have yet to prove much on the national stage...but this year's Friar team deserves to be ranked with the best in school history just from the story of their journey(s) alone. Bryce Cotton came from Arizona without another Division I offer; injury and suspension depleting the roster; two transfer players playing significant roles; Coach and Providence-native Ed Cooley, whose house caught on fire during the year...it goes on and on. One heck of a ride and a story...and it's still going. (Cotton, twcc.com)
1964-65 NCAA Reg. Finals
It wasn't known as the "Elite 8" then, but the '64-'65 Friars were certainly one of the best teams in the school's athletic history. Finishing 24-2 and ranked 4th in the national polls, the Jimmy Walker-led Friars were beaten by Bill Bradley's Princeton team in the NCAA's, just missing out on the Final Four. Sophomores Walker, Dexter Westbrook and future NY Knick Mike Riordan led this group of Friars, along with James Benedict and Bill Blair. This team may have been coach Joe Mullaney's most talented. (Westbrook & Walker, friarbasketball.com)
1973-74 NCAA Sweet 16
Like some of the other great Friar squads of the past, this team ultimately stubbed its' toes in the NCAA's. But these Friars deserve Top 10 mention as PC's winningest single-season team, finishing 28-4. On the heels of the Final Four, and behind Marvin Barnes, Kevin Stacom, Bob Cooper and Joe Hassett, they were ranked as high as 6th in the nation before losing to eventual national champ North Carolina State. (Gavitt, Barnes, DeGregorio, wordpress.com)
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