Friar Weekly: Nobody Understands the Insanity of the Friars

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I think I’m starting to finally realize what Ed Cooley’s strategy has been this season. And I think he’s a genius.

Fans and experts alike thought this team with high expectations was playing well below expectations when they barely scraped through their non-conference. Barely squeaking by Rider and Belmont, and losing to UMass? ‘Clearly this team is underachieving’ everyone stupidly thought.

However, if my theory is correct, this team made themselves look worse to throw off their Big East opponents. How do you prepare to play against the Friars when all your game footage, analysis, and observations of the team say one thing, but an entirely different team shows up? You can’t. And that is the genius of Ed Cooley.

I have thought about this for a long time, and it’s the only thing left that makes sense about this team that has more personalities than an identity theft. Nobody knows who the Friars are, who they really are, because they haven’t shown us. And they haven’t shown us because Ed Cooley wants to take the coaching styles of Bill Belichick and turn it up to 1,000.

Oh, what’s that behind me? The giant wall of pictures scribbled on in black Sharpie and connected together by pieces of string being held together by thumb tacks? That’s my Friar analysis wall, why do you ask?

Who Wouldn’t Want to Play For Ed Cooley?

Fox Sports did something pretty cool for the Providence-DePaul game by putting mics on both head coaches and giving fans a chance to hear how these coaches communicate with their players, dictate a strategy, and adjust their game plan as the game goes on.

Ed Cooley, whenever he decides to retire from basketball, should not be behind some desk as a commentator. No, Cooley deserves his own talk show.

From his rant about vampires to advising his players to “watch the ass!” Cooley was an absolute joy to listen to. More importantly, you can tell just how much he loves his players and wants them to succeed.

I watched as many recaps as I could. Being one of the few games I can actually get to every year, and being that it was actually in Chicago, I was excited to get to see the Friars play DePaul, but I couldn’t help but feel like I missed out on something by not watching the game with Ed Cooley Surround Sound audio. Here’s a guy who’s known for bringing passion, charm, a bit of fire, and a lot of empathy for his players when he’s on the sideline. It’s a rare glimpse into how he works, and a very cool experience to have had. Most importantly, who wouldn’t want to play for Ed after seeing that?

The Comeback Kids

Going 2-0 against DePaul and Butler was a reasonable goal, but didn’t come without difficulties. At one point, Providence was down to both these teams and ice cold from the floor. Butler seemed to eat the Friars alive inside for awhile, while DePaul was able to have their way with shooting. In both cases, flashbacks of a struggling Friars team would resurge itself in the memories of fans.

But, unlike the OOC, the Friars righted the ship in both instances. They were able to lock down the paint and distribute the ball better for scoring against Butler, and against DePaul the Friars were able to find their shot again and recover from an early second half deficit.

When thinking about identity, the ability to stay collected and recover is a mark of a good team and good coaching. It shows mental toughness, discipline, and focus – something that Ed Cooley has always stressed for his teams. It was nerve wracking at the time, but the Friars came out on top. Not only did that keep their season alive, it continued to build their NCAA resume. Speaking of…

Resume Making 101

When looking ahead to March, a couple things become apparent: the Friars are in contention to dance, they have work to do, and they have plenty of opportunities to do it. Thus far, the Friars have taken care of business in conference play, and have put them back on the right side of conversations for the Tournament.

It’s becoming clear that Marquette stung the Friars hardest. The difference right now between 5-1 and 4-2 (where they currently are) is huge, and having that extra win would have only further solidified the Friars case for the Tournament. Of all the losses this season, that one will haunt the Friars more than UMass, Houston, or URI.

However, there are plenty of opportunities – and challenges – abound. To make their case, the Friars will need to continue to win games they’re expected to win, while stealing one or two. That’s an obvious statement, but it’s one that deserves repeating because the Friars have put themselves back in the conversation after many were ready to write them off from the OOC – now they just need to keep that conversation alive and in good health.

The thing is, the Friars can do that. They’re playing at the level that fans expected them to be playing at, and historically these Cooley teams always start playing at their best around late January/early February, which is right when the Friars go through a Big East buzzsaw. Starting Saturday with Creighton, the Friars will have Creighton, Villanova, Seton Hall, and Marquette in a row – not an easy lineup. If, however, the Friars can escape 2-2 or even 3-1, they’ll have themselves an even stronger NCAA Tournament resume.