Thursday, March 12, 2009


March 12, 2009

Providence kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alove as a Late Friars Surge Holds Off DePaul and PC ends the Blue Demons' season with an 83-74 win.

Sharaud Curry led PC with 25 points and Weyinmi Efejuku added 23 in the win in a game that Keno Davis' squad could not afford to lose.

Their reward is a date with the 2009 Big East Tournament's No. 1 seed, Louisville, at high noon today at Madison Square. At stake for PC could be a bid to the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

Here are some pregame stories and previews on tonight's game:

Providence Friars Eye NCAA Tournament Bid (Hartford Courant)
Friars Survive Big Day for Two Blue Demons (Courier-Journal)
Pitno Denied the Honors He Deserves (Courier-Journal)
Cards: New York Not Neutral (Courier-Journal)
Friars Used Bye to their Advantage Against DePaul (Providence Journal)
After Win over DePaul, Providence Season Comes Down to Louisville Game (Providence-Journal)
Friars Hung in With Louisville in February - For Awhile (Providence Journal)

Despite a 10-8 Big East regular season, earning a bye as the 8th place team in a conference once thought of as a 10-bid league, it is likely that Providence will need a win over Louisville in the Big East Tournamant quarterfinals to secure a spot in the 'Big Dance' when the selections are announced on Sunday. That is an awfully tall order for the Friars, who lost at Louisville back on February 18th, 94-76.

While the 18-point difference seems daunting, there are a few facts to keep in mind about the previous meeting. The Friars shot 50% from the floor in enemy territory and out-rebounded the Cards. However, the difference in the game was turnovers. PC turned the ball over 22 times (while just forcing UL to turn it over 9 times) as the UL press took its toll.

The Friars need to do a better job against the pressure, and there is no reason to believe they will not. They have the experience of going through it once and the game tape to improve on their mistakes. They have a veteran back court with redshirt junior Sharaud Curry along with four senior starters in Weyinmi Efejuku, Jeff Xavier, Geoff McDermott and Jonathan Kale. This group has pulled together before, in a stirring upset of Pittsburgh, and they can definitely do it once again.

In order to do so, they will have to prevent Terrence Williams and Earl Clark from turning their defensive pressure into quick strike points the other way. The Friars have to defend the perimeter in earnest, not allowing Edgar Sosa, Jerry Smith and Preston Knowles to find comfort shooting from the perimeter. PC showed they could rebound and score against UL, now they need to show they can handle the ball.

Louisville will be the test case for the double-bye as they will be playing their first game in the Big East Tournament. All the favorites won on Wednesday, as expected, but there definitely seems to be a severe drop from the top 7 (or eight if PC can prove themselves worthy) and the rest of the league. These next three days should be awfully fun!! With their defensive pressure, the Cards should be able to wear down PC and that is likely to make the difference.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Louisville 75
Providence 68


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By Zach Smart

NEW YORK--The callow, sophomore-anchored ballclub looked as if they
could stage another Big East upset. We're talking a titanic, monumental
upset that would bury Providence's desire to dance this season.

DePaul--yes, that DePaul, the team that worked through the meat and
maximum of their conference slate and didn't come out with anything
other than an 0-18 quagmire--was giving the senior-led Providence
Friars the business before a lunch-time crowd at Madison Square

Yes, that Providence. The team who outlasted Syracuse and
blood-lettered Pittsburgh and talked all pre-season about their desire
for a first-ever NCAA tournament berth during their time as Friars.

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So, Jerry Wainwright's nucleus of neophytes--led by an aggressive,
swift scorer in Dar Tucker--gave the black-and-white clad fans some
early jitter bugs.

DePaul instigated a torrent of turnovers (the Friars committed seven
first-half turnovers before DePaul had committed one) and sealed off
7-foot Randall Hanke down low. They put the clamps on the Friars,
forcing Sharaud Curry into some errant passes and poor decisions.

DePaul buried the Friars with a barrage of three-pointers. Will Walker,
Tucker, and seldom-used forward Mario Stula (the Croatian had just
seven three-pointers leading up to the game but canned three pivotal
treys in 13 minutes).

They also featured Tucker, who finished with 30 points on 10-for-22
shooting. The low NBA prospect has the potential to be one of the top
players in the conference next season and showed it on the biggest
stage Wednesday.

DePaul had held a thin margin for much of the second half and another
upset appeared to be on its way.

Then, suddenly, the elder statesman on the court thwarted young
DePaul's momentum surge.

Jeff Xavier, Providence's 23-year-old senior, canned an open trey from
the corner, providing the Friars with a 64-62 lead with under five
minutes remaining.

Xavier's three was timely. It injected the life that Providence (7-6 in
their last 13 games) has been sorely lacking during such a high-stakes,
fate-determinant game. Early on, however, Providence was sleepwalking,
playing without passion, as if it was their game to lose.

The three-pointer triggered a vital 8-0 run capped by Geoff McDermott's
coast-to-coast layup. Wedged in between was a strong take to the rack
by Weyinmi Efejuku and a jumper from Curry.

Curry and Efejuku paced the Friars with 25 and 23, respectively. Will
Walker, who went 6-for-13 from downtown, led all scorers with 31

DePaul suffered a late-game drought, surrendering a head-spinning 15-1
spurt they were never able to recover from.

The last thing this team of young guns can do is put their heads down.
They came into this tournament with nothing to lose and scored a solid
upset, sending Cincinnati home packing.

Jerry Wainwright chose the path this young team is on. He opted not to
recruit any players on the junior college circuit and instead build for
the future.

The momentum-pendulum was swinging their way at full force when Keno
Davis picked up a technical with 8:32 remaining.

In a topsy-turvey game that was accompanied by a great March
atmosphere, the seniors staved off a good show by the sophomores.


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Wednesday, March 11, 2009


March 11, 2009

Day two of the 2009 Big East Tournament (see link for tickets) tips off at high noon with DePaul facing Providence in Madison Square Garden.

The Blue Demons snapped an 18-game losing streak with a 67-57 tournament opening win over Cincinnati on Tuesday. The Blue Demons got 17 points a piece from Will Walker and Dar Tucker and they shocked slumping Cincinnati.

The Friars come to New York City as the tourney's 9th seed following a 10-8 Big East conference season. Many thought that 10 wins in this year's Big East would make a team a lock for the 2009 NCAA Tournament, but the Friars definitely look to have more work to do, especially with Cleveland State knocking off Butler last night, likely taking away an at-large bid for the bubble teams.

Here are some pregame stories and previews on today's contest:

Kale Gives Hopeful Friars a Spark (Sun Chronicle)
Friars Defensive About NCAA Tourney Chance (Sun Chronicle)
Frars Aim: Change That New York State of Mind (Providence Journal)
Capsule Preview: PC vs DePaul (Providence Journal)
A Year After PC Fired Him, Tim Welsh Still Roots for Friars (Providence Journal)
With Senior Laden Group, Providence Smiling on Keno Davis (Chicago Tribune)
No So Blue, DePaul Advances (Beacon News)
DePaul Upsets Cincinnati in Big East Tournament Opener (Chicago Tribune)

This is a good news-bad news scenario for Providence College. The good news, they are heavily favored according to the latest college basketball betting odds (-9 1/2) to win and advance to the Big East quarterfinals with a victory against DePaul. However, for a team in need of a win (or two) that means something, beating the Blue Demons, a team that is 9-23 on the season, is not going to grab anyone's attention.

These two teams met back in early January with the Friars victorious at home, 62-54. The Friars had four players in double figures in the win, led by Weyinmi Efejuku's game-high 18 points. The held the Blue Demons to 35% shooting and leading scorer Dar Tucker was just 4-17 from the field.

The Friars have a deep backcourt, led by senior Efejuku and redshirt junior Sharaud Curry, and they have some size with Geoff McDermott and Jonathan Kale inside and Randall Hanke can be a productive player off the bench against a team like DePaul.

While the Blue Demons are playign with house money as a 16-seed advancing to round two of the Big East Tournament, they will be facing a tough uphill battle in this game. Having the experience of one game in Madison Square Garden under their belt should help and the Friars have all the pressure on them, look for DePaul to possibly get out of the gates quicker than the Friars.

But, in the end, PC will take control of the game near the end of the 1st half and begin to set the cruise. If they win, their date with Louisville in the quarterfinals will be their biggest game in some time.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Providence 72
DePaul 61


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Friday, March 06, 2009


March 6, 2009

The was plenty at stake last night at the Pavilion on the Villanova campus when the Wildcats hosted Providence in the Big East regular season finale for both clubs. A win for 'Nova would clinch a cherished top-four finish in the Big East standings. For the Friars, a win would go a long way in putting them on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble.

With the emotion and energy of their fans honoring seniors Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark, Dante Cunningham and Frank Tchuisi, all playing their final home game, Villanova Cruises to Win and Byes (Philadelphia Inquirer) in rounds one and two of the Big East Tournament by locking up fourth place in the conference with a 97-80 win over PC.

Junior Scottie Reynolds led the Wildcats with 23 points and Cunningham and Anderson made their final appearance in the Pavillion, where Villanova has won 28 straight, memorable by scoring 19 points a piece as Villanova Earns Byes and Nearly a Week Off With Win over Providence (Philly Daily News). 'Nova's next action will come Thursday in the 2009 Big East Tournament with a 2 PM game at Madison Square Garden.

Sophomores Corey Fisher (13 points) and Corey Stokes (11 points) also reached double figures and junior Reggie Redding led the unselfish Wildcats with 11 assists and zero turnovers. As a team, Jay Wright's squad had an impressive 26:7 assist to turnover ratio in the contest with assists on 74% of their made field goals.

By contrast, Providence turned the ball over 22 times and helped lead to VU getting 17 more field goal attempts in the game as the Friars Miss Chance Make their Case for an NCAA Bid (Providence Journal) and will likely have work to do in next week's Big East Tournament to keep from falling off the bubble and into the NIT. For now, the Friars take Aim at Winning the Big East Tournament (Providence Journal) in which they will be seeded anywhere between 6th and 8th depending on Saturday's outcomes for Syracuse and West Virginia.

Weyinmi Efejuku continued to have a hot hand for the Friars, finishing with a game-high 29 points. Sharaud Curry and Jonathan Kale each scored 14, with Kale also adding 11 rebounds for PC.


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Thursday, March 05, 2009


March 5, 2009

The stakes are always high in college basketball in March. The regular season finales in the Big East begin tonight and there is a lot riding on the match-up in Philadelphia between Villanova and Providence.

The Wildcats enter the contest with a 12-5 Big East record and 24-6 overall mark. While selection Sunday will not be a sweat for 'Nova, a win tonight in the regular season finale would clinch a top four finish in the Big East, meaning a double bye in the 2009 Big East Tournament which begins next week in Madison Square Garden.

The stakes for Providence are much higer. With a 10-7 Big East conference record, PC has put themselves in good position to be invited to the Big Dance. However, their overall mark of 18-11 keeps them squarely on the bubble and very vulnerable to falling on the wrong side. A road win over the Wildcats, couples with resume building wins over Syracuse and Pitt at home should be plenty for the Friars to take their place in the Field of 65.

Here are some game previews and stories on tonight's game:

Villanova Needs Win Tonight Against Providence to Improve Big EastTournament Seeding (Philadelphia Daily News)
Capsule Preview: PC at Villanova (Providence Journal)
PC Can Help Itself Off NCAA Tournament Bubble with Win at Villanova (Providence Journal)

The Friars and Wildcats met in Rhode Island back on February 4th and 'Nova held off a furious late came rally by PC to hold on for a 94-91 win. Scottie Reynolds led Jay Wright's squad with 31 points in that contest.

Villanova led 49-34 at the half and built there lead to as much as 20 points in the earlier meeting before a slwe of three's and driving buckets by Sharaud Curry and Wyinmi Efejuku ignited the comeback. A three by Efejuku with four seconds remaining closed the gap to 92-91, but it was too little too late.

According to the latest college basketball lines, Villanova is a 10 1/2-point favorite tonight in a game at their on-campus home, the Pavillion, where 'Nova has won 27-straight. Their home loss last weekend occurred at the Wachovia Center. The rebounded from the 56-54 setback against Georgetown to blow past Notre Dame on the road after halftime Monday night.

It is also senior night for the Wildcats and a chance for their fans to send-off leading scorer and rebounder Dante Cunningham as well as Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark and Frank Tchiusi.

The keys for 'Nova will be their perimeter defense, something that is usually a great strength of their club, led by Corey Fisher, Reynolds and Reggie Redding. They will be matched up against Currey, Efejuku and Jeff Xaiver predominately on the PC side. Villanova is certainly aware they can put up points in a hurry, but so can they, especially on their comfy and cozy home floor.

NBE Blogger Prediction:

Villanova 88
Providence 75


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Monday, March 02, 2009


March 2, 2009

Providence showed little sign of a letdown from their monumental upset of No. 1 Pittsburgh earlier in the week as they led host Rutgers 62-43 with 8:35 remaining in their Big East conference match-up on Sunday afternoon.

However, the Scarlet Knights did not go away without a fight as they embarked on a 16-0 run in the next five and a half minutes to cut the lead to 62-59 with three-minutes left. After a PC timeout, Jeff Xavier's Three-Pointer Thwarts Rutgers' Rally (Providence Journal) as PC wins 73-66. Xavier's 25-footer was the lone field goal made by the Friars in the last 8:35 of the game.

Weyinmi Efejuku led PC with 28 points and Xaiver added 13. PC's Reward is a Bye in the Big East Tournament (Providence Journal) as their two-game sweep over UC guarantees them a finish no-worse than 8th in the Big East.

Will a bigger reward such as an invite to the NCAA Tournament be forthcoming as well? The Friars close out their regular season Thursday night with a game at Villanova. With a 10-7 record in the Big East, which includes a win over No. 1 Pitt, a road win against a ranked 'Nova could punch their ticket. Otherwise, they might have some work to do next week at the 2009 Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden, which could be a virtual play-in game against Cincinnati or Notre Dame, the two most-likely candidates to be the #9 seed.


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