Providence College Investigates: NCAA
Who Will Win March Madness?
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.
Final Four Highlights
Men’s Final Four
By Leo Hainline ’22
The 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament featured one of the best Final Four games to ever be played when Gonzaga University defeated the University of California, Los Angeles. It then culminated with a worthy champion in Baylor University.
UCLA, an 11-seed that barely made the field of 68 and had to play in one of the first four games of the tournament, had been playing incredible basketball, knocking off both their region’s one-seed and two-seed during their journey to the Final Four. They brought that same energy and momentum into their matchup with Gonzaga and went back and forth with the Bulldogs all night.
The game was filled with iconic moments. One of the best during regulation was when Jalen Suggs blocked Bruins big-man Cody Riley from behind, before immediately following with an incredible bounce pass that sliced through the UCLA defense to find teammate Drew Timme for a slam dunk. Another big moment was Timme’s charge that he drew on UCLA star Johnny Juzang when the Bruins had an opportunity to win the game.
In overtime, Timme took over with unstoppable post-moves as the Bulldogs took a late five-point lead. However, the Bruins kept fighting and were able to tie the game thanks to a three-pointer from Jamie Jaquez Jr. and a put-back layup from Juzang. With three seconds left, Suggs received the inbounds pass, pushed the ball up the court, and pulled up to hit one of the most incredible shots in the history of March Madness.
That is when the luck ran out for the Bulldogs, however, as they were thoroughly outplayed by Baylor in the national championship game. The Bears were automatic from behind the arc and were clearly the more aggressive team on both ends of the court. Led by guard Jared Butler, the Bears brought a level of intensity that the Bulldogs were unable to match. In the end, Baylor took home their program’s first-ever national championship.
While this year’s tournament was undoubtedly a great one, the lack of fans in the arenas was a noticeable loss. The great moments, while still amazing to watch, could have been even more amazing with seats packed with people. Imagine: Gonzaga and UCLA playing in front of a packed Lucas Oil Stadium. Moments like that deserve to be watched in front of an audience, and hopefully, these special sporting events will soon begin to feel normal again with arenas and stadiums back at full capacity.
Women’s Final Four
By Liam Tormey ’22
Sports Assistant Editor
In a season unlike any other, the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament was, unsurprisingly, full of excitement.
All but one of the number one seeds were able to make it through to the Final Four of the tournament. The number one seed in the Mercado region, North Carolina State University, was defeated by Indiana University in the Sweet Sixteen. The three remaining top seeds in Stanford University, University of South Carolina, and the University of Connecticut all secured a place in the Final Four, alongside the University of Arizona.
Led by the winningest coach in Division I women’s basketball history, Tara VanDerveer, Stanford rolled through their opponents before their Final Four matchup with South Carolina. Prior to then, Stanford had secured victories against Utah Valley University, Oklahoma State University, Missouri State University, and the University of Louisville. South Carolina took care of their work just like Stanford. After dominating Mercer University, Oregon State University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and University of Texas at Austin, the Final Four matchup between South Carolina and Stanford was set.
In a game which came down to the wire, Stanford was able to survive a gritty South Carolina team 66-65. Haley Jones led Stanford with 24 points and hit the game-winning jump shot. With five seconds left, South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston stole the ball and passed to Brea Beal. Beal missed a layup, but the ball fell back into Boston’s hand. However, her put-back also went off the back of the rim, giving Stanford the victory.
On the flip side of the bracket, UConn and Arizona met in the other semifinal matchup. Led by Paige Bueckers, the John R. Wooden Award winner, the Huskies were the likely favorite coming into the tournament. They steamed through the RiverWalk region, winning their first three games by 20 or more points before a close Elite Eight battle with Baylor University.
Arizona was the surprise of the tournament. Led by head coach Adia Barnes, Arizona made it through the Mercado region, upsetting Texas A&M University along the way.
When Arizona met UConn in the Final Four, the Wildcats gave them more than they could handle. Arizona pulled out a 69-59 victory, highlighted by Aari McDonald’s 26 points. A stunner of an upset, it ended the Huskies’ title hopes.
The championship game was everything one could have asked for, coming right down to the final seconds. Each team’s star player, including Stanford’s Haley Jones, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, and Arizona’s Aari McDonald, stepped up on the biggest stage. Down by one with seconds to go, Arizona had the chance to win their first title ever, but McDonald’s three hit off the front iron, giving Stanford their first championship since 1992 by a score of 54-53.
The Cowl Sports Staff Picks Its Winner
Gonzaga Bulldogs Will Take Home Their First Championship
By Jack Belanger ’21
Members of the sports staff put their heads together to come up with the third official The Cowl March Madness bracket. Thanks to Luke Sweeney ’24 for his analysis of the South region, Leo Hainline ’22 for the West, Ben Bilotti ’23 for the East, Joseph Quirk ’23 for the Midwest, and to everyoneelse for helping make the picks. Here is our breakdown of each region, the semifinals, and the championship.
In the South region, things should get exciting as the first round boasts multiple strong teams and potential upsets. No. 3 seed University of Arkansas will squeeze by the surprisingly explosive offense of No. 14 Colgate University, before advancing all the way to the Elite Eight.
Villanova University at the No. 5 seed should dominate No. 13 Winthrop University even with all of the Wildcats’ injuries, but they will face a tough road in the later rounds. The 8-9 seed matchup will see the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill beat the University of Wisconsin-Madison after what should be a very competitive, high-scoring matchup.
Creighton University is one of the tournament’s biggest question marks. The Bluejays are incredibly inconsistent but can out-shoot just about anyone in the tournament if they are on their game. It does not help that the team got embarrassed by 25 points in the Big East Championship and has been dealing with off-the-court issues.
The University of California, Santa Barbara has a star player in JaQuori McLaughlin, but the Gauchos have yet to be tested by elite competition.
The University of Kansas, University of Virginia, and Creighton could all very well pack their bags early this year, but the Kansas Jayhawks are in the most trouble.
Eastern Washington University is a team full of balanced scoring. They have seven guys who all contribute and are a strong free-throw shooting team. Kansas has multiple players returning from COVID-19-related absences and may naturally get off to a slow start. The Eagles will be attacking from the start and will likely grab an early lead.
It is difficult to envision Luka Garza’s Hawkeyes struggling with any team before the Elite Eight. The University of Oregon Ducks could be competitive against the University of Iowa in the Round of 32, but Iowa has too much talent both inside and out to suffer an early exit.
When all is said and done, Gonzaga University is simply the most dominant team in the country and will represent the West region in the Final Four.
There are several upsets in the East region of our bracket. In the first round, No. 11 Michigan State University (pending a First Four win) will upset No. 6 Brigham Young University.
From there, they carry their momentum all the way to the Sweet 16, where they will be taken down by the University of Connecticut. The Hoyas will use the momentum from their 73-48 victory over Creighton University in the Big East Championship Game to beat the University of Colorado.
In the end, an elite Florida State University squad gets in the Hoyas’ way, as the team, moving all the way to the Elite Eight, will face off against UConn with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
The main story in this section is the No. 1 seed, University of Illinois. Illinois is expected to be one of the title favorites. That being said, they may have the most difficult road to the Final Four, facing a loaded side of the bracket.
The Midwest region features a number of threats, some obvious and some more underrated. We, as a staff, have Illinois making it through the gauntlet, beating out teams such as Loyola University Chicago, Oklahoma State University, the University of West Virginia, and the University of Houston.
There should be a number of wildly entertaining games in the first round alone from Loyola vs. the Georgia Institute of Technology, San Diego State University vs. Syracuse University, and Clemson University vs. Rutgers University.
Florida State may give Gonzaga its toughest matchup of the tournament. With a strong interior defense and one of the best teams crashing the offensive boards, the Seminoles are one of the more physical teams this year. The Bulldogs will have to hit their threes early, which is what they have been doing all year. They have proved they can beat top teams this season, and FSU is no exception.
If it were not for Gonzaga, Baylor University would be the best team in the country this year. Taking on an underdog West Virginia team, the Bears should have an easy time making it to the finals. Star players Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell were both named to the All-Big 12 First Team. Mitchell was also named the conference’s defensive player of the year. Despite their best efforts, the Mountaineers will not have the defense to stop the Bears.
This matchup is perhaps a little anticlimactic, but Gonzaga and Baylor are simply a tier above the rest of the country. The championship game should come down to the final minutes. Both teams are efficient on offense and both have good defenses. Gonzaga came up short a few years ago against North Carolina—that team was good, this team is better. Mark Few is one of the most underappreciated coaches of all time. This is his chance to put his name among the greats. Lottery pick Jalen Suggs will lead the Bulldogs to their first title ever.
Four Big East Teams Battle for NCAA Glory
Big Teams Hope to Correct the Course After Big East Tournament
By Luke Sweeney ’24
The 2020-2021 NCAA basketball season has been one to remember, for all the wrong reasons. Having to adapt to the many new rules and regulations in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, teams of every conference had a lot more to deal with than the regular stresses of an NCAA season.
Coach Ed Cooley and the Providence College Friars had a less than satisfying end to the regular season after finishing 13-13 and failing to make the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament. Getting a favorable matchup in the first round of the Big East tournament looked like a blessing for the Friars, but they were unable to capitalize as they lost to a 5-14 DePaul University Demons. In extremely rare form, coach Cooley stormed off the floor without addressing either team after this embarrassing loss, officially ending the Friars’ season.
With the 2021 March Madness Selection Sunday happening this past week, the NCAA granted four teams from the Big East a spot in the big dance. Villanova University finished the Big East tournament with a 16-6 record on the year after a loss on March 11 to a storied Georgetown University Hoyas, coached by the legendary New York Knick, Patrick Ewing. Villanova has played the month of March so far without their star point guard, Collin Gillespie, who had a season-ending knee injury.
The Wildcats have looked to other leaders on the team to carry Gillespie’s load, such as senior Jermaine Samuels Jr., who the team will continue to give bigger roles during the NCAA tournament. Villanova received a No. 5 seed and looks forward to playing the No. 12 seed Winthrop University Eagles in the first round on March 19.
Creighton University represents the Big East in the western side of the bracket at the No. 5 seed and is lined up to face off against University of California, Santa Barbara on March 20. Many are deeming this a trap game for the favored Bluejays as UCSB is hot off a Big West championship win over University of California, Irvine last Saturday. Santa Barbara finished the regular season 22-4 and were led by 6-foot-4-inch senior guard JaQuori McLaughlin, who put up 22 points against Irvine.
This could be a potential upset due to Creighton coming off a devastating loss to Georgetown in the Big East championship last weekend. Hopefully their lack of momentum will not lead to the loss of their season in the first round of the tournament.
The biggest story coming out of the Big East this week is Georgetown, who defied the odds by beating a favored 20-8 Creighton team at Madison Square Garden. The Hoyas had a less than perfect season before the Big East tournament, finishing 12-12 and landing at the bottom half of the Big East rankings. Their miraculous run at MSG was headed by Coach Patrick Ewing. The No. 12 seed Hoyas will have a tough road ahead of them in the tournament, starting with No. 5 seed Colorado University on March 20.
The fourth team invited to the NCAA tournament from the Big East this year is the University of Connecticut, headed by sophomore James Bouknight who had been injured for almost half of the regular season. With Bouknight looking healthy heading into the first round of the tournament, the Huskies hope to dominate the University of Maryland in all aspects of the game on March 20.
Each team’s guards match up well against each other, so we should be expecting a deep-ranged shootout to decide the winner.
While it was not the dominating Big East that we are used to seeing this year, Villanova, Creighton, UConn, and Georgetown hope to make their mark on the 2020-2021 NCAA basketball season by advancing into the later rounds of the big dance. Both at the No. 5 seed, Villanova and Creighton are two teams to watch out for.
PCI: Who Will Win The Final Four Most Outstanding Player Award?
Providence College Investigates: College Basketball
By Margaret Maloney ’23
The Illinois Fighting Illini Men’s Basketball Team abruptly appeared on everyone’s radar during the 2020-2021 Men’s Division I basketball season. This is largely because of one player who has emerged from his shell in his third year as a force to be reckoned with: Ayo Dosunmu. A Chicago native, the 6-foot-5-inch, 200-pound junior guard has created a name for himself by averaging 20.7 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game, while shooting 48.8 percent from the floor.
Let’s recap Dosunmu’s freshman and sophomore seasons: in his freshman season (2018-2019), Dosunmu averaged 13.8 points per game, four rebounds per game, and had a field goal percentage of 43.5. He was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team and was an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection. He was also named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on multiple occasions.
In his sophomore season (2019-2020), Dosunmu averaged 16.6 points per game, 4.3 rebounds per game, and shot 48.4 percent from the floor. He was named to First-Team All-Big Ten while also being named Big Ten Player of the Week on multiple occasions. While Dosunmu’s numbers have increased since 2018, why has he all of a sudden been the talk of this year’s season?
The answer involves more than hard work and talent. Back in August 2020, a few months before the NBA Draft, Dosunmu was ready and prepared to take his talents to the NBA. But he had a realization that led him to withdraw. In a video Dosunmu posted on Twitter, he said, “Since [I was] a kid, I’ve been working, my dream is to play in the NBA. But first I need that national championship.”
This energy and determination that Dosunmu displayed many months ago fired up his entire team. Alongside Dosunmu are players like Trent Frazier and Andre Curbelo, who have equally matched Dosunmu’s strong desire to win a national championship.
However, the path to a No. 1 seed in the tournament has not been easy. Illinois’s most recent game against Ohio State was a tough test. The Fighting Illini beat the Buckeyes 73-68. This was the last regular season game before the start of conference tournaments, and it was also Dosunmu’s first game back after suffering a concussion and facial injuries.
Not only was Dosunmu ready to come back with a bang in his last regular season performance, a game in which he scored 19 points, but he was also ready to look the part. He donned a black face-mask, due to a broken nose, for that game and the conference tournament. Dosunmu tells ESPN that he is “into comic books and stuff. I feel like a superhero with a black mask on.” This superhero energy will help make Dosunmu the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player as he leads the Fighting Illini on a deep run.
By Leo Hainline ’23
For the first time since 1997, the NCAA National Championship will come back to the West Coast as the Gonzaga University will complete a perfect season and win the program’s first-ever title. In 1997, when the University of Arizona did it, the team was led by five players who would eventually play in the NBA, two of whom had fantastic professional careers—Mike Bibby and Jason Terry. Gonzaga has multiple NBA talents on their own roster, but nobody stands out as a league-ready player like 6-foot-6-inch guard Jalen Suggs.
While he was not named the West Coast Conference MVP, an award that was given to his teammate Corey Kispert, Suggs is the X factor for Gonzaga. He is incredibly well-rounded and has no true weaknesses. His shooting is superb, he has NBA size and strength, he is quick and aggressive, and he can finish in traffic around the rim. If Suggs is on his game, Gonzaga will not only win, but will dominate against any team in the country, even against the other three top seeds.
Earlier in the season, the Bulldogs squared off against the University of Iowa at a neutral location in Sioux Falls, SD in what felt like a potential Final Four preview. While all the hype leading up to the matchup was about Hawkeye big man Luka Garza, Jalen Suggs stole the spotlight and put on a masterclass performance. He dropped 27 points, seven rebounds, and four assists, and was seven-for-ten from beyond the arc.
In Gonzaga’s most recent game, the West Coast Conference championship against Brigham Young University, the Cougars played a near perfect first half of basketball and had the Bulldogs on upset alert. The momentum of the game changed when Suggs took it upon himself to lead the team to victory. He asserted himself on both ends of the court and BYU’s 10-point lead became a 10-point deficit by the end of the game. Suggs’ best performances have all come against Gonzaga’s toughest competition—the University of Kansas, Iowa, and BYU—teams he may take on deep in the tournament.
Only five freshmen have ever won Final Four MVP, the most recent being Duke University’s Tyus Jones in 2017. Suggs has all the individual tools and the supporting cast to become the sixth. Gonzaga is long overdue for a national championship in college hoops, and while the program has produced phenomenal teams in the recent past, this Bulldog roster is the best the school has ever had. Suggs is currently a projected top-three pick in the next NBA draft, but do not be surprised if he becomes the front runner to be selected first after he leads Gonzaga to their first NCAA tournament title.
The Cowl’s Second Annual March Madness Bracket
The Cowl’s Sport Staff Has The Tar Heels Upsetting Rival Duke
by Jack Belanger ’21
Members of the sports staff came together to create The Cowl’s Second Annual March Madness Bracket. Thanks to Cam Smith ’21, who gave his analysis for the South Region, Scott Jarosz ’21 for the East Region, and Sullivan Burgess ’20 for the West Region, and to everyone for helping make the picks. I took on analyzing the Midwest Region, Semifinals, and Finals.
The South Region features the University of Virginia as the top dog, and the Cavaliers will be looking for revenge following last year’s disastrous first round loss to the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Also in the South is the University of Wisconsin and Purdue University, two veteran squads poised to make deep runs. The Boilermakers will in fact ride star shooting guard Carsen Edwards all the way to the Final Four, as they will knock off top-seeded Virginia in the Elite Eight. This minor upset may very well be overshadowed by the two major ones set to take place in the first round. The University of California Irvine, coming into the tournament scorching hot and on a 16-game win streak, will take down Kansas State University, a team that will likely be without All-Big 12 forward Dean Wade. Not to be outdone, the Colgate University Raiders out of the Patriot League will stun the University of Tennessee, an upset that is sure to bust brackets across the country.
The East Region features some very intriguing matchups, as well as numerous potential upsets. One such matchup that could be interesting is the University of Maryland versus Belmont University. Coming off an 80-71 win over Temple in its First Four game, Belmont is a team that should not be taken lightly. The Bruins boast a record of 27-5 and could very well upset Maryland in the first round. Another East Region matchup worth watching is LSU vs. Yale. Yale has played well as the underdog in the past, beating #5 seed Baylor in a first-round game back in 2016. If Yale can upset LSU, it can very well take down Belmont and advance to the Sweet 16. Although Yale could make a run in the East, it is hard to see them upsetting Michigan State. For the matchup in the East Region Final, we have Michigan State and Duke. Given that Zion Williamson is back and fully healthy, it is hard to see Duke being stopped by anyone in the East.
In the West Region of the March Madness Bracket, Buffalo University, the sixth seed, will find their way into the final four facing against the #1 Duke University. Buffalo finished first in the MAC East at an overall record of 31-3 and are highly favored this year to even win it all. Syracuse University will also find a spark that usually occurs when they enter the March Madness tournament and will make a run until they face Buffalo in the Elite Eight. One highly anticipated matchup is Marquette University and Murray State; while Murray State may have the best player in college basketball, Marquette has the better team that will defeat Murray State, but will lose to the ACC Championship runner-up Florida State University. Lastly, Michigan University, who has been hot all season, will come to face Buffalo in the Sweet 16, yet Buffalo will find themselves favored to make their way to the Final Four.
With the likes of the Universities of North Carolina, Kansas, and Kentucky, the Midwest Region is full of blue-blood programs that know how to make deep runs into the Final Four. Out of the three programs, the Tar Heels have the easiest road to the Final Four and are one of the most balanced teams in the country. After winning their first game, Kentucky is going to fall to a red-hot Seton Hall University team, who took Villanova to the final seconds of the Big East Finals and had a chance to win the game at the buzzer. A potential first-round upset to look out for is Ohio State University over Iowa State University. The Buckeyes played in a much tougher conference this year, while Iowa States’s defense has been questionable. Also, first-year head coach Chris Holtmann had plenty of experience in the tournament when he coached for Xavier University.
Syracuse will force the Blue Devils to shoot the three, which will keep the game close early, but Duke has simply too many weapons to be stopped in the second half. Once Duke begins to build a lead, Syracuse is going to have a tough time keeping up to make shots.
The other Semifinal game will feature a back and forth game between two teams who can score in a variety of ways. While Edwards will do everything he can to keep Purdue in the game, the Tar Heels will dominate inside the paint which will prove to be the difference, sending UNC to the finals.
Duke may be the favorite to win it all, but UNC has been their kryptonite this season. The Tar Heels have beaten the Blue Devils twice during the regular season and played tough in the ACC finals. The Tar Heels have enough size inside to match up with Williamson and slow down Barrett and Reddish on the outside. Do not be surprised when you see UNC win their second title in three years.
PCI: Who Will Win the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player?
Kyle Guy of Virginia Will Take the Award
by Scott Jarosz ’21
One obvious frontrunner to win this year’s Final Four Most Outstanding Player, is certainly Duke University’s Zion Williamson. The 6’7”, 285-pound player attracted the eyes of basketball fans nationwide when videos of his athletic dunks in high school games went viral. In his first season at Duke, Williamson has averaged 22.1 points per game along with 8.9 rebounds per game.
While Williamson has excelled in his first season of collegiate basketball, he has shown some signs of immaturity as well as inconsistency. The same goes for the rather young Duke basketball team as a whole.
However, one experienced player who has been a consistent leader for his team is University of Virginia’s Kyle Guy, a veteran guard who has been truly playing up to his full potential this year. With his experience and excellent ability to score points, Guy will ultimately be named the 2019 Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.
In the 2018-19 season, Guy has averaged 15.6 points per game, which is the highest on his team. While this figure may not be as impressive as Williamson’s 22.1 points per game, Guy’s presence has arguably had a larger impact on his team’s overall success. Virginia sits atop the leaderboard of the Atlantic Coast Conference with a record of 29-3 overall and 16-2 in conference. Behind Virginia on the leaderboard is the University of North Carolina and Duke. Virginia is currently ranked as the #2 team in the country, and despite a 59-69 loss to Florida State University in the ACC Tournament, they have shown no signs of slowing down heading into the NCAA Tournament. Virginia has been selected as the #1 seed in the South Region for the NCAA Tournament, and they are scheduled to play 16-seed Gardner-Webb on March 22 in Columbia, South Carolina. The question remains, what is guard Kyle Guy capable of doing that could not only lead his team to an NCAA Tournament victory, but will earn him the title of the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player?
PCI: Who Will Win the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player?
R.J. Barrett Will Lead to Duke to the Finals and Secure the Award
by Cam Smith ’21
The name Zion Williamson has ruled over national headlines for the past two years, as the basketball prodigy went from dominating high school gymnasiums to hushing hostile crowds in the NCAA. With his top-seeded Duke University Blue Devils poised to make a run at the National Championship, it would seem reasonable to pencil in Williamson as the tournament’s most outstanding player. The only issue is that Williamson already shares the court with the man who will win the Most Outstanding Player award, and his name is R.J. Barrett.
Barrett entered his collegiate career as a number one recruit, and he lived up to that billing even in a season where he was often overshadowed by the high-flying antics of his Blue Devil teammate. Barrett led Duke in scoring, averaging 22.9 points per game while grabbing 7.5 rebounds per game, second only to Williamson. Barrett set an ACC record for 20-or-more-point games, compiling a whopping 23 of them while also being the only player in a power conference to average more than 20 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.
His regular season dominance was capped off with a stretch of jaw-dropping performances to end the ACC schedule, games that were played without Williamson, who was out due to a knee injury. Barrett dropped 33 points on the University of North Carolina on Feb. 20, and three days later, he followed that up with a 30-point performance in a win against Syracuse University. He would go on to average 26.1 points in the six games without Williamson.
In the tournament, teams will likely focus in on Williamson, sending double teams his way, allowing Barrett to use his off-ball ability to get open lanes to the basket where he is a talented finisher. The return of Williamson will also take the pressure off Barrett on the boards, permitting him to get out in transition quicker, which will play to his strengths as a masterful runner of the fast break. All of these factors will likely contribute to some tremendous performances by Barrett, even though he has already proven he can put up big numbers without the presence of his esteemed teammate.
Barrett led Duke in scoring a team high 19 times, and on the best team in the country, he is going to have plenty of chances to continue to do just that as Duke plans on making a deep run. Everything considered, Barrett will add yet another accolade to his résumé after winning the NCCA Tournament Most Outstanding Player award.
Villanova Takes the Title
By Max Anderson ’18
After one of the craziest seasons in recent history for men’s college basketball, it only made sense that the postseason tournament matched the insanity.
The madness kicked off right out of the gate. In the opening two days, title hopefuls Arizona University and Wichita State University were both sent packing. In perhaps the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history, the University of Maryland Baltimore County Golden Retrievers sent the number one overall seed University of Virginia home early with a final score of 74-54, marking the first time ever a No. 16 seed defeated a No. 1 seed. In the following two days, University of Tennessee, University of North Carolina, Michigan State University, University of Cincinnati, and another No. 1 seed, Xavier University, would bid farewell also. With the losses of North Carolina, Xavier and Cincinnati, the left side of the bracket was without not only the two No. 1 seeds, but also the two No. 2 seeds, marking it the first time ever in NCAA history that this has happened.
While the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight did not have the same madness the opening rounds contained, it did have one massive Cinderella story that captivated the nation in No. 11 seed Loyola University of Chicago. The team, led by their 98-year-old unoffical mascot Sister Jean, won game after game, despite being labeled as the underdog in every matchup. They were able to best Miami and Tennessee in the opening rounds, followed by Nevada and Kansas St. in the later rounds to advance to the Final Four, just the fifth time a double-digit seed has advanced that far. The magic ultimately ran out when the Ramblers ran into John Beilein’s University of Michigan Wolverines, losing by a final tally of 57-69. Despite the Ramblers’ failure to pull it off, they still showed that in March, double-digit seeds can make just as much noise as single-digit seeds.
On the right side of the bracket, order was mostly maintained, with No. 1 seeds Villanova University and University of Kansas advancing to the Final Four. Villanova, on the back of National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson, easily handled Kansas, advancing to their second National Championship game in three years, where they would square off with the Wolverines. In the National Championship game, Michigan contested with the Wildcats early; however, Beilein’s squad had no answer for Donte Divicenzo, who scored a game-high 31 points. Divicenzo’s hot hand, along with Brunson’s leadership, vaulted Villanova to a 79-62 victory, giving the Wildcats their second NCAA title in a three-year span.
As a fan of college basketball, I congratulate Villanova on their NCAA Championship victory; as a Friar, I say great, but look for the Providence Friars to make another strong run for the Big East Championship in 2019.
The Cowl Makes Its Pick
by Jack Belanger ’21
Members of the Sports staff put their brains together to come up with the official 2018 March Madness Bracket for The Cowl. Thanks to Sam Scanlon ’19, Sullivan Burgess ’20, Thomas Zinzarella ’21 for helping contribute. Here is breakdown of each region, semifinals, and the championship.
The University of Arizona looks poised to be the team to make it out of a tough South region. DeAndre Ayton is one of the best players in the country, averaging 20.3 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per game. Junior guard Allonzo Trier has been a great second option for this team all year, despite missing time for a failed drug test, averaging 18.4 points per game. This team has enough firepower to take down an inconsistent University of Kentucky Wildcats team and beat out University of Virginia, which has only scored 67.5 points per game as a team.
Loyola University Chicago is our Cinderella team in this region. This team was one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country all year, shooting 39.8 percent behind the line, which makes them the 20th best in the country. The University of Miami is not a great defensive team, which could spell disaster for them early in the tournament.
Despite having a veteran coach in Rick Barnes, the University of Tennessee has not been to the tournament in four years, leaving the Volunteers inexperienced and suseptible to an underdog team like Loyola.
It would not be a Providence College bracket without showing some love to the Friars. Kyron Cartwright ’18 was playing his best during the Big East Tournament. PC has a good chance of beating Texas A&M University and is certainly capable of pulling an upset over the University of North Carolina and winning in a rematch over the University of Houston (who will pull off their own upset over University of Michigan).
Ultimately, Gonzaga University is our pick to come out of the West. Coach Mark Few made it to the finals last year and knows what it takes to return to the Final Four. Gonzaga has six players who average over nine points per game currently, led by senior Johnathan Williams who is averaging 13.5 points per game.
Despite many picking Villanova University as a favorite to win the whole tournament, PC would be much happier to see ’Nova lose in the Elite Eight. Purdue University is a solid choice to come out of a weak East Region. The Boilermakers shot 42 percent from the 3-point line which was second in the country. They can also beat teams underneath the hoop with two players in the rotation over seven feet tall in Isaac Haas and Matt Haarms.
Stephen F. Austin State University played tough in each of their last two tournament apperances and that should hold true again. The Lumberjacks force many turnovers and have a deep rotation. While Texas Tech University plays great defense, Stephen F. Austin has too many weapons to slow down. The Lumberjacks are another Cinderella team that can make it to the Sweet Sixteen as they will have an opportunity to play one of the last teams in between St. Bonaventure University and the University California, Los Angeles, who will upset an inconsistent University of Florida team.
Michigan State is not only our pick to win the Midwest region but also the whole tournament. The Spartans have two of the best players in the country in forwards, Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr., and one of the most respected coaches in Tom Izzo. Michigan State should have no issue making it to a Sweet Sixteen matchup versus Duke University where they could win in a close game.
Auburn University is a team that could easily lose their first round game if they are not careful, but they force enough turnovers and can get hot shooting to beat a better team like the University of Kansas.
Clemson University has not been the same since losing their best player, Donte Grantham, for the season due to injury. New Mexico State University has a player in Zach Lofton who has the ability to lead an upset. Lofton has averaged 19.8 points per game for the season, while the entire team plays tough defense.
Final Four Semifinals:
While Arizona has the better player in Ayton, Gonzaga has a more depth with a stronger bench and the motivation to get back to finals. Arizona has struggled playing defense all year and Gonzaga has too many scorers who shoot and take the ball to the rim.
In a matchup between two Big Ten powerhouses, Michigan State and Purdue face each other in a rematch that saw the Spartans beat the Boilermakers 68-65 back in February. Expect a smiliar result as Michigan State continues to ride with more talent.
In a year where no team has stood head and shoulders above anyone else, choosing the finals was definitely not an unanimous choice. Both Gonzaga and Michigan State play well on both ends of the court and boast versatile players who can contribute in multiple ways. Few and Izzo are two of the best coaches in college basketball and certainly both teams will be prepared to compete. That being said, the combination of Bridges and Jackson will end up being the deciding factor and ultimately give the edge to the Spartans.