By Jack Belanger ’21
It has been a tale of two seasons for the Providence College Men’s Basketball Team. After a successful nonconference schedule in which the team got its 10 wins that they usually strive for and only had one bad loss to University of Massachusetts-Amherst (again), the team has struggled to put together a complete game against their Big East opponents. While many Friar fans are nervous that the team will miss their first NCAA Tournament in six years based on their start in the conference, there is still plenty of time for the team to turn their fortune around. With 12 games left, the Friars can still reach the 10 conference wins needed to put themselves in a position to be called on Selection Sunday. Here is what needs to happen:
1. A.J. Reeves ’22 returns to form quickly.
The offense just has not looked the same ever since Reeves went down with a foot injury in early December. While Alpha Diallo ’20 may be the team’s most versatile player on the offensive end, Reeves has simply been the best shooter on a team that has struggled to find success behind the arc. He leads the team in shooting from three with 45.3 percent and has made the second most threes on the team despite missing nine games. Until the star freshman makes his return, it will be hard to win a shootout versus teams like Marquette University.
2. Get one win between Marquette and Villanova University.
Even if the Friars reach 10 wins in the conference, the selection committee always will look at what teams you beat. Right now the team is missing that key signature win that will put them above other teams. While wins over Power-Five Conference teams like the University of South Carolina and the University of Texas are solid, neither team is a top team in their respective conference. Last season, the Friars got two big wins over ranked teams in Villanova and Xavier University. With a much tougher nonconference schedule this year than last, one win over the top of the Big East will go a long way for the Friars.
3. A team or two needs to falter down the stretch.
The yearly theme in the Big East is that every game will be a dogfight and there will be no easy wins to come by. That theme never has been truer than this season. After Marquette and Villanova, no team currently has a winning conference record. So while the Friars may only be less than two games behind third place, they need to jump above several teams to get back into the top half of the league. Having more than three teams finish at 10-8 might mean that one of those teams will be left out. Friars are going to need to sweep usual contenders such at Butler University and Xavier and hope those teams fall below .500 at the end of the season.