Leo Hainline ’22
On Monday, April 4, the Providence College Friars will be the team cutting down the net in New Orleans.
This team is the toughest in the nation. Defensively, the Friars are elite and have a standout player in Justin Minaya ’22GS who can guard all five positions. His ability to stifle the opposition’s best offensive threat combined with his relentless rebounding on both the offensive and defensive ends makes him indispensable to this Friars team. He sets the tone with his energy and is a player any coach would love to have.
The Friars are well-balanced offensively. Four members of the starting five, and Big East Sixth Man of the Year Jared Bynum ’23, are all threats from beyond the arch. Nate Watson ’22GS and Ed Croswell ’23 are dominant big men who can change the game through merely their presence on the court. They are a tough team to guard given each player has the ability to rise to the occasion and get themselves a bucket.
Additionally, whenever one Friar is struggling, another steps up and helps lead the team to victory. Each player is unfazed by big moments yet knows their individual roles, making the right plays at the right moment. The unselfish yet assertive dynamic on the offensive end, especially in close games, is a key reason why PC will prevail in this tournament.
Coach Cooley has also done a phenomenal job leading this team both on and off the court. His preparations and in-game decisions have been a massive factor in the Friars’ success and he deserves to be named Coach of the Year. The Big East is arguably the most competitive conference in the nation and winning the Regular Season Championship is a significant accomplishment. Players are the ones who ultimately decide games, but Cooley’s ability to prepare his men and to manage any situation on the sidelines gives the Friars an edge over their opponents.
Among all else, this Friars team never gets rattled. They are mature and remain calm in adversity. Numerous times this season, most notably at Hickle Fieldhouse playing Butler University when the Friars faced a 19-point second-half deficit, they battled their way from behind to win. Their energy and communication with each other are arguably the best in college basketball. PC emulates what true teamwork entails and their composure under pressure has been and will continue to be a driving force of their success.
The energy surrounding this team is unmatched. No student body and administration are more collectively passionate about their basketball program. The players and fans are eager to prove doubters wrong. PC has a chip on our shoulders and is eager to continue this statement season. The support from the Providence College community will only further elevate this team towards a national title.
God bless, go Friars.
Stephen Foster ’22
When I look at the group of teams assembled this year in Division I Men’s College Basketball, I see a lot of teams with talented interior and exterior offense and defense. However, one team stands out from the rest: Gonzaga University, the 2021 March Madness Runner-Up.
The Bulldogs are the favorite to win it all this year, and for good reason. According to ESPN, Gonzaga is in the top ten for both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. They finished the regular season as the No. 1 team in the nation after a strong late season push. In the first four hours after the 2022 tournament bracket was determined, 34.5 percent of brackets in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge picked Gonzaga to win it all.
Gonzaga has an overall record of 26-3 and a West Coast Conference record of 13-1 this season. They have only lost to No. 2 seed Duke University (28-6 overall, No. 1 in Atlantic Coast Conference), No. 5 seed Saint Mary’s College (25-7 overall, lost to Gonzaga in WCC Tournament), and No. 6 seed University of Alabama (19-13 overall).They are led by two strong candidates for the John R. Wooden Award, which is awarded to college basketball’s most outstanding player.
Drew Timme ’23 is a 6’10” forward for the Bulldogs who averaged 17.5 PPG (points per game) and 6.3 RPG (rebounds per game). Timme picked up the West Coast Conference’s player of the year award this season. Chet Holmgren ’25 rises up at 7’1” and is another inside force for Gonzaga. The center leads the interior defense for the team with 9.6 RPG and 3.4 BPG, as well as contributing extensively on offense with 14.2 PPG and shooting 41.3 percent from three-point land (3PT). He won the defensive player of the year award and is projected to lead the NBA draft class next year.
The Bulldogs starting lineup as a whole is a force to be reckoned with, as all five starters average double-digit scoring. In addition, four out of five starters shoot over 36.5 percent on three-point attempts. These players include Holmgren, Julian Strawther ’24 (12.2 PPG, 39.6% 3PT), Andrew Nembhard ’22 (11.7 PPG, 36.5% 3PT, 5.7 assists per game), and sharpshooter Rasir Bolton ’22 (11.2 PPG, 46.7% 3PT).
Although the path to the March Madness Finals is undoubtedly challenging, Gonzaga University will have the best chances to reach the end. They have a unique combination of offensive and defensive talent that prevents them from lacking in any area of the game. Gonzaga has reached the national title game in two of the past four NCAA tournaments. This year will make that three of five, with a national championship to go along with it.