PROVIDENCE â Ed Cooley claims had no idea that Wednesdayâs loss at Cincinnati resulted in his Providence Friars dipping below .500 for the first time this season.
âTo be honest with you, I didnât even know that,â Cooley said after this reporter informed him of the news Friday, one day before PC welcomes 10th-ranked Georgetown to The Dunk Saturday night. In the same breath Cooley added, âIf you worry about your record, then youâre not concentrating on the right things.â
Cooleyâs main concern these days is grabbing a win in any which way or fashion. PC fans need no reminders how elusive said task has been, the Friars basking in the glow of victory on just two occasions since the calendar was flipped to 2012. At 2-12 in Big East play, Providence enters the weekend dead last in the Big East standings, a mark rooted in three separate four-game losing streaks â one of which is presently on the table heading into Saturdayâs matchup with the 9-4 Hoyas, who will be seeking their 20th win.
Certainly itâs no secret that the Friars have been swimming upstream since conference play began. Whatâs worth noting are the possible fallout stemming from the 81-66 defeat at the hands of the Bearcats. Now 13-14 overall, the Friars find themselves in the delicate state of completely putting themselves out on one of the umpteen postseason tournaments (NIT, CBI, CIT) that litter the spring landscape and play second fiddle to the Grand Poobah, the NCAA Tournament.
Itâs worth noting that the NIT and CBI do not require teams to have a .500 record but the CBI does. The NCAA tweaked the selection process for the NIT back in 2006, though since the changeover, not a single team thatâs received a berth finished with a mark on the minus side of .500.
What does all this mean for the Friars? For a program thatâs played in just two NIT games (losses in 2007 and 2009) since last qualifying for the NCAAs in 2004, the idea of playing games beyond the Big East Tournament â regardless if the majority of the masses believe that anything that doesnât have to do with âMarch Madnessâ is a utter waste of time â is one that remains appealing.
Itâs just that the road has become much more arduous with three regular-season games remaining (at DePaul, home to Connecticut, at Notre Dame) following Saturday. Asked if a sense of winning and winning now has gripped his team, Cooley responded, âOur urgency level is always high. When youâre building a program, you canât consistently talk about records. You have to talk about the things that make you better.â
Added sophomore Bryce Cotton: âWe keep reiterating that weâre playing good basketball; itâs just not showing up in the win column. Itâs human nature to want to play games in March, but youâve got to be patient and see what happens. Eventually things have to come to the surface.â
With Providenceâs 11-2 nonconference record now a distant memory, the seasonâs tenor has taken on a completely different vibe. That said, Cooley doesnât feel itâs necessary to remind his players of what lies potentially down the road when winning a game has proven to be easier said than done.
âWeâve talked about breaking down our season,â Cooley noted. âYouâve got to break it down in trying to win our home games and get lucky on the road. Obviously a lot of people are talking about us not winning [a Big East road game since 2010]. Thatâs something I need to challenge my team on.â
âThe main two goals are improving and winning,â Cotton said. âNothing has really changed; thatâs still the motto.â
RIM RATTLERS: The status of Gerard Coleman for Saturdayâs game is very much up in the air. The sophomore has been slowed in recent days by a flu bug that forced him to watch Fridayâs practice from the sidelines. âGerard hasnât felt well all week,â Cooley said. âHeâll be a game-time decision.â A back injury forced Coleman to miss the Jan. 10 game against Louisville, a 90-59 Friar rout of the Cardinals. On the season heâs averaging 13.7 ppg and five rebounds in 33 minutes. The Boston native scored 11 points in Wednesdayâs game at Cincinnati. âŠ Cooley on facing the Hoyas: âMonster game. Theyâre playing as well as anybody. Youâve got [John Thompson III] who could be the National Coach of the Year. Theyâre young and hard to guard; weâve got our hands full.â âŠ The annual Providence College men's basketball Alumni Game is scheduled for Saturday at The Dunk prior to the PC-Georgetown game. The Alumni Game will begin at 2:45 p.m. with the contest expected to feature familiar names Ernie DiGregorio, God Shammgod, Jamel Thomas, Joe Hassett and Jacek Duda. Fans may attend the Alumni Game by showing a ticket to the Georgetown game thatâs on tap for 7 p.m.