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Friars see postseason hopes slip away

February 17, 2012

Providence sophomore Gerard Coleman sat out Friday’s practice due to a flu bug that, according to head coach Ed Cooley, is something the swingman has been dealing with all week. Cooley also noted that Coleman will be a game-time decision for Saturday’s game at The Dunk against 10th-ranked Georgetown.

PROVIDENCE — Ed Cooley claims had no idea that Wednesday’s loss at Cincinnati resulted in his Providence Friars dipping below .500 for the first time this season.
“To be honest with you, I didn’t even know that,” 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, “If you worry about your record, then you’re not concentrating on the right things.”
Cooley’s 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 – one of which is presently on the table heading into Saturday’s matchup with the 9-4 Hoyas, who will be seeking their 20th win.
Certainly it’s no secret that the Friars have been swimming upstream since conference play began. What’s 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.
It’s 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 that’s received a berth finished with a mark on the minus side of .500.
What does all this mean for the Friars? For a program that’s 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 – regardless if the majority of the masses believe that anything that doesn’t have to do with “March Madness” is a utter waste of time – is one that remains appealing.
It’s 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, “Our urgency level is always high. When you’re building a program, you can’t consistently talk about records. You have to talk about the things that make you better.”
Added sophomore Bryce Cotton: “We keep reiterating that we’re playing good basketball; it’s just not showing up in the win column. It’s human nature to want to play games in March, but you’ve got to be patient and see what happens. Eventually things have to come to the surface.”
With Providence’s 11-2 nonconference record now a distant memory, the season’s tenor has taken on a completely different vibe. That said, Cooley doesn’t feel it’s necessary to remind his players of what lies potentially down the road when winning a game has proven to be easier said than done.
“We’ve talked about breaking down our season,” Cooley noted. “You’ve 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]. That’s something I need to challenge my team on.”
“The main two goals are improving and winning,” Cotton said. “Nothing has really changed; that’s still the motto.”
***
RIM RATTLERS: The status of Gerard Coleman for Saturday’s 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 Friday’s practice from the sidelines. “Gerard hasn’t felt well all week,” Cooley said. “He’ll be a game-time decision.” A back injury forced Coleman to miss the Jan. 10 game against Louisville, a 90-59 Friar rout of the Cardinals. On the season he’s averaging 13.7 ppg and five rebounds in 33 minutes. The Boston native scored 11 points in Wednesday’s game at Cincinnati. … Cooley on facing the Hoyas: “Monster game. They’re playing as well as anybody. You’ve got [John Thompson III] who could be the National Coach of the Year. They’re young and hard to guard; we’ve got our hands full.” … 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 that’s on tap for 7 p.m.

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