By Jack Belanger ’21
This upcoming Friday was supposed to be the first test of the year. If things went the way they should have, the Providence College Men’s Basketball Team would be 9-0 (or at the very least 7-2) with momentum going into their game against the University of Rhode Island Rams at the Ryan Center. A tough loss would not have been a season-ending blow and the team could use the game as motivation against the University of Florida and the University of Texas.
Instead, the Friars sit at 5-4 with bad losses to mid-major teams such as Long Beach State University and the College of Charleston. Even the loss to Big Ten Conference opponent Northwestern University is not great considering the Wildcats were not expected to be competitive. This team has struggled to finish games when their opponents show some fight in the second half (even the Pepperdine University game was too close).
Now, the Friars are walking a tight rope for any hope of returning to the NCAA Tournament. Not only does the team have to avoid anymore bad losses, they are going to have to win some games they will not be favored in like against Villanova University or Seton Hall University. Before the team can even think about Big East play, they need to take care of business against their in-state rival.
While the season up until this point has been unspectacular, the Friars can use this game against the Rams as a turning point for their season. This will be the first game where PC will be playing in front of a hostile crowd that will surely pack the gym on Friday. The Rams themselves are 5-3, but are battle-tested. Their three losses have come at the hands of Power-5 schools University of Maryland, Louisiana State University, and the University of West Virginia. Needless to say URI will be itching to prove that they can beat the Friars.
The season is far from over but the team needs to build a winning streak going into the conference schedule to give themselves some breathing room. Last season the Friars were 10-3 going into Big East play and still finished 18-16 overall. This team has the talent to compete—CBS sportswriter Matt Norlander ranked PC as the 15th best team during the preseason.
One last thought on changes that need to be made: it is time for Greg Gantt ’23 to get more minutes. Last season, head coach Ed Cooley was willing to give big time minutes to A.J. Reeves ‘22 and David Duke ‘22 as freshmen and he needs to again. Gantt is averaging 4.1 points per game while playing in just 10 minutes per game, and shooting 60 percent from the field. Maybe it is because of the small sample size, but that is much more efficient than starting guard Luwane Pipkins ’20G who is shooting 29.5 percent overall and only scoring 8.8 points per game.
Cooley will have had almost a full week to prepare for this game. Now is the time to make the necessary adjustments if he wants his team to be playing meaningful games come March.