Providence College Investigates
Who Will Win the Big East Tournament?
Will Murphy ’23
As March Madness rapidly approaches, one of the most highly anticipated conference tournaments this year is the Big East Tournament, taking place in Madison Square Garden March 9-12.
The Big East has been one of the premier conferences in college basketball all year and is projected to have upwards of six NCAA Tournament teams. That should make for an action-packed week in New York City.
The Providence College Friars enter the tournament atop the conference, as regular-season champs. The Friars have been one of the best in the nation in close games down the stretch. Many analysts have attributed this to luck, but the experience of the Friars has benefitted them time and time again.
The Friars will also be riding high on the momentum from winning the Big East regular-season title for the first time in program history.
Graduate transfer Al Durham ’22 has run the point for the Friars with the calm demeanor necessary to win close games in the always competitive Big East.
Big man Nate Watson ’22 has been one of the best centers in the country all year for the Friars, and his physicality wears our opponents.
AJ Reeves ’22 is another experienced Friar, one who has the potential for an offensive explosion each game. His three-point shooting will be key in the Big East Tournament, as the offense opens for the rest of the team when he can knock down threes.
Jared Bynum ’23 has come on incredibly strong, recently winning Big East Player of the Week twice during conference play. His presence off the bench will also be key for the Friars as he provides instant offense that few other players within the conference can match.
Noah Horchler ’22 is another crucial player for the Friars whose experience will be invaluable during tournament play. His defense has improved significantly from last year, and his rebounding should help the Friars limit their opponents to only one shot per possession in the tournament.
Justin Minaya ’22 is one of the best defensive stoppers in the nation. His versatility on defense has been a significant factor to the Friars’ success, and his ability to guard the opposing team’s best player is a reason the Friars are such a threat to win the tournament.
Ed Croswell ’22 is another player who has made great improvements since last year’s campaign, and his energy has been critical to the team’s success all year.
Overall, the Friars’ combination of depth, experience, and defensive prowess will result in them being crowned the Big East Regular Season and Tournament champions.
Luke Sweeney ’24
Tuesday, March 1 marks the official end of the historic 2022 regular season for the Providence College Men’s Basketball team. In their final game, they faced off against the Villanova Wildcats at the Finneran Pavilion in Villanova, PA. In a close contest once again, the Wildcats came up victorious, 76-74, to sweep the season series.
For those who have followed Big East basketball this season, Providence and Villanova have consistently been on top of the pack and have proved that they have the players and team ability to go head-to-head with some of the toughest teams in the nation. Coach Ed Cooley and the Friars made history on Saturday when they beat Creighton University to win Providence’s first Big East regular season championship in program history.
Despite the unprecedented season by the Friars, Villanova is still a dangerous team which has the potential to go far in both the Big East Tournament as well as the NCAA Tournament in mid-March. With a stacked lineup of extremely efficient shooters, including the NBA prospect Collin Gillespie, it is hard to find a team in the NCAA that the Wildcats cannot keep up with.
One of the biggest elements of tournament play in men’s college basketball is experience. A team with age and experience in big-time games is almost as important as a team’s record in the current year. Experience is something that Villanova seldomly lacks, year in and year out. Fifth-year point guard Gillespie was last year’s Big East Player of The Year and has a national championship under his belt. Fellow fifth-year and Massachusetts native Jalen Samuels also has a national championship ring and has had an outstanding year defensively. If they can use their age and depth in the right ways during the Big East Tournament, it is hard to imagine a scenario where the Wildcats won’t win it all.
Head coach Jay Wright has had an incredible career with Villanova thus far, and hopes to add to his trophy collection when he and his team travel to Madison Square Garden this year. Since his first year as head coach, he has achieved a 490-189 record (72.2 winning percentage), including a wildly impressive 30-15 record in the NCAA tournament. He will without a doubt be inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame by the end of his career.
Lastly, the Villanova Wildcats have played out the no. 4-ranked strength of schedule during the 2021-2022 regular season, including hard fought battles against top-ranked opponents such as PC and Purdue University. It will most definitely be interesting to see how the Big East Tournament pans out, but I am picking the Villanova Wildcats to hoist the trophy.
Luke Sweeney ’24
The Providence College Men’s Basketball Team started their preseason this week against head coach Ed Cooley’s alma mater, Stonehill College. The team played well as they eased into competition with a Division II school that they have started their season with since the arrival of Cooley as head coach. The Friars beat the Skyhawks 96-71 and were able to see their entire bench play. The team will start their regular season on Tuesday, Nov. 9 against Fairfield University, and then play two days later on Nov. 11 against Sacred Heart University. Both home games help the Friars prepare for their first major test against the University of Wisconsin on Nov. 15.
The Providence College Men’s Soccer Team won at home on Saturday, Oct. 23, taking down unranked University of Connecticut 2-1. PC took the first lead of the game thanks to a goal from Luis Garcia ‘23, but the Huskies equalized following a goal from Okem Chime. Providence’s Brendan McSorley assisted Kevin Vang for the game winning goal in the 87th minute. The team will take on Villanova University on Saturday, Oct. 30 on Chapey Field.
Women’s Ice Hockey:
The Providence College Women’s Hockey Team has been off to a hot start this season with a 3-1-2 record. The team currently sits at a ranking of No. 11 in the country and looks to move up as the season progresses. Losing to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Saturday put the team back a bit, but they look to rebound on Sunday, Oct. 31 against Boston University at home.
The Providence College Women’s Soccer Team had a strong week, as they played the University of Connecticut Huskies on Thursday, Oct. 21, and then the University of DePaul Blue Demons on Sunday, Oct. 24. The Friars tied to UConn 1-1 and then beat DePaul 1-0. The win against DePaul came in double overtime after a close game all the way through. Fifth year senior Amber Birchwell scored the game-winning goal off an assist from sophomore Meg Hughes. They will play Seton Hall on Thursday, Oct. 28 at Chapey Field for the team’s senior night.
The Boys are Back
Friars Ready to Pick-Up the Pace
By Jack Belanger ’21
It would be an understatement to say it has been a tough past two years for center Emmitt Holt ‘19GS who has dealt with many ups and downs during his time at Providence College. After having a successful 2016-17 season, Holt suffered an abdominal injury that caused him to miss the entire 2017-18 season. Despite getting a full year to recover, he would only appear in six games the next season and would eventually red shirt once again to gain a sixth year of eligibility.
That made the moment all the more special when the home crowd gave Holt a standing ovation when he checked into the game for the first time in the opening half against Sacred Heart University. He brought the crowd to its feet shortly after when he made his first shot behind the three-point line. His play helped spark the Friars to jump out to an early lead that they would not relinquish for the entire game, beating the Pioneers 106-60. After the game, Holt spoke on the standing ovation he received.
“It was a great moment for me and my teammates. It’s great to be recognized for all the hard work I’ve been putting in at practice.”
Head Coach Ed Cooley was also really happy to see his veteran to come back after two years that challenged Holt mentally and physically.
“I was really proud to see Emmitt out there and how the crowd reacts to him.”
It was a dominant performance on both ends of the court for the Friars, a pleasing sight for a team that finished last season 7-11 in the Big East. Seven players scored in double figures for the team, led by Alpha Diallo ’20 with 19 to go along with his team-leading 14 rebounds. The team also showed a willingness to share the ball, witnessed by 31 assists on 39 buckets.
Coach Cooley raved about how experienced the team will be this year, noting that sophomores A.J. Reeves ’22 and David Duke ’22 have matured a lot since last year. The two combined for 26 points, 12 assists, and, most importantly, no turnovers.
Newcomer Luwane Pipkens ’19GS got the start in his first game for the team. The former University of Massachusetts-Amherst guard came out firing on all cylinders, scoring 11 points in the first half with five assists. He also showed off on the defensive end with three steals throughout the night — an effort that sparked the team emotionally.
“It’s a blessing for me,” Pipkens said on coming to PC. “I’m enjoying myself. I’m happy to be here and try to win some games.”
Going into halftime, the Friars nearly doubled the Pioneers’ score, leading 59-30, as Diallo, Pipkens, and Holt all had 11 or more points. Top recruit Greg Gantt ’23 entered the game with about four minutes left in the half and scored his first college points on a fadeaway a minute later. He would hit the first three shots of his career and finish with seven points.
“He has an ‘it’ factor,” Cooley said of the freshman. “He has a very active body. He has never worked this hard in his life.”
PC’s defense put together a complete 40-minute effort that stifled anything Sacred Heart was trying to do with the ball. Holt and Kalif Young ‘20 provided the Friars with strong interior defense that held Sacred Heart to only 24 points in the paint and 32.2 percent shooting from the floor. Young, who got the start in place of the injured Nate Watson ’21, recorded two blocks and steals apiece and after the game was praised by Cooley as one of the best defenders in the country.
In the second half, the Friars raised their intensity on defense and extended their lead to 49 points at one point. PC scored 30 points off of 19 turnovers. The team also pushed the pace on offense, highlighted by the team’s 16 fast break points, which is a new change Cooley plans to emphasize this season.
“We want to try to score off our defense more. Normally some of our teams have played a little slower; we are trying to be one of the fastest teams in the country endline-to-endline.”
With such a deep team this year, Cooley is not worried about wearing his team down early on.
As PC was able to extend their lead late in the game, Cooley was able to give his bench some extended minutes as nine players got 10-plus minutes of action. Even walk-ons Drew Fonts ’21 and Tommy Dempsey ’23 got multiple minutes at the end of the game. Fonts took advantage of the extended minutes and scored five points and recorded an assist.
The Friars will now prepare for their next game against New Jersey Institute of Technology on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. The game will once again be at home and PC will be looking to start the season 2-0. Cooley and the team hope Jimmy Nichols ‘22 will be able to return after he was not feeling well enough to play in the home opener.
Providence College Investigates
School Prepares Athletes off the Court
By Sullivan Burgess ’20
High school basketball players who are highly ranked and have the potential to become part of the NBA are given the choice to take their talents overseas to be paid to play, or to simply go to college. Ultimately, the best option for these players is to remain in the United States and go to college after their high school careers.
While for some players, the one-and-done option is appealing so they can simply go straight to the professional league, there are still plenty that consider the advantages of what a college experience can give to a player.
First and foremost is an education. A college program in the United States can give these athletes the proper tools they need to further their lives beyond the game of basketball. An education can provide the players with benfits far beyond those that any athlete can receive. These include the presence of professors at certain top tier schools, the ability to access the latest technology, and even the access to on-campus academic reasources.
Second, players can become associated with the booster clubs of the schools and develop connections where they meet agents and financial advisors who will help them have financial security during and after their careers.
When looking at some of the best players in the NBA, one notices the trend of All-Stars entering the league straight out of the NCAA, whereas some of the players who are coming from overseas often do not have the talent to stay on an NBA roster. These players include Brandon Jennings as well as Emmanuel Mudiay. On the other hand, players from college develop professional skills in the NCAA, which allows for a smooth transition into the NBA. Since much of the top-tier talent in college goes onto the NBA, college basketball is a much better indicator for who will succeed at the next level.
Last but certainly not least, nothing beats the school spirit the players embrace on campus, especially at schools such as Providence College, where everyone knows everyone, and students develop personal connections to the players. Players who choose to go overseas rather than to college miss out on the education and personal relationships NCAA players receive.
Providence College Investigates
Going Overseas Compensates The Players
By Thomas Zinzarella ’21
Top high school basketball players are caught in limbo in the fall and winter months of the year as they decide where they want to spend their college career and play basketball. But athletes looking to be paid for playing have another option—playing overseas.
For years, players could choose to come out of high school and go straight into the NBA or spend four years in college and play basketball. This changed in the 2005 NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement after a group of players from 1995-2005 headed straight from walking around their high school to making millions in the NBA Draft. The likes of Kevin Garnett, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, and others all followed this route.
In 2005, the one-and-done rule was created in which players only had to play one year in college before entering the draft. The rule was created to deter players from going straight to the NBA after high school. The minimum age to enter the NBA was also increased to 20 years old.
Playing overseas is far better than playing in the NCAA for many reasons. Players want to be compensated for their efforts rather than feel cheated from the system that is the NCAA.
Many college basketball players come from poor urban areas and want to make money playing professional basketball. For many players, the biggest problem is that the NCAA makes an estimated $700 million every time March Madness rolls around. Forty percent of these profits are kept by the NCAA and the rest is given to the schools who participated. Just for making the NCAA tournament, a school receives a check of $1.67 million. A Sweet 16 run gives a school a $5 million dollar bonus. A Final Four run yields the most: $8.3 million.
After all the celebration is done, a handful of players come away with a championship and some memories made (along) the way, but their wallets are still empty, while their school profits on their talents.
According to the NCAA’s website, an athlete is not eligible to participate in a sport if they have “taken pay, or the promise of pay, for competing in that sport. [Bylaw 12.1.2] or agreed (orally or in writing) to compete in professional athletics in that sport.”
Rules such as these have prevented many athletes from playing. Some players have taken matter into their own hands and gone into professional leagues in hopes of jumping to the NBA.
Mitchell Robinson, a McDonald’s All-American in high school, played a few months with Western Kentucky University before dropping out and preparing for the NBA Draft. Robinson averaged 7.3 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game this year for the New York Knicks in his rookie campaign.
Anfernee Simons chose to play five years in high school and was drafted in first round by Portland Trail Blazers. There have been a number of stories in the last four to five years of players skipping college in favor of going professional right away in other countries.
Keeping Up With the Ball Family
By Sullivan Burgess ’20
If you are watching the news, ESPN, Fox Sports, or any other media outlet, you are subjected to keeping tabs on the NBA’s newest and most controversial basketball family, otherwise known as the Ball family. Here is the million dollar question: is this family worth the hype or attention?
Let us start with the oldest of the brothers, Lonzo: as the second pick of the 2017 NBA Draft, there were high hopes in Laker Nation as Magic Johnson, the President of Basketball Operations for the team, put his trust into Lonzo to be the future of the team. Currently, Lonzo is averaging 10.2 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game, and 7.1 assists per game, shooting 35.6 percent from the field, and remains sixth in the midseason rankings of NBA Rookie of the Year as the Lakers remain 15-28 in the west at 12th place.
Throughout this season, we have seen the head of the family, Lonzo’s father, Lavar Ball, continue constant off-court drama including his negative words against Lakers Head Coach Luke Walton, saying, “Luke doesn’t have control of the team no more. They don’t want to play for him.”
This ongoing behavior against his son’s coaches has a long history, including pulling the youngest brother of the three, LaMelo, from his last two years of high school due to the father’s differences with the coach, as well as wanting him to receive the best training possible for his future career.
LaMelo, who withdrew his scholarship from UCLA, now plays overseas with the Vytautas Prienai-Birštonas of the Lithuanian Basketball League alongside his older brother and middle child LiAngelo Ball, who signed after he left UCLA to avoid a long-term suspension after being arrested.
As reported in the news, LiAngelo was arrested for shoplifting in China alongside two other UCLA players, who still remain suspended from the team. This story resulted in the still ongoing feud between Lavar and President Trump over Lavar’s comments on the President’s involvement with his son and the other two players. LaMelo and LiAngelo debuted in Lithuania on Jan. 13 of this year, making LaMelo the youngest professional player of the sport at 16 years old, as well as the youngest athlete to have his own signature shoe of the Big Baller Brand, the second of the signature shoe line of the family including Lonzo’s ZO 2s, which came out over the summer of 2017.
The team lost 95-86 to the Lietkabelis Panevezys as the brothers were scoreless in the minutes they played, combining for 0-7 in shooting. This summer, Lavar is expected to begin a Junior Basketball League, in which top prospect players can choose to play professionally to avoid being labeled one and done in the NCAA, with player salaries ranging from $3,000 to $10,000. Now that you know all of their actions, you can decide if the family is worth the hype.
Athlete of the Week: Kyron Cartwright
by Jeff Williams ’17
After a tough overtime loss to Seton Hall on Feb. 8, the Providence College Men’s Basketball Team had lost four of their last five games and were 4-9 after a great 10-2 start to the season. At 14-11 overall and 4-8 in the Big East, the future looked bleak for the Friar men. Since then however, PC has gone on an absolute tear, winning their last five games versus Butler, Xavier, Creighton, Marquette, and DePaul.
Kyron Cartwright ’18 and his teammates have risen to the occasion as the Friar engine roared to life. As the straw that stirs the drink, the floor general is a no-brainer for “Athlete of the Week.” He has done an exceptional job of stepping up as a leader after the departures of Kris Dunn ’16 and Ben Bentil ’18 to the NBA, an accomplishment he credits to having “confidence, [and] getting other people to believe in you.”
Cartwright is the school’s first ever sports media major, a discipline he is very enthusiastic about. “Hopefully, one day I can be a sports broadcaster. These are great people to be around.” While he enjoys being here in Providence, the proud California native does not enjoy Rhode Island drivers, whom he describes as “crazy.”
Despite the seemingly daunting odds, Cartwright and the team never gave up. As he reiterates, “We just had to focus and bounce back.” On Alumni & Family Weekend, Providence knocked off No. 22 Butler at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, 71-65. Cartwright played 37 minutes, scoring 14 points (including two for four from behind the arc) and dishing out seven assists. Four days later, playing host to Xavier, Cartwright led the way with 17 points and five assists to help mow down the Musketeers, 75-63.
The Friars traveled to Omaha on Feb. 22 to visit the No. 23 Creighton Blue Jays, who beat Providence earlier this year by double digits. The hosts used a 21-1 run to build a steady, consistent lead in the first half, but PC burst out in the second half to get back in the game. Down one point with only a few seconds left, the final play was chaotic. Rodney Bullock ’18 and Isaiah Jackson ’19RS were both heavily covered underneath. Somehow, Jackson managed to spot Cartwright. “Everybody but one got the ball, and Isaiah did a nice job of finding me…I hoped it would go in, and it did.” Cartwright proceeded to knock down a very long three pointer to nab a 68-66 victory.
On Saturday, unseasonably warm temperatures caused the Dunk floor to be dangerously wet and slippery for the game against Marquette. Nonetheless, Cartwright steadily directed his team to a key 73-69 victory, notching 16 points and eight assists. Despite the difficulty that he and his teammates had in staying upright, he aptly points out that, “Both teams had to play with that situation.” Three nights later, he recorded 14 and six on senior night for Casey Woodring ’17. “It was nice to get the win for him,” Cartwright added. The Friars proceeded to cruise by DePaul, 73-64 on Tuesday night.
It’s safe to say that Cartwright has had a breakout year, averaging 11.4 points per game, knocking down nearly 40 percent of his attempts from three point land, and doling out 6.8 assists a night, which is good for first in the Big East and fourth in the country. When pressed about his play, Cartwright is humble, “It’s an honor to be recognized as one of the best.” The Friars next play at St. John’s on Saturday, March 4, and will hope to make a run in the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden, which is March 8-11. Cartwright readily acknowledged that Saturday’s game will be a “classic Big East battle,” and will not think past them; “We’re just focused on St. John’s right now,” said Cartwright. With a five game winning streak and the play of Cartwright, the sky is the limit for the Friars.