by Thomas Zinzarella ’21
A telltale sign that the Big East basketball season is right around the corner is when Big East media day occurs. The event is usually held at the prestigious Madison Square Garden in New York City, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was held over Zoom this year. Even so, the event still provided hoop fans with a glimpse of what they should expect this upcoming season.
The Providence College Men’s Basketball Team was tabbed to finish third in the Big East Preseason Coaches’ Poll. Last year, Providence was tabbed to finish fourth in that same poll. Villanova University took home the top spot this year and are in line to compete for another National Championship. Friar fans still reminisce on the Luwane Pipkins ’20GS shot at the Wells Fargo Center last February, which led to an upset for the Wildcats on their home floor. Creighton University follows the Wildcats at the No. 2 spot and are also a Final Four-caliber team.
“Somebody’s got to be picked first, and somebody’s got to be picked third and somebody’s to be picked ninth…it’s nice, yet at the end of the day I don’t look at these pre-season rankings as we have 11 high-quality programs that represent the Big East. Night in and night out, it’s going to be a battle…I don’t put a lot of stock into it,” PC head coach Ed Cooley stated.
Another major focus of the media day was the University of Connecticut. UConn will make their much-anticipated debut in the Big East after returning from their exodus to the American Athletic Conference. UConn was one of the founding members of the Big East in 1979, along with PC, St. John’s University, Georgetown University, and Seton Hall University.
The return of UConn also restores a rivalry between the Huskies and the Friars in many different ways. The Huskies’ current head coach is Danny Hurley. Hurley, part of the famous Hurley family coaching tree, was a standout player at Seton Hall and is also the former head coach of the University of Rhode Island. Hurley helped turn the URI program into a powerful mid-major team in the Atlantic-10 Conference. After the Rams won just eight games in his first season, Hurley would eventually lead the Rams to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances.
“[We’re] excited to have Connecticut back as it’s a regional game for us, they’re an original Big East member. …It’s going to be exciting to compete, to go to Gampbel [UConn’s arena] and or Hartford. …The fan bases on both sides will be excited,” Cooley said. UConn is seen as a blue-chip program in the college basketball community, as they have won four National Championships in their program history.
A pair of Friars also picked up pre-season honors. David Duke ’22 was named to the Preseason All-Big East First Team. Duke received high praise from Cooley, who said, “David is the hardest working player I have ever coached in the gym. I’ve been coaching for 28 years…[and he is] one of the best if not the best defenders in the country.” Nate Watson ’21 was also named to the Preseason All-Big East Second Team.
Indeed, media day proved to be an exciting day for all involved. It also means that we are one step closer to the return of college basketball.