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.
Minaya Continues to Shine for PC
Friars Transfer Earns Big East Player of the Week
Justin Bishop ’24
The Providence College Men’s Basketball team has been one of the hottest teams this year, currently on a seven-game win streak having won 15 of their last 16. The team, as of Wednesday, Feb. 9,, sits at 20-2 overall and are 10-1 against opponents in the Big East Conference while being ranked 11 in the country. The updated rankings, by the Associated Press, are released every Monday and the Friars will certainly rise in the rankings. Multiple teams ranked ahead of Providence lost over the past week along with the team’s 86-82 win over St. John’s University and their 71-52 thrashing of Big East bottom feeder Georgetown University this week.
Since the last Friars basketball recap, the team took on two ranked conference rivals in No. 21 Xavier University and No. 22 Marquette University. Providence survived both teams but did not go without any excitement, as a clutch Jared Bynum three-pointer with 1.5 seconds left lifted the Friars past the Musketeers 65-62. The team effort of graduate student Al Durham’s 22 points, Noah Horchler ’21’s 11 rebounds, and Justin Minaya ’21’s four blocks was able to muscle past a disciplined Xavier team. If the three-point margin of victory was not close enough for you, the Friars slipped past the 22nd-ranked team in the country again putting up 65 points, but this time allowing 63 points. The 65-63 win for Providence was thanks in part to Nate Watson ’21’s 17 points and Horchler’s double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Although the Friars improved to 10-1 in Big East Play and 20-2 overall this week, the big story from the team was transfer grad student Justin Minaya being named Big East player of the Week. Minaya, who transferred from the University of South Carolina this past off-season, averaged 10 points and six rebounds while playing the entirety of both games, 80 total minutes, where the Friars beat Xavier and Marquette. Minaya also shot 50 percent from three point range and played lock-down defense against everyone he guarded, including Marquette’s star player, Justin Lewis. “All credit to my teammates and Coach Cooley to allow me to play that well and that much…” Minaya said during the interview we had this week. “The biggest thing is that we got the two wins this week, and it’s also an honor to be recognized as the player of the week in a great conference like the Big East,” Minaya said.
This is exactly what Head Coach Ed Cooley had in mind when recruiting Minaya when he entered the transfer portal. “I could tell it was time for a change,” Minaya said. He mentioned that Coach Cooley was heavily involved in the recruiting process: “I had a great relationship with Coach Cooley and felt great when deciding to come [to Providence], plus it’s close to home” said the New Jersey native. When asked about the specific reason for choosing PC over other schools, the fifth year said, “I felt I could complement great players like Nate [Watson] and shooters like A.J. [Reeves] and be a fifth of this team.”
The grad student, son of former New York Mets’ general manager Omar Minaya, played at South Carolina all four years but suffered a knee injury early in his second season which sidelined him for the entirety of that season. Justin was a reliable piece during his time at USC but has found that he is playing his best here at PC. With a hand injury to A.J. Reeves ’22, Minaya stepped up and has started every game since then, averaging 8.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.0 block, and shooting 47 percent from three over those 12 games.
Recently, Justin was snubbed of the Naismith Top 15 Defensive Players list—and that is the correct use of the word “snubbed.” The college basketball writers released their consensus list of the top 15 defensive players in the country this year, and Providence’s Justin Minaya was not on it. Coach Cooley was furious about this, and rightly so. “I do not know if [the writers] watch the Big East or if it’s about the steals… it’s about who impacts the game defensively,” Cooley said in a press conference on Sunday, Jan. 30. “For [Justin Minaya] to not be in the top 15 or top five is an absolute joke,” and finally, “Open your eyes,” he said to the writers who were listening and watching the press conference.
When asked what it meant to have Coach Cooley stick up for him publicly, Minaya responded by saying, “To have Coach Cooley stick up for me publicly and go in front of the media and say those things, I know he has my back, and it means the world to me that he would say those things publicly.”
Justin also added that the home court advantage at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center is unlike anything he has been a part of. “We are so appreciative of the fans and how much energy we are able to feed off of as players,” said Minaya. “You definitely felt it at that last Marquette game, just the level of energy in the building is such an advantage.” Coach Cooley has also praised the crowd after every home game and credits some wins to the fans because of how they impact the game.
“We are coming for that Big East Championship, but we just want to go 1-0 every day and get better as a team,” Minaya responded regarding the goals he and the team have for the rest of the season. The 20-2 Friars are a projected four seed in the National Tournament as of Sunday, Feb. 6, but this will most likely change throughout the rest of the season and how the Big East Conference tournament plays out.
The Providence College Men’s Basketball team takes on DePaul University on Saturday, Feb. 12 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
Big East Basketball Preview
Potential for a Year to Remember
Will Murphy ’23
The Big East is perennially one of the best conferences in college basketball, and this year’s Conference looks very deep from top to bottom. Villanova University figures to be a title contender between their experienced group of returning upperclassmen and their strong class of freshmen. In particular, look for fifth-year guard Collin Gillespie to lead the team and potentially play his way into an All-American selection. If the Wildcats can stay healthy, they should be a legitimate Final Four threat.
In their second year since their return to the Big East, University of Connecticut is a team that could challenge Villanova for the top spot within the conference. Despite losing star guard James Bouknight to the NBA, the Huskies have room to improve on last year’s strong showing. A trio of freshmen, led by top 50 recruit Samson Johnson, should be able to replace a good chunk of Bouknight’s production, while the returning upperclassmen, like R.J. Cole, are allowed to step up and shoulder more of the playmaking responsibilities.
Seton Hall University, led by head coach Kevin Willard, is another team that is consistent atop the standings in the Big East. Look for Bryce Aiken to take a big step forward in his second year at Seton Hall, as he will be one of the strongest guards in the conference, and form a formidable backcourt pairing with Syracuse transfer Kadary Richmond.
A team that could surprise some people with a top-three finish in the conference this year is Butler University. Last year, Butler had one of the youngest rotations in the country, and their star point guard and leader, Aaron Thompson, battled injuries all year. With Thompson returning for his fifth year, alongside sophomore guard Chuck Harris, the Bulldogs should bounce back from last year’s disappointment.
Another solid team that may be a top three finish is Providence College. The Friars return one of the best big men in the country in Nate Watson ’21GS, who should be able to dominate in the post and on the glass. One thing to look for is the potential addition of a more reliable jumper for Watson which would make the already imposing big man nearly unstoppable. The X-Factor for Friars should be Brycen Goodine ’23, a sharp-shooting guard with serious bounce. If Goodine can break out for Providence and Watson takes a step forward with his jumper the Friars could be poised for a run into the NCAA tournament.
The Xavier University Musketeers is another team that should be battling for a position in the middle of the pack in the deep Big East. The Musketeers return their top seven scorers from last year’s team and are hoping that experience can give them an edge this year. Zach Freemantle is a strong forward with the ability to grab rebounds, score, and facilitate offense for his teammates out of the post. If Paul Scruggs and Freemantle can stay healthy Xavier is another team with realistic NCAA tournament aspirations.
Georgetown University’s run at the end of last year has many people questioning if it was a fluke or not. Led by head coach, Patrick Ewing, Georgetown was a talented bunch, but they did not put it together until the Big East tournament last year, where they rattled off four consecutive wins to win the tournament and secure a bid into the NCAA tournament. This year’s team is looking to build off that positive momentum, despite the departure of their top four scorers from last year. If the Hoyas can have a solid year, it will likely be Dante Harris, a sophomore point guard, stepping up to lead the squad with his ability to get to the rim and create easy offense for others. Another player to watch for Georgetown is freshman Aminu Mohammed, who is projected to be a first-round pick in next year’s NBA Draft. Mohammed will be relied upon to replace a large portion of the scoring that was lost from last year’s squad.
St. John’s University is another team that will be of great interest this year. Head coach Mike Anderson likes to play at one of the fastest paces in the country and relishes speeding other teams up with their high-pressure full-court press. Leading the charge for St. John’s will be Julian Champagnie and Posh Alexander, each of whom should be candidates for the Conference’s player of the year. University of Vermont transfer Stef Smith should provide some much-needed three-point shooting off the bench for the Red Storm.
Creighton will be an intriguing team to watch this year as well, after losing their entire starting lineup from last year. Expect them to struggle early in the year, but considering they have the top-ranked freshman class in the Big East they could put things together as the year progresses. Arthur Kaluma should lead the bunch with his physicality on the defensive end and ability to guard multiple positions. Marquette University could be in line for a bounce-back year following their acquisition of Shaka Smart as head coach. They are going to have to rely heavily on the four transfers that they picked up, namely Darryl Morsel, the reigning Big Ten defensive player of the year. DePaul University should struggle again this year after losing their best player, Charlie Moore, from a team that was unable to find success last year. On the bright side, the Blue Demons do have a promising freshman in Ahamad Bynum, whose versatile skill set should allow him to make an impact immediately.
Embracing the Entrepreneurial Spirit: PC Students Win Big East Startup Challenge
by Hannah Langley ’21
Each year, students from Providence College and other schools within the Big East Conference are invited to participate in the Big East Startup Challenge, in which students can create teams to propose product ideas to an experienced panel of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and Big East alumni.
After competing against 10 other teams, PC students Jacqueline Ryan ’21, Owen Delaney ’22, and Faith Linscott ’21 took home the first-place prize for “UMeal,” an app that allows college students to create their own meal kits at their dining halls based on their preferences. Students can then pick up these kits to make their own meals back in their dorms, suites, apartments, or homes.
Delaney, a finance major and co-president of the entrepreneurship society, began developing UMeal with three other students during last year’s Big East Startup Challenge, but he and his teammates were never able to complete their idea. As Delaney explained, last year’s competition was cut short because of COVID-19, but he partnered with Linscott and Ryan this year to complete the work he and his previous teammates started. “Although my teammates from last year were unable to return,” Delaney explained, “I was lucky enough to be paired with Faith Linscott and Jackie Ryan and we worked great together.”
Linscott, a psychology major, and Ryan, a history major, both have business and innovation minors, which is how they got involved with the challenge. Students with the business and innovation minor at PC are required to take a capstone their senior year in which they use their skill sets to make a mock entrepreneurial business, making this challenge a great fit for Linscott and Ryan. “I loved working on UMeal because I felt like a real entrepreneur,” said Ryan.
Their capstone professor, Dr. Eric Sung, associate professor of photography and director of the minor, recommended the two take on this project with Delaney. Megan A. Chang, assistant professor of voice and diction in the department of theatre, dance, and film; Rebeka Mazzone, a member of the adjunct faculty in finance; Dr. Kathleen A. Cornely, professor of chemistry and biochemistry; and alumni Paul Bachman ’90, Mark Ruggeri ’93, and Christopher Walker ’86 were also involved with the group in various ways.
For the competition, the students developed a prototype for the UMeal app and created a five-minute video about the product, which was then judged by a panel of professionals. With the help of Providence College Television, the group was able to create what they considered to be a fantastic video. “We were extremely lucky to have PCTV join us and help us create an incredible video,” said Delaney. “They took our ideas and script and turned it into a piece of art.”
The team had a great time working on this project together, saying that they learned a lot through the process. “Participating in the competition was fun and educational,” said Linscott. “A key takeaway from the competition is that it takes a cohesive team effort to create a presentation to be proud of; I am happy about all the hard work everybody put in and proud of the result.
Delaney also commented that despite many obstacles along the way, the team was able to persevere. “During the crucial weeks leading up to the competition, me and Jackie both got COVID-19,” he said. “However, we persevered and were able to get a lot done over our Zoom meetings and do some filming on our own in quarantine.”
Delaney also hopes that this competition will inspire others, like himself, who have an interest in entrepreneurship. “I hope that winning this competition inspired other people just like me to continue your passion of entrepreneurship even if it is not what you officially study in school,” he said.
The teammates thanked one another, their faculty advisors, PCTV, alumni mentors, and all others who helped them in the process. “I believe that we were so successful because of the support we received from such passionate people,” said Ryan.
The team hopes that this is not the end for UMeal, and they are excited to see what the future holds for their startup.
Men’s Basketball at Mid-Season
Friars Navigate Through Ups and Downs
by Leo Hainline ’22
The Providence College Men’s Basketball Team simply refuses to produce a dull moment this year. Recent games against Marquette University and Georgetown University have been representative of an entire season full of closely fought battles that go down to the wire.
The Friars are currently projected to be on the outside looking in at the NCAA tournament. However, a strong finish down the stretch could still place PC in the 68-team field. The Friars have been inconsistent in their ability to close out tight games. Five of the Friars’ last seven games have either gone to overtime or have been decided by less than five points.
While PC is 3-0 in overtime games (defeating Seton Hall University, DePaul University, and Marquette), they have fallen short in games against the likes of Xavier University and Georgetown in which they led. These losses will undoubtedly hurt their chances of making the tournament in March. Particularly during the Jan. 30 game against Georgetown, the Friars failed to keep their foot on the gas after being up by 15 at one point in the first half. Losses like the one against the Hoyas can be aggravating, and this frustration is partly because the Friars have so much potential.
David Duke ’22 and Nate Watson ’21 have been the leaders of the team this year. The duo is known as two of the best players not only in the Big East, but also in the entire country. Both players have massively improved from the 2019-2020 season. Watson has even been named as a top-10 finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, which is given to the best center in college basketball.
Neither of the two players are afraid to assert themselves and have dominated on both ends of the court. Much of the Friars’ success is due to their individual contributions. Their most recent game against Georgetown was an outlier: Duke had only five points, and Watson had just five rebounds before fouling out of the game. This loss highlighted just how vital Duke and Watson are to the team’s success, considering that much of their supporting cast showed up to play.
AJ Reeves ’22 played especially well, dropping 28 points while shooting six of 12 from behind the arc. Noah Horchler ’21 also contributed valuable minutes and supplied one of the dunks of the season, posterizing Georgetown center Qudus Wahab with a vicious right-handed slam. Either way, it is clear that Duke and Watson are the centerpieces of the program, and that the Friars will struggle if both have an off day. Fortunately, this is a rare occurrence, and both are in the conversation for making the All-Big East First Team.
A talking point throughout the season has been whether the Friars can find a third star to complement Duke and Watson. During the past two weeks, freshman guard Alyn Breed ’24 has stepped up to fill this role for the team. He replaced Jared Bynum ’23 in the starting lineup after the St. Joseph’s University transfer suffered a groin injury on Jan. 2 against Creighton University. Breed had impressed in limited minutes during non-conference games earlier in the season, and many were optimistic that he could succeed in a more prominent role. It took a couple of games for him to settle into the starting lineup, but he stepped up in the Friars’ rematch against Creighton, a key win against a top-25 ranked team.
Breed backed up his performance by being the Friars’ best player against third-ranked Villanova University. The savvy guard registered 18 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists. In the Friars’ Jan. 27 win against Marquette, Breed came up with clutch offensive and defensive plays down the stretch that were necessary for the Friars to seize the win. While his game-sealing three-pointer against Marquette was his headline moment, he made defensive plays throughout the game including getting a key stop at the end of regulation. He also added a vital steal on a Creighton fast break in overtime.
Jimmy Nichols, Jr. ’22 has also stepped up for the Friars. After redshirting his sophomore year, Nichols has impressed with improvements in all aspects of his game. While his offense has certainly progressed with him shooting over 50 percent from the floor and over 38 percent from downtown, his defense has arguably been the greatest development in his game. Nichols came into Friartown as a lengthy shot-blocker, but now he is dominant in almost all aspects on the defensive end. He moves his feet well and has the ability to cut off quick, smaller players, but he also has the strength to lock up bigger post players too. Nichols’s strong defensive play has landed him a regular spot in the Friars’ starting lineup, and his versatility will be incredibly valuable for the team down the stretch.
PC will only face one currently ranked team during the rest of its regular season, which will take place against Villanova on March 6, the Friars’ regular-season finale. While the team can certainly win the majority of its remaining games, none of them will be easy. Arguably the most enticing games on the schedule are when the Friars play their series against the University of Connecticut. The Huskies are back in the Big East for the first time since 2013, and both sides are excited to resume this classic Northeast rivalry. These games will have huge consequences for both teams, as UConn is currently projected as an eight-seed in the NCAA tournament.
Grabbing two wins against UConn would be a major boost to PC’s tournament ambitions and would certainly give the team momentum going into the final stretch. The Friars also play St. John’s University twice. The Red Storm are a dangerous team despite having a losing record in the Big East. Guard Posh Alexander is an elite defender and one of the best freshmen in the conference. Sweeping both UConn and St. John’s would do wonders for the Friars and would give them a lot of confidence heading into the Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Ultimately, PC has the talent and the ability to make the NCAA tournament. Nichols and Breed’s play this season, complementing the dominance of Duke and Watson, should give optimism to many Friar fans. Reeves’s breakout game against Georgetown gives hope that he, too, can keep up his hot shooting. If the team continues to play well as a unit and acquires a killer instinct when closing out games, they should be able to make a run in the Big East tournament and lock up a spot in the NCAA tournament’s field of 68.
Big East Media Day Goes Virtual
Ed Cooley, Friars Ready for Redemption
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.
Father Brian J. Shanley, O.P., Talks Big East
Bob Driscoll Joins in for Riveting Presentation
by Liam Tormey ’22
Last Thursday, the Sports Business Organization at Providence College got the opportunity to hear Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P. and Athletic Director Bob Driscoll discuss the history of the Big East Conference and the influence that both men had on its formation.
To begin, both guests gave an overview of the roles that they have in sports at PC. Driscoll has been the athletic director at PC for 19 years and says his job is to “create the vision of what a first-class Division I department should look like.” He said that his role as athletic director would not be possible without the support of the president of the College, with that, of course being Fr. Shanley.
Fr. Shanley’s role at PC is far-reaching; however, and sports are a big part of his responsibilities. Fr. Shanley talked about the importance of “hiring smart people and letting them do their own thing.” He also spoke to the fact that he believes that if he needs to get into the “weeds” about someone, then that person is not doing their job. Although, he admits that has never found this to be the case at PC.
Next, Fr. Shanley and Driscoll were asked about both the history of the Big East and the realignment of the conference. The Big East originated in 1979. Fr. Shanley discussed the vision of Dave Gavitt, the former athletic director at PC at the time, and how he saw that northeast basketball was going to fall behind other major conferences unless something was done.
Indeed, in the early stages, many colleges wanted to join the Big East, and the conference had great success. However, the demise of the conference in past 10 years came as many of the big schools left to go to football conferences where all the revenue was.
Fr. Shanley spoke about the meeting at St. John’s University where all of the schools in the Big East got together to discuss how to fix this problem. At the meeting, it was decided that the Big East was going to “chart our own path individually of the football schools.”
A unique opportunity arose with the arrival of Fox Sports 1 and their need for a polished basketball product. The match between the conference and TV broadcaster ended up being perfect, as the Big East Conference received a 12-year contract with Fox which has “been a blessing,” according to Fr. Shanley.
Driscoll added that they were “in the right place at the right time” and “we went back to our roots” regarding the realignment of the Big East. The desire for schools to get into the Big East skyrocketed as presidents and athletic directors bombarded Fr. Shanley and Driscoll with calls to join the Big East.
Being able to play at Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament was also a huge boost for the conference. Both Shanley and Driscoll referred to it as “the Mecca,” saying the ability to have a long-term deal with MSG as the only conference in the country to play at the Garden was very important. Many major conferences still want to play at MSG, but the Big East is still the only conference able to do so, and that is huge from a marketing standpoint for the conference.
Fr. Shanley and Driscoll, were very excited to answer members’ questions about their role in forming the Big East Conference, and both believe the conference is in very good hands for years to come.
Basketball Loses Heartbreaker to Nova
By Joseph Quirk ’23
The noise was deafening. Screams and shouts coming from every corner of the sold out Dunkin’ Donuts Center, ready to watch the Providence College Friars take on rival Villanova University Wildcats. That same energy would remain for the entire game, which resulted in a close, yet devastating loss for the Friars.
“I really want to thank our crowd. Our crowd gave us every opportunity to be successful. The energy in here, I couldn’t be more blessed,” said head coach Ed Cooley after the game. The crowd showed up for the Friars team coming off two road losses to Creighton University and Seton Hall University that some believe may have killed their tournament chances. But the fans were not ready to give up on their Friars.
The game was close and physical for the entire 40 minutes. The Friars showed some improvement offensively, but a lot of the struggles that had haunted them all year came back to bite them in the end.
“That’s the Big East this year, man,” said Villanova head coach Jay Wright. “That’s what every game has been for us. That’s what makes this league great.” The Big East has been one of the most competitive conferences in all of college basketball this season. Many believe there will be up to six of the ten member schools in the NCAA tournament this year, which has caused almost every game to be thrilling, exciting, and important. This game was no different.
Both teams felt the pressure heading into Saturday’s game. Villanova was ranked in the top-10, looking to defend their spot against a gritty PC team at home. And PC has been trying to dig themselves out of a hole since the first few weeks of their basketball season.
The young Wildcats were led by junior guard Collin Gillespie, who dominated the game. He had 18 points, four assists and seven rebounds all while shooting 50 percent from the floor and controlling the pace. Gillespie is one of the oldest and most experienced on the young Villanova team and is taking on his leadership role very well.
“I still got a year and a half left. It’s just so fun with this group, we’re all so young and everything is a learning experience for us,” said Gillespie when asked if he felt like an “old man” with such a young group. Gillespie rose to the challenge in this game, staying in for most of the second half with four fouls. “Definitely still be aggressive but be smart,” Gillespie said of his play style in the second half. “On defense and offense you just gotta be smart.”
Unlike Villanova’s offense, the Friars had another rough night shooting-wise. PC shot an abysmal 31.7 percent from the field, 13.0 from three and 77.3 from the free throw line. But that was not the only issue as turnovers also killed the team.
“[The turnovers were] as costly as we’ve had since I’ve been coaching here.” said Cooley. “For a game of that magnitude to not even get shot attempts turnovers.We try to work as much as we can on time and scoring.”
Cooley also spoke about the overall offensive struggles the team has dealt with all season. “When you look at the overall body of work of this year’s team, our offense is really struggling,” he said. “The efficiency just isn’t there.”
Cooley noted how the team runs different situations and drills in practice and that the same shots that are missing in games are falling in practice. He stressed that the team has put in the effort and has the talent and that’s why it has been such a stressful season on the coaching staff.
However, the offense showed promise and life in the first half when they utilized off ball motion, more pick-and-roll plays and had more of an intensity driving to the rim. Perhaps the brightest star who thrived for PC was Nate Watson ’21. The center had been coming back from a knee injury suffered in the preseason and had been either off the bench or on a minutes restriction for most of the season. “Nate is coming along. I’m really proud of him…today was a big day for him.”
Watson finished shooting 7-12 with 18 points, nine rebounds, and a steal. It was a very encouraging performance for the future.
The Friars play 16th-ranked Butler on the road next Saturday, followed by Creighton at home and Xavier University on the road.
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.
Men’s Lacrosse Enters the Second Half of Their Season
Team Already Matches Win Total from 2018
By Liza Sisk ’19
The Providence College Men’s Lacrosse Team is heading into the second half of the 2019 season with a 5-5 record. The second half of the season ushers in a focus on conference play. Four of the next five games for the Friars are against Big East competitors.
The Friars defeated their first in-conference competitor, St. John’s University, on March 30. The team traveled to Queens, New York and took on the Red Storm in a nail biting game. The Friars secured an impressive 8-7 overtime victory, advancing their record to 5-5 and 1-0 in league play.
St. John’s was first to score, however, Kevin McCordic ’20 quickly answered, tying the game with his third goal of the season. The second quarter showcased the offensive prowess of the Friars with Tim Hinrichs ’20, of Amherst, New Hampshire, scoring back-to-back goals giving the Friars a 3-1 lead.
The third and fourth quarters brought a fury of goals for both the Friars and the Red Storm ending regulation play with a 7-7 score. With 1:12 left in overtime, Hinrichs netted yet another goal, assisted by Matt Grillo ’22 of Setauket, New York.
Goalie Tate Boyce ’19 faced 24 shots on goal, tallying up 17 saves. Boyce was also named as a finalist for the Senior Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School Award. Ten NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse student-athletes are distinguished as candidates for the award. To be qualified for nomination, a player must have notable achievements in community, classroom, character, and competition. Head Coach Chris Gabrielli describes Boyce as “a true game and program changer.” The award is determined by nationwide fan voting, and the winner is announced during the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse National Championship in May. Boyce is a three-time captain for the program, pursuing a degree in marketing. When asked about his goals for the team and for himself this season, Boyce said, “I am hoping to do something we have never done in my previous three seasons, and that’s win a Big East Championship.”
The Friars are looking to maintain this momentum as they delve deeper into conference play. The team will be facing Georgetown University on April 6, at home, to kick off this portion of their season. April also brings competition against Marquette University, cross-city rival Brown University, University of Denver, and Villanova University. Other than a trip to Denver on April 20, the Friars will be competing in Providence for the duration of the regular season.
Duncan McGinnis ’19, of Menlo Park, California, said, “The team’s goal this season is to win a Big East Championship and continue playing into the NCAA tournament in May.” He is particularly looking forward to the game against Brown University on April 16.
The road to the Big East Championship will be a tough one for the Friars. The rest of their Big East schedule consists of teams with winning records, which includes Georgetown, who is the first team to seven wins.