That’s the word that continually comes to mind as I think about how I want to write this article. Right now, I’m frustrated. And by the conversations I’ve been having with various fans, I don’t think that word is unique to my current Providence basketball experiences.
There are many reasons fans such as myself are frustrated, from the recent results of the last few games (specifically heartbreakers to Creighton and Villanova) to the impact this has on our season. There’s also a lot of frustration with the way the team is playing, from execution to organization.
The frustration is palpable in Friartown, but rather than let the frustrations divide us into “fanbase factions” where you must believe ‘x’ to participate, I think our time will be better spent this article by exploring the frustrations with a more objective and balanced lens than say, a Twitter rant. So, let’s aim to do just that.
Season’s (Maybe, Maybe Not) Over:
Which loss is the hammer that drives the final nail into this season’s coffin, ending the Providence Friars’ postseason hopes and aspirations? When I asked fans about this, their answers unsurprisingly vary. For a select few, the season ended in game three when Providence lost to Northwestern. For quite a few more, the season was over when Anaheim happened. Some said Florida, some said this most recent stretch of losses to Butler, Creighton, and Villanova, and some believe there’s still hope yet to be had in the season.
The bell curve of answers stretched out across the season seems to mostly result in Florida. By that point we had already been struggling, there seemed to be little to no solution in sight, and then we go to Florida for what was deemed a must win OOC game and get trounced by the Gators. Season over, just like that.
Separating the emotional from the statistical at this point is like trying to separate the top and bottom of a plastic case without using a pair of scissors or a knife – if it’s not outright impossible, it’s too painful to be worthwhile. And in the context of this year, I understand that. On the one hand you have so many opportunities for quality wins in the Big East that forward-thinking fans who believe in the talent coming out could reasonably argue that the Friars are still in this. After all, the talent on the team is there to win in a very competitive conference! On the other hand, you already have a big pile of losses stacked against a team that, while talented, is woefully inconsistent and often struggles in playing up to their identity. And how many more wins can you really capture, and will they even be enough?
The third argument is that the Friars need to win the Big East Tournament, which they could do given their talent. Again though, this is predicated on the team playing consistently for three (maybe four) days – something they haven’t proven they’ve been able to do for long stretches so far this year.
As a fan, would you rather hold out hope that the Friars can somehow pull this together, only to risk being let down again, or do you let go of postseason hopes for now and, if it comes, great; if not then at least you cut your emotional ties early enough so you’re not feeling the pain for additional weeks and months?
Me, personally? I’ll ride with this team and keep believing in them, for a few reasons. First, this is my team, so I might as well continue to believe in them because you don’t quit on your team. Second, this team doesn’t quit either – they’ve been playing hard consistently now, and that’s always something to root for. Third, and I think most important of all, is that this is a program worth believing in. Yes, this year has not gone to plan so far, but there have been plenty of times in the past where the season seemed lost only to have it turned around. There’s also been plenty where it seemed lost and it truly was lost. However, the turns from bad to good are far more enjoyable, so I’m going to continue to believe and hold onto that. Even when they struggle and underachieve, this is still my team and I’m still going to pull for them.
The Guys Who Want to be Here:
One of the hottest topics in the fan community has been about the players, as it always is – especially when the team struggles. Some of these conversations are a bit unsavory and divisive, but my aim today is to find common ground among this fractured fanbase right now. So instead, I want to talk about a few players who I believe are key foundational pillars to the future of this program.
There are some specific names that come to mind: David Duke, Nate Watson, and AJ Reeves I believe will become the Friars’ 1-2-3 offensive punch that will usher in some high-octane scoring that we haven’t seen in awhile. Duke has shown a completely new set of skills enabling him to evolve into a scoring talent. Watson continues to grow in the post. And AJ has the long range potential that, once consistent, will be lethal to the scoring makeup of this team.
Then you have a player like Greg Gantt, who has grown very quickly in his freshman year. He has a huge amount of potential and I have a lot of faith in his abilities. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him become a leader of this team his senior year as a Friar.
This is a great core of four, but there are five players needed on the court. So, we’ll need to see who emerges as our next true PG in the following years. I believe we will be okay in this regard – we have talent in waiting and talent on the way, and Cooley is well-respected as a PG developer – but we will need to wait to see who the name matching the need will become.
Why am I calling this out? Two reasons. First, I want to focus on the players who want to be here. This goes beyond class year (in part) and really focuses on the guys who are committed today, and bringing their all on the court. Duke, Reeves, Gantt, and Watson are all guys who have given it there all this year, and they’re the building blocks I want to see built upon. And second, I *do* want to point out that things are going to continue forward, regardless of this season. And that’s a good thing. Look at the core we’re returning, the desire to win that they bring, the talent they exhibit when they represent Providence. These are the guys I want to focus on when I think about our roster – this year, and in the next few to come.
One Game at a Time:
Things aren’t always easy in Friartown. I know that, and I think most fans know that. The job Cooley has done has been excellent, make no mistake – Providence was in the pits before his arrival, and the turnaround he’s accomplished (as well as the time he’s achieved it in) has been incredible. This is not to say we shouldn’t continue growing and exceeding, quite the opposite – the fact that we have had so much recent success makes these hiccups along the way all the more painful. This season especially.
But you keep playing the schedule you’re given, and you keep trying to win games. That’s the effort Cooley has made since day one, and I’ve never seen him relent from that. Cooley pushes forward, tries to win every game, and find ways to exceed expectations. Right now, the Friars are exactly what they are – record and all – and it’s up to them to become what they can be, and find a way to achieve that. That can only be done by taking this season one game at a time. We can’t win the remaining Big East games all at once. So, as long as the Friars are going to keep playing, I’ll keep being here – tweeting nonsense and chatting with fans, and supporting this team. And writing these articles (duh). This is my team, as it is yours, and we’re all in this together. So let’s be in this, one game at a time, and hope that the Friars once again surprise us and exceed our expectations.
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.