Tag Archives: Providence Friars

NCAA Tournament: East Region Round Two Notebook

As the East region moves to Philadephia this week, let’s quickly re-visit Sunday’s second round action.

The obvious. North Carolina showed us they’re really good.

They took it to Florida Gulf Coast (83-67) and No. 9 Providence (85-66) while allowing fewer than their season average of 69.9 points per game. The Tar Heels will need to maintain that superb below average performance when they face No. 5 Indiana who rolled No. 12 Chattanooga (99-74) and survived an unmotivated No. 4 Kentucky (73-67). The Hoosiers average 82.3 points per making Friday evening’s match-up potentially one for the ages. The biggest question: Does Tom Crean have another great coaching performance in him?

I love you Xavier, but #OnWisconsin.

Look, I’m not a Wisconsin guy; I don’t really appreciate how Bo Ryan inserted Greg Gard as the head coach this year, because frankly I think it’s bush league for someone to think they control their job and their former program after they leave. That said, Gard has done a phenomenal job with this team that many didn’t expect to have a repeat of last season. Sunday’s game versus Xavier was, well, extraordinary. Despite the fact that Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes had another sub-par game, the Badgers were able to erase Xavier’s nine-point lead in six minutes. Then the Badgers won on a buzzer-beating corner three-pointer from Bronson Koenig. All this after Wisconsin was up by 11 in the first half. This is why you love March.

Side note: comedian Bill Murray’s son, Xavier assistant Luke, has reportedly never seen “Caddyshack.” Luke, it’s cool man, “What About Bob?” is about 50 times better.

Mike Brey and the Irish have a drive for excitement.

Was the Notre Dame-Steven F. Austin game the best of the tournament so far? Probably. Despite the three-quarter court buzzer-beaters, the upset of Michigan State, and Wisconsin’s Brandon Koenig’s channeling his ‘inner Steph Curry’, no other game had the back-and-forth of this game, right? No. 6 Notre Dame faces No. 7 Wisconsin on Thursday at 7:27 Eastern. You can bet Thursday’s game will have all the dramatics both teams brought to the table in first two rounds of the tournament.

Who wins the East?

If you don’t think this is the most interesting of the four regions, then you better hope and pray your boss doesn’t send you for a drug test anytime soon. It would be very difficult put the teams in any other order than the rankings in which they already stand, No. 1 North Carolina, No. 5 Indiana, No. 6 Notre Dame and No. 7 Wisconsin, BUT if you use recent history (last year’s tournament) as a guide, it would be tough to discount either Notre Dame or Wisconsin winning the region. To give either of those teams the region win would ignore what North Carolina has done this season, their seed and the respect that Roy Williams commands. As much as I love the drama and funny faces of Tom Crean, I cannot see the Hoosiers advancing to Saturday’s games. So, and I’m sure I’ll be wrong, but give me North Carolina over Notre Dame in the regional final Saturday night.

What the hell else do you have to talk about?

Yeah, the media…and because Bob limited me ONLY to this region, here are some of the best Vine’s, Instagram’s and Tweet’s I could come up with in five minutes.

I don’t think we’ll ever be done with Wisconsin-Xavier, so here’s Syracuse’s Christian White’s fathers’ (get all that?) reaction from behind Wisconsin’s bench on that last second shot:

Barstool Sports has another dramatic view of that same shot. The guy in the orange hat, yeah that’s White’s father. 

Unreal view of Wisconsin’s game-winner

A video posted by Barstool Sports (@barstool_sports) on

Notre Dame’s Rex Pflueger’s now-famous tip-in:

Steven F. Austin’s coach Brad Underwood talks about Thomas Walkup:

E-mail Damien at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photo: Phil Roeder/Flickr.

NCAA Tournament: East Region Notebook

As usual, there have been some crazy upsets in the NCAA Tournament this year. Nothing that has come out of the East Region has been too surprising. The most surprising game was that Stephen F. Austin beat West Virginia, but Brad Underwood would have his guys ready. Saturday kicks off another round of exciting games.

Indiana vs. Kentucky

This game starts at 4 p.m. today. This is going to be one of the top three games of the weekend. Two of the nation’s top point guards will face off.  It will be a battle of Indiana’s offense who shot 65 percent their first game of the tournament and hit 10 3-pointers. Against the Wildcat defense, who had an NCAA Tournament single game to watch and I wouldn’t be surprised if Indiana won.


North Carolina vs. Providence

North Carolina will face Providence at 8:30 today. This will be a great matchup, but UNC has length on offense and defense to beat the two best offensive players on the Providence team. Johnson is big inside and they do not have an answer for him. I see UNC winning this game.


Notre Dame vs. Stephen F.  Austin

Notre Dame and Stephen F. Austin will face off tomorrow at 1:40 p.m. Notre Dame surprised people when if came back to beat Michigan in the second half. Stephen F. Austin beat West Virginia pretty big on Friday night. If Thomas Walkup has the same night he did on Friday, The Lumberjacks will win the game.


Wisconsin vs. Xavier

Wisconsin will take on Xavier tomorrow night at 7:40. The Badgers first game was very low scoring. In order to beat Xavier they need to have a better offensive game. Xavier had a very high scoring game against Weber State. This matchup isn’t a very good one for Wisconsin because Wisconsin struggles against the three and Xavier can hit threes. Xavier should easily win this game.


NCAA Tournament Preview: East Region

The East region bracket looks like it could be one of the tougher regions in the tournament It will be interesting who comes out of the East on top and makes it to the Final Four.

North Carolina vs. Florida Gulf Coast

Florida Gulf Coast and North Carolina face each other on Thursday March 17th in Raleigh. Florida Gulf Coast is good, but not good enough to be North Carolina. North Carolina’s losses were by a combined 22 points. The Tarheels have held 23 consecutive opponents under 45 percent shooting. A number one team and it doesn’t look like it will happen with these two teams.


USC vs. Providence

The USC Trojans and Providence Friars will play on Thursday March 17th in Raleigh. Both of these teams went through losing streaks this season. USC lost six of eight games in a stretch late in the season. They had a solid victory over UCLA in the first round of the Pac 12 Conference Tournament to make a solid statement fir the NCAA Tournament. Providence lost six out of eight games midseason. The Friars won four games in a row before losing to Nova in the Big East Conference Tournament. USC should win this game, but it will be close.


Indiana vs. Chattanooga

The Indiana Hoosiers and Chattanooga Mocs play on Thursday March 17th in Des Moines. Indiana started off their season not looking very good. When they got into conference play turned it on and went 15-3 through their Big 10 Schedule. Indiana captured their first regular season Big Ten Title since 2013. Indiana is a very good offensive team that can make a run into the tournament as long as their defense can step up. Chattanooga has an incredible coach that has done incredible things for the team this season.  Chattanooga won a school record 29 games and swept the Southern Conference regular season and tournament. Chattanooga has a ton of depth, but probably won’t be enough to stop the high powered Indiana offense. Indiana should win, but it will be a very close game.


Kentucky vs. Stony Brook

The Kentucky Wildcats will play the Stony Brook Seawolves on March 17th in Des Moines. Kentucky is nowhere close to where they were last year, but they have a lot of talent and will make a run in the tournament. The Stony Brook Seawolves wil appear in their first NCAA Tournament in school history. The Seawolves had major help all-season from Jameel Warney who had 43 points on 18-23 shooting in the Championship game. It is sad that Stony Brook has to face Kentucky in the first round. They probably would have surprised some people if they faced another opponent.


Notre Dame vs. Michigan

Notre Dame and Michigan will play each other on Friday March 18th in Brooklyn. Notre Dame stumbled late this season, but were good enough in ACC play to earn a bid in the NCAA Tournament. The Irish beat Duke twice and North Carolina at home to boost their resume. They should be able to beat Michigan when they face them on Friday. Zak Ervin led the charge for the Wolverines to beat Tulsa by five and get them out of the play in game and onto the bracket.

Wisconsin vs. Pittsburgh

The Wisconsin Badgers and Pittsburgh Panthers will play each other on Friday march 18th in St. Louis. Wisconsin had a shock in December when their coach Bo Ryan stepped down. New head coach Greg Gard had a lot of work to do to even make it to the NCAA Tournament let alone a 7 seed. They aren’t as good as the Badger team from last year, but they still have a chance to win one or two games at least. The Pittsburgh Panthers have been up and down this season. The Panthers defend and rebound well and they rank 14th in assists. I still don’t think it will be enough to beat the Badgers though.


West Virginia vs. Stephen F. Austin

The West Virginia Mountaineers will play the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks on March 18th in Brooklyn. Stephen F. Austin had a down year this year, if you can call it that. They are on a twenty game win streak, instead of their twenty seven or twenty eight game win streak like they have had in the past. The Lumberjacks are a small team, but are one of the most effective offensive teams in the nation. They rank 21st in scoring and 2nd in assists. An upset against West Virginia isn’t very likely with the Mountaineers press, but you never know. This is the NCAA Tournament after all.


Xavier vs. Weber State

The Xavier Musketeers will play the Weber State Wildcats on Friday March 18th in St. Louis. Weber State finished their season by winning the last seven out of eight games and won the Big Sky Tournament. Jeremy Senglin and Joel Bolomboy are the two best shooters for the Wildcats. Xavier lost in the semi-final of the Big East Tournament, but they finished their season by winning 5 of the last 6 games. Xavier has had a very good season and it doesn’t look very good for Weber State.


Six is the Magic Number

As a lifelong College hoops fanatic, I’m typically resistant to any significant changes to the rules. However, when the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel released the rule updates which were being put in place for 2015-16, it was the first time I can recall agreeing with the changes.

I had my concerns about reducing the shot clock, but 30 seconds is a sweet spot I can live with; and for years, I’ve been shouting to the rooftops to change the 10 second rule. The NCAA did the right thing, and no longer resets the 10 second count if the team in possession calls a time out while still in the back court. Those were the two most significant adjustments to the actual game play; and two months into the season, college basketball is largely unchanged, with some nice enhancements via the rule modifications.

Despite the improvements brought about due to this year’s updates, the one rule change which should have been pushed to the front of the line was to increase personal fouls from five to six. Now, that was proposed, and is in experiment mode to some extent this coming post season; however, it won’t be in play come NCAA Tournament time. Giving players a little bit longer leash would have been a major upgrade to college hoops, and I’ll tell you why.

Across the sports landscape these days, officiating is under heavy fire. Whether it’s college or pro, football, basketball, baseball, you name it; officials in every sport are, let’s just say, not very well liked. Of course it’s not always warranted, but college basketball has its fair share of really poor referees. And more than any other sport, college hoops seems to have more officials, who inject themselves into the game, and think they’re part of the show.

What does any of this have to do with adding a sixth personal foul? It has everything to do with it. Allowing each player an additional personal foul will reduce the impact the officials have on the outcome of the game. I’m not suggesting that by adding that sixth foul, poor officiating shouldn’t be addressed. However, you can’t very well discipline a bad official during the game. So let’s clip their claws a bit.

Scaling back the damage caused by quick whistles will do wonders for the game and the viewers. Even on nights when the refs want to impose their will on both teams, guys who normally would need to sit on the bench for the last 10-15 minutes of the first half, will now have new life. While the constant stoppages will still be annoying, at least the fan favorites will still be on the floor.
That brings me to my next point.

College basketball has a popularity problem, particularly during the regular season. So let’s keep the stars on the floor. There isn’t nearly the amount of true “stars” in college hoops, as there were in decades past. Many teams are carried by one or two strong players, with a bunch of role players around them.

Take the Providence Friars as an example. Last week, Kris Dunn got two first half fouls against Butler. The inability to keep him on the floor, led to a 12 point deficit. While they were able to climb out of it, and ultimately win the game, his absence put them in peril. Dunn needs to be on the floor producing highlight reels, not walking on egg shells trying to avoid picking up number three.

More and more college freshmen are hanging around for one year, until they bolt for the NBA. With such limited opportunity to watch these rising stars play, we need to reduce the possibility of having them saddled with early fouls, planted to the pine.

Ben Simmons is one of the most hyped freshmen in recent history. Given that his LSU Tigers squad has been underwhelming thus far, there’s a distinct possibility America won’t see him in the Big Dance. In the meantime, we run the risk of flipping over to the rare, nationally televised LSU game, and having Simmons nowhere to be found if he gets slapped with a couple early fouls. College ball needs the stars and future stars out there showing off their talents.

A while back, my esteemed colleague Hollis Mclain III wrote a piece explaining how the new rules would narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots. You can check that out here after you finish this post. I personally disagree, and feel that by and large we won’t see much difference than we have in recent years. However, I do believe that adding a sixth personal foul will actually widen the gap; and that’s a good thing. Allow me to explain.

As I stated earlier, by adding another personal foul to each player’s arsenal, we’re drawing power away from the referees; and keeping the best players on the floor for longer periods of time. Over time, the cream will rise. More skill and physical talent will eventually wear down lesser opponents. It will also provide the viewing audience with a better basketball experience.
This won’t be as evident during the regular season, though it will certainly have an impact. Come March, when the games are being played on the biggest stage, that’s when it will really show. Rather than having a top seed sweating it out against some double-digit nightmare because their best player picked up two quick ones, coaches will be able to keep their stars in the game, thus avoiding the scare.

Look, I’m all for the VCUs, Wichita States, and Butlers of the world making a deep tournament run. I enjoy watching a 14 or 15 seed pull off a stunner. However, when we get down to the Elite Eight, and the Final Four; it’s time for the little guys to go, and let the big boys play. This rule change would increase the likelihood that as the NCAA Tournament progresses; the top teams have their best players at their disposal, allowing the tournament to take proper shape.

I love college basketball above any other sport, and I certainly don’t want to see it mirror the NBA game. But adopting the six personal foul rule permanently, like the NBA, is the right move. Ultimately I believe it will be put in play. Since it wasn’t done this year, it needs to be done sooner rather than later, for the good of the game.

Photo: ATrumbly/Flickr

Jinxing Your Team One Pick at a Time

50%. That’s roughly the number of people who are picking Kentucky to win it all on ESPN’s Tournament Challenge. That has to be by far the highest in a while. I’m actually a little surprised that it’s that low. The next highest team picked to win it all? Wisconsin at just under 10%.

So what teams are capable of knocking off Kentucky? I’d say short of some surprise team going 15-22 from 3 against them, only the other Top 5 teams. Wisconsin has a pretty good shot. They’re extremely balanced, play ultra-efficient on offense and have player of the year candidate Frank Kaminsky. And though it is a different Kentucky squad, the Badgers were one shot away from beating them in the tourney last year and won’t be intimidated. Wisconsin’s possible Elite 8 opponent Arizona also has as good a shot as anyone. They have experienced guards, play elite defense, and have the bigs to match-up with Kentucky’s size. At least to the point anyone could match their size. Duke (gulp) is probably the only other team that has a realistic shot, if for no other reason than they come closest to matching Kentucky from an NBA talent stand point, and they also have the 3-point shooting to match.

Ultimately do I think Kentucky will go down? On to the picks…


Kentucky over West Virginia
Too much size, too much talent, too much everything for West Virginia to pull off the upset here.

Wichita State over Butler
Regardless of what their seed says, the Shockers are really good. They were in the Final Four two years ago and were undefeated last year until running into a Kentucky team that made the championship game. Key players from those two teams lead this year’s group and they move on here despite Butler’s edge inside.

Wisconsin over Arkansas
I like Arkansas to get past North Carolina because of their edge on defense and having the best player on the floor (Bobby Portis) but that won’t be enough to get them past Wisconsin. The Badgers are simply too good and Arkansas didn’t really challenge the only elite team they played in SEC play (Kentucky)

Arizona over Baylor
Rico Gathers can match up with Zona but I don’t think Baylor has anyone else to match the Wildcats’ size. Close for a while, but Arizona wins relatively easily.

Villanova over Louisville
I don’t think Louisville is that good, but I’m not sure anyone else they’d play before this point is great either. With the quality of competition increased immensely, the Cardinals fall.

Michigan State over Providence
Providence has two great players in Kris Dunn and LaDontae Henton that will carry them to this point. However, I think the Spartans have the ability to take one of them away and down the Friars. Having one of the best coaches in the country won’t hurt either.

Duke over Stephen F. Austin
Duke could get a scare from San Diego State (if SDSU gets through St. John’s) but even if the Aztecs hold Duke 20 points below their season average, I don’t think they can score enough on offense. Every year there are one or two surprises in the Sweet 16. I think Stephen F. Austin is that team this year, but their Cinderella run will end here as the Blue Devils’ talent proves too much to overcome.

Iowa State over Gonzaga
I admittedly have little feel for this part of the region. The Cyclones are obviously talented enough to beat Gonzaga, and after recent years I refuse to believe the Zags can make the Final Four until they actually do it.


Kentucky over Wichita State
The Shockers have the guards to play with Kentucky (and probably have the edge there) but they would get slaughtered on the boards. Kentucky wins fairly handily.

Arizona over Wisconsin
While I hate it when people use rematch to describe two teams that played a previous year, this is about as close as it gets. Wisconsin returned virtually everyone from last year’s Final Four team and got huge improvement out of players like Nigel Hayes. These two teams played basically dead even last year in a game Frank Kaminsky dominated. He’ll have to do the same because this Arizona team is better than last year’s. They replaced defensive standout Aaron Gordon with Stanley Johnson, who can take a game over, and their defense is just as good. The difference this year is Arizona will have Brandon Ashley, who missed the tournament last year due to injury.

Michigan State over Villanova
The Spartans are battle tested after having played almost 1/3 of their games vs Top 10 teams. Villanova seems like the likeliest one seed to bow out earlier than hoped and with only one day in between games, I’m going with Tom Izzo.

Duke over Iowa State
The Cyclones have the offensive firepower to keep up with Duke and have some good wins this year. But I think Duke has just enough of a size advantage, and Iowa State’s 3-point defense (217th in the country) will be a problem against a Duke team that has four regulars who hit at least 38% from beyond the arc.


Kentucky over Arizona
Arizona has the size to match Kentucky. They have solid guard play. What they don’t have is outside shooting and it will be hard to score on Kentucky in the paint. This would be a close, low-scoring game with Kentucky ultimately securing a return trip to the title game.

Duke over Michigan State
The Spartans defense isn’t as stingy as usual and when these two teams played in November, the Spartans gave up 81. They can’t afford to play at Duke’s pace, and the Blue Devils have too much talent on offense for Michigan State to overcome.


Kentucky over Duke
Duke has what you’d want to beat Kentucky except for defense. The Blue Devils defense has been anything but great this year. On the flip side, the Wildcats have the NBA level talent down low to match Jahlil Okafor and limit him the way other teams cannot. Kentucky completes its undefeated season.

Here are the bigger first round upsets I see going down:

13 Valparaiso over 4 Maryland
11 Ole Miss over 6 Xavier
12 Stephen F. Austin over 5 Utah
13 Eastern Washington over 4 Georgetown

Jason is on Twitter at @Jlindy87 or you can e-mail him at [email protected]

An all Catholic College Hoops Conference would be a revelation

Conference realignment in college athletics has been a maddening process to watch unfold over the last few years.  As a hardcore college hoops fan, I’m disappointed to see the Big East dissolve.  I won’t say I’m sad; after all, it is just an athletic conference.  But I am disappointed.

Growing up in the 80’s, the Big East was huge.  At that time, the amount of college hoops on national television was a mere fraction of what it is today; but you could count on seeing a Big East game on TV every weekend of the College Basketball season.

It seemed that every single March, I’d be watching an awesome Syracuse-Georgetown match up in the Big East semis or championship.  That rivalry is now gone.  Along with some other really great rivalries which developed over the lifetime of the Big East.

Although I’m disappointed with the loss of the Big East, I’m excited about the prospect of the remaining Catholic schools forming a league; along with the possibility of expanding to a nationwide Catholic basketball conference.

Now, my enthusiasm for this idea has nothing to do with religion.  I was raised Catholic; however, religion is not a part of my life.  There are other reasons for my enthusiasm for such a league.

First and foremost, I’m excited to see a conference whose members actually have something in common.  Conferences used to be regionally based.  The majority of conferences made complete sense.  The ACC had schools which resided on the Atlantic coast; the SEC was made up of schools which were in the Southeastern part of the United States, etc.

When teams would realign in the past, they typically would relocate to a conference that made sense regionally.  South Carolina joined the SEC.   Boston College and Miami joined the ACC.  You see where I’m going with this.

All of that went out the window with the latest boom of realignment moves.  The Big East was set to take on schools like Boise State, San Diego State, etc.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but those schools are out west.  Nothing against those schools; but that sort of tomfoolery really makes my Rainman-ish side itch.  I appreciate reason, logic, and order.

The formation of an all Catholic schools league would be logical.  Not only will the formation of a conference of all Catholic schools be logical because of the common thread they share; but it would also be a dang good college hoops league.

The Big East holdovers form a strong base of teams steeped in basketball tradition.  Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova have each won National Championships.  DePaul, Providence, St. John’s, and Seton Hall have each played in the Final Four.  Although most of that success dates back to the ’70’s & ’80’s, these are still successful programs.

What would make this a really great league, would be the possible additions that have been rumored.  If schools like Butler, Dayton, Creighton, Gonzaga, St. Louis, St. Mary’s, and Xavier join, it would make for a fun, yet powerful basketball conference.

There are enough top tier schools to be a force in the NCAA tournament.  Many of those schools consistently reach the second weekend of March Madness.  Even though the league would be strong, it wouldn’t be top heavy.  The talent gap between the first place team and the last place team wouldn’t be significant.  Once proud schools like DePaul and St. John’s would have a chance to revive after being buried in the Big East for years.

If all of those schools would come together, there’d be some awesome built-in rivalries.  Georgetown-Villanova will always have the Big East ties, and the 1985 NCAA Championship.  Butler/Xavier has been downright nasty in recent seasons.  Natural regional rivalries between St. John’s/Seton Hall, Dayton/Xavier, and Marquette/DePaul would exist.  Plus, the conference would span the Midwest with St. Louis/Creighton; and the West coast would be covered with Gonzaga/St. Mary’s.

Obviously this is a lot of speculation.  We know the seven Big East teams are on the move, but right now, there are only rumors about which other schools may join them.  Who knows if this will actually happen?  I certainly hope it does.  Maybe I’m in the minority, but I think an all Catholic schools league would produce some pretty awesome college hoops.