PC faces tough test tonight

UMass will likely chal­lenge the Fri­ars

Pawtucket Times - - FRONT PAGE - By BREN­DAN McGAIR bm­c­[email protected]­tuck­et­times.com

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

File photo by Ernest A. Brown

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.

File photo by Ernest A. Brown

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.

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