Projections Paint Ugly Pictures for Friars

Providence Head Coach Ed Cooley – Photo Courtesy Providence College Athletics

CATCH BIG EAST ACTION ON YURVIEW WHEN THE FRIARS TAKE ON CREIGHTON ON WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 5 AT 7PM ET. YURVIEW IS COX CHANNEL 4 IN RHODE ISLAND.

The last three weeks have been brutal for Providence College’s men’s basketball program.

Just when things seemed to be turning a corner, the Friars ran into the top half of the Big East and have now lost four of their last five.

The pendulum swing began around the holidays when they knocked off Texas and then followed that up with wins over Georgetown, DePaul, and Marquette to begin league play.

For all the problems that the non-conference slate brought, they ended it on a high note and opened league play 3-0. They were playing their best basketball of the season and reveling in their revitalization.

Since then though, it’s been an equally sharp turn left.

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They fell at home to Butler, held serve at home against St. John’s, but have since fallen to Creighton, Seton Hall, and Villanova, all by single digits.

While there have been subtle signs of growth in those losses, we’re quickly approaching the time of year when it’s becoming strictly about wins/losses and if the Friars are holding out any hopes of dancing in March, they need to start to string some wins together in a hurry.

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Alpha Diallo – Photo Courtesy Providence College Athletics

The problem is that the metrics are now projecting the Friars to be in the midst of their longest losing streak of the season.

KenPom, the foremost authority on college basketball advanced analytics and projections, is forecasting the Friars to lose their next 8 games, before finishing the regular season with wins over Xavier and DePaul, which would be an unprecedented losing streak in the Ed Cooley era.

The numbers give them a 17% chance of winning this weekend at Butler, 44% chance at home against Creighton, and then between 30-38% for the next four games (at Xavier, at St. John’s, Seton Hall, Georgetown). A home game against Marquette and a trip to Villanova would round out what KenPom is now projecting to be an 11-game losing streak.

Obviously, such a fate would be disastrous. But projections are just that, projections, and as someone who makes their living forecasting basketball futures markets (albeit of prospects and not teams), I can personally vouch for the fact that no model, analytical or otherwise, is foolproof.

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Maliek White – Photo Courtesy Providence College Athletics

The silver lining of this projection is the opportunity that the coming schedule presents.

The Friars now sit 11-10 overall and 4-4 in the Big East. They’re not in the running for the NCAA tournament at the moment and if they’re going to flip that script, they’ll need not base hits, but home runs. The upcoming schedule provides those types of opportunities, precisely because it is so daunting.

A win on the road against Butler would be huge for their resume. It would be no less important for their psyche and confidence. If they were to pick-up a win at Hinkle, would that momentum propel them to a home win over Creighton? As improbable as that scenario might be, by the numbers, it has the potential to drastically shift the course of this team’s season if it were to come to fruition.

The February 15th game vs. Seton Hall and February 29th game at Villanova provide other opportunities for major, resume boosting, wins.

The reality though is that even if Cooley and his boys can steal a couple of these games, they’re also going to need to virtually sweep the bottom half of the league from this point forward and that’s a lot more difficult than it may sound.

Xavier may be 2-5 in Big East play so far but they’re 10-2 playing at home this season and KenPom currently projects the Friars with just a 32% chance of winning that game on February 8th.

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David Duke – Photo Courtesy Providence College Athletics

It’s a similar scenario on February 12th. St. John’s is 2-7 in conference play so far this season but 10-4 at home and has a projected 62% chance of victory when Providence visits Madison Square Garden.

While I can’t personally envision a scenario where an Ed Cooley team loses 11 straight, the numbers do paint a daunting picture, not just now but also moving forward. The reality is that the subtle signs of growth we’ve been seeing aren’t going to cut it anymore if this team is going to live up to their initial goal of returning to March Madness. The dam needs to break and the waters of positive momentum need to pour in rapidly.

It’s not impossible, but the numbers would have you believe that the exact opposite may be more likely.

CATCH BIG EAST ACTION ON YURVIEW WHEN THE FRIARS TAKE ON CREIGHTON ON WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 5 AT 7PM ET. YURVIEW IS COX CHANNEL 4 IN RHODE ISLAND.