PC faces tough test tonight
UMass will likely challenge the Friars
PROVIDENCE — The 10-year non-conference deal that was agreed upon with Boston College when Keno Davis sat in the coach’s chair at Providence College is like the yogurt you’ve completely forgotten about. The expiration date has come and gone following Tuesday’s 100-95 overtime thriller that was checked off in PC’s win column.
The same premise can also be applied to another all-New England series that like life, death, and taxes, you’ve come to expect this team to appear on the Friars’ schedule.
When the University of Massachusetts visits the Dunkin’ Donuts Center for tonight’s 7 o’clock contest, it will mark the conclusion of a two-year deal. Since 2012-13, PC and UMass have met every season.
“Possibly. You never know what can happen in the future,” said Brian Blaney, the PC assistant coach on Ed Cooley’s staff who’s in-charge of putting the non-conference schedule together, in response to securing a deal with the Minutemen for future seasons.
On the surface, it would appear Blaney has two non-conference holes to fill. One of those spots is being reserved for the still-unnamed series that starting in 2019-20 will feature the Big East taking on schools hailing from the Big 12.
Unlike the Gavitt Games that began in 2015, expires in 2022, and pits the Big East against the Big Ten, none of the Big East or Big 12 teams will miss a turn during the duration of the four-year deal between the conferences. The Friars sat out this year’s Gavitt Games after participating in each of the first three years.
At a time when new metrics are being used to help map out the NCAA Tournament field – hello NCAA Evaluation Tool, adios Ratings Percentage Index – Blaney was asked about the importance of attaching New England programs like Boston College and UMass to PC’s docket.
“I think that’s why they signed that 10-year contract [with BC]. They wanted those games,” said Blaney. “We’re going to try to continue them, but each school has to agree. It’s got to work out. The additions of these conference challenges make it a little bit harder, but you still try to do it.”
For the past several years, Blaney’s pre-Big East task has been simplified thanks to a built-in template that has led to additional avenues in helping the Friars pass the strength-of-schedule test. Think along the lines of facing Kentucky in consecutive seasons (2013 & 2014) or one-game neutral site contests against Miami (2014) and Houston (2017).
You get the ball rolling with games against URI, BC, and UMass, then add an in-season tournament that has the possibility of providing upwards of four games, then go about the process of filling in the remaining blanks. In addition, there are travel benefits that come with playing regional games.
“It really hasn’t been that hard,” said Blaney. “After the BC game [on Tuesday night], you’re back home in 50 minutes. That’s awesome. It’s also good for the players as far as school and classes the next morning.”
The Friars would like to start another attractive home-and-home series beginning with the 2019-20 season, which will see Texas come to The Dunk as part of a two-year contractual obligation. The first matchup between the Friars and Longhorns takes place in two weeks in Austin.
“We really haven’t gotten that far yet,” said Blaney. “As of today [neither BC nor UMass are part of the 2019 non-conference itinerary], but I’m not done with the scheduling. That could change. I still have an open spot for a high major team.”
Does that mean the door is open to strike up something with former Big East dance partner UConn?
“We would like to play them, but it has to match up. We tried this year and it definitely didn’t match up,” said Blaney. “We’ll continue to try.”
A reminder that a year ago, the Friars took the court against the Minutemen minus Maliek White and Alpha Diallo. Luwane Pipkins had complete run of the hardwood inside the Mullins Center on his way to scoring 30 points in a 72-63 win for UMass.
How will the Friars fare in the rematch with Pipkins, who these days as a junior is averaging 19.9 ppg? With the URI and Boston College games in the books, let’s examine how PC enjoyed the upper hand against two guards who tasted success against last season’s Friar edition.
Fatts Russell, URI
Last season against the Friars: 7-14 shooting (2-6 from three), 20 points
This season against the Friars: 2-12 shooting (1-5 from three), six points
Ky Bowman, Boston College Last season against the Friars: 8-17 shooting (2-6 from three), 19 points
This season against the Friars: 6-19 shooting (0-6 from three), 17 points
The conclusion drawn? The Friars this season have a clear-cut size advantage in the backcourt with freshmen David Duke (6-foot-5) and A.J. Reeves (6foot-6). The size of each freshman has been a noticeable asset when it comes to keeping smaller guards like BC’s Bowman (6-foot-1) and URI’s Russell (5-foot-10) under wraps. UMass lists Pipkins at 5-foot-11.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03
Maliek White (4) and Providence look for their third victory against a New England opponent in the last seven days when UMass comes to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center tonight at 7. The Friars defeated URI Saturday at home before downing Boston College Tuesday night in overtime.
Nate Watson (0) and the Providence Friars host UMass tonight at 7 in the squad’s third contest against a New England foe in the last seven days.