This may come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever seen the second bedroom in my apartment, but I love video games.
If you haven’t seen my second bedroom, let me describe it: over 200 physical video games are on display in a collection consisting of rare, niche, imported, and special edition games that span from the NES/Famicom era to the Playstation 4 and Oculus Rift.
You could probably call me a video game expert. And in my expert opinion, one of the most interesting things a video game can offer someone is the chance to get one of many different endings that you earn based on your actions and decisions within the game.
The Friars could probably take a lesson from these types of video games, because right now their season is shaping up to be one with multiple endings.
So, for this Friar Weekly column, let’s figuratively pixelate this Friars team and drop them in an RPG from a simpler time (like the Super Nintendo era, which is probably the best era for RPGs) and see how their Big East actions could affect the ending to their season.
1. The Bad Ending
The Friars Completely Blow It, Miss the NCAA Tournament
This would be like the ending to Mass Effect 3 – a highly anticipated, built up ending spanning across three winding and multi-path games which saw every action have a consequence, only to result in an anti-climatic conclusion that cheapened every action you took and every experience you had. This game is almost universally considered to have one of the worst endings to a video game ever, and was so panned that the game publisher and developer had to release additional content just to give the ending a little more fulfillment. Unlike a video game, however, there are no retroactive fixes for the Friars’ season – making this ending for them all the worse.
On the cusp of their fifth NCAA Tournament appearance, the Friars were teetering with big wins and bigger losses. Even though they showed promise in those big wins, the losses were more telling of who this Friars team really was: a talented team that lacked something – on court leadership, focus, discipline, identity, whatever – and caused them to lose out on some much needed end-of-season wins and miss their name being called on Selection Sunday. The Friars could continue playing in the NIT, but it would already be Game Over for fans.
This is the one ending fans want to see avoided at all costs. Not only would it be demoralizing to the fanbase, it would leave a sour taste that would likely last all season. Expectations were high coming into the season, and falling well below them would be the video game ending equivalent of your main character dying, the land you’ve fought for being overtaken by the evil forces at work, and the taverns running out of beer. Well, that last part may happen in the Chicago area, but that’d be more because I need something to mend my aching heart.
The point is, it’s bad. Real bad. Like “reset the game and start over” bad.
Unfortunately, this team’s reset will take months (because that’s how an offseason works). I worry about how the bitter ending of this season will stew on the fans – again, in part because of high expectations.
The bad ending would most likely be if Providence went even 2-2 down this stretch, and didn’t win a game in the Big East Tournament. Though there is a situation where 2-2 is okay (beat Xavier and St. John’s, lose to Georgetown and Seton Hall, go 1-1 in the BET), 1-3 will definitely result in the bad ending.
2. The Neutral Ending
Friars Make the NCAAs Barely, Play Uninspired and Get Bounced Early
This ending would be if the Friars get a play-in game again, or they end up as a 10-ish seed but get blown out because they play like they did against DePaul, at Butler, or at Seton Hall.
In this situation, fans would probably be neutral on the end of the season. In a way that’s almost unfortunate for the Friars because they did do quite a lot – recovered from a bad start to the season, made an unprecedented five straight NCAA appearances in a row, maintained their upward-trending from a program perspective, and so on. They probably would have also gone 3-1 to close out the season, or 2-2 but did some damage in the BET. Either way, this team deserves some credit that fans may give them, but for the most part fans will be ready to move on.
Much like in video games, this ending resolves everything, but doesn’t give you the inspiring, hope-filled, positive light ending that you hope for when you complete a game. It just sort of, well, ends. Fans will move on almost immediately and start talking about the 2018-2019 roster, the arrival of David Duke and AJ Reeves, how MAL will fit in, and what it will mean to have Holt back. The season won’t be seen as a blight or a bright spot, but rather one of those forgotten seasons that the Friars did well but not well enough.
That’s fine, in my opinion. Not every season needs an epic ending, even if it seemed like one was foretold in the preseason from the expectations and hype. Much like a game that’s fun sometimes and unnecessarily frustrating at others, this team will likely be remembered for it’s high plateaus (beating Villanova and Xavier) and valley lows (losing to UMass and DePaul). The ending won’t be remembered.
3. The Good Ending
The Friars Turn On All the Switches, Make Some Madness
Let’s talk about the best case scenario: Jalen Lindsey hits the big shots that buries opponents (his critical hit percentage would be huge in an RPG by the way), Rodney Bullock transforms into the dunking beast he became during the Villanova game, and Kyron Cartwright becomes the fearless leader thanks to his giant slaying dagger (aka layup). The rest of the team comes into their own and clicks the way they did during their best games – only they stay consistent.
The result is the Friars don’t just dance, they stomp their way into March and do some damage in the Tournament.
This is the inspiring ending every fan is hoping for, even if they don’t say it out loud. Every PC fan wants to see this team succeed and win big, and if the Friars deliver on this ending not only will the offseason be filled with positive vibes, it will create a continually renewed investment from fans both green and seasoned.
This is the hard-earned ending in a video game where you have to make the right choices and get a little lucky in your playthrough. For Providence, this will be no different. It won’t just rely on the wins/losses, getting this ending will mean Providence will have to come together as a team and pull this off.
But oh man, if they do, this is going to be one of those seasons that gets talked about over and over again. Like the 97 Friars team. Or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I know that game only had one ending but if you read the complete Legend of Zelda timeline it actually had three, and this would be the canonical, epic ending we all saw at the end of the game. And if you haven’t seen the ending to Ocarina of Time then I can’t really help you. The game’s been out for what? Two decades?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some games to play. At least until the Friars play next.