I’ve never been much of a New Year’s resolution type person. Maybe it’s the idea that making a promise to myself that I won’t care about in two weeks seems like a waste of energy. Or it could be because, come January 1, I can never get a workout in at my gym because guess what every single person in my building resolved to do in their new year?
But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t coming around to the idea of resolutions, and with that in mind I’d like to outline some New Year’s promises that the Friars – and Friar Fans – should be making as we head into Big East play.
1. No More Worrying About Emmitt Holt
I, like literally every other Friar fan out there, was devastated last summer when I learned that Emmitt Holt likely wouldn’t be playing at all during the season. I remember thinking how that was going to be our year with him and Kyron Cartwright leading the charge into another NCAA Tournament – and making a run in it too.
It didn’t happen, but Holt was still sure to return this season. And this reassured me that during a transition year with plenty of new faces the Friars would have stability from senior leadership. And that kind of happened. Emmitt has been spending more time on the bench and hasn’t logged many minutes at all this season. And by many I mean 36. Holt has played a total of 36 minutes this season and scored a total of 6 points – quite a contrast from the 879 minutes and 401 points from the 2016-2017 season. Naturally, any Friar fan would want to see Emmitt back on the court and doing the things Emmitt did and that fans know he can do, but I think fans need to accept the new role Holt will play as a leader from afar. Well, “afar” as in “the bench,” but you get the idea.
It’s not a demotion or a downgrade to say Holt will be on the bench leading. Yes, everyone would want to see him on the court both for his noted contributions from the stat line as well as the intensity and leadership he displayed during the 16-17 season. Now that he’s healthier than last season and able to be around the team, he’s able to bring guidance that the Friars will need at times – even if he has to do it in huddles and from the bench. That’s still critical to have and, based on some recent gritty performances in which the Friars won, helpful. So this New Year’s resolution will be to not worry as much about whether or not Emmitt Holt returns to the floor. If he does, cheer for him. And if he doesn’t, be thankful he’s contributing in other ways.
2. Maintaining the Tough Mentality
Things changed for Providence and the fans after the loss to UMass, but that didn’t mean the season was over. To Providence’s credit, the Friars responded exactly like they should, winning all three games between UMass and this column. That includes a tough road trip to Texas, which is a real resume booster. The Friars did this by *finally* playing like an Ed Cooley team – with attitude, grit, and unwavering toughness.
Can you guess what this resolution should be?
Playing like a basketball team is what got the Friars losses to WSU and UMass. Playing like an Ed Cooley team is what got them to overcome the humps in on court performances and ultimately win games they needed. Bad shooting? Not hitting free throws? Relaxing too much on offense or defense? No longer major points of concern…if the Friars maintain this momentum. When they beat CCSU they didn’t ease off the gas once. When they struggled in the first half against Albany they adjusted and scored 50 in the second half, blowing them out. When they went to Texas, nerves were a non-factor – even when Texas made runs at them. The Friars should resolve to play like an Ed Cooley team. That means playing with Grit. Toughness. And – you guessed it – Attitude.
3. All For Won
This has been a weird season for depth. It started with fans thinking we were going to be deep as an ocean. A few headaches later, the idea that Cooley should tighten the lineup (like someone who tightens a belt after spending a few months at the gym post-New Year’s) came about. Some players who fans were expecting to have huge jumps in performances were struggling, and it was getting hard to watch – and to root for.
Turns out, reports that the on-court demise of these talented players was exaggerated.
When AJ Reeves got injured it left a hole in the lineup. It was a hole that Maliek White, Makai Ashton-Langford, and Drew Edwards have begun to fill. I want to particularly call out Ashton-Langford, who’s been playing fantastically these last couple of games. I tweeted a few simple words – “I trust Makai Ashton-Langford” – during the Texas game because he’s won me over. MAL is becoming the player fans hoped he would become this year. He’s talented. He’s playing with poise. He’s scoring when we need him.
And he’s not alone.
Improvements across the board are encouraging, especially for when Reeves does return. This team is looking deeper and more talented despite having the same roster as in November, and it’s all thanks to OOC developments. So, this resolution will be for the whole team to continue to step up and make contributions to get the wins the Friars need so they can dance come March.
4. Stop Reading Bracketology So Seriously
To be fair: this shouldn’t happen to begin with. Checking the bracket predictions from experts around the web is like trying to guess winning numbers on a lottery ticket you haven’t bought yet. Things change through the course of the entire season; the future is not set, so fans shouldn’t take bracketology to heart just yet.
Case in point: I checked some predicted brackets just last night. Lo and behold, the Friars were not only nowhere to be found, they weren’t even in the “next ones out” section. “Distressing” and “frustrating” are the words I would use to describe that experience. Really, it should be “silly” and “waste of time” because none of it matters right now. The Friars have a full Big East slate to play, and there’s plenty of opportunities to earn their way into the Field of 68 there.
With that in mind, any fan should take bracketology a little less seriously and see it for what it is: a vague litmus test that ultimately won’t matter if the Friars do what they’re capable of doing.
5. Don’t Stop Believing
In my last column, I wrote that I wasn’t so sure the Friars would make the Tournament this year. I regret that. Not because I don’t know if it’s true. I don’t. I regret it because it’s not the attitude the Friar fans (or Friars) should have.
Sure, they had a couple of frustrating OOC hiccups. It happens. But there’s still plenty of time to adjust – something they’ve already done. But even beyond that, being a Friar fan has always been about never giving up on this team. We’ve suffered through some of the harshest seasons imaginable and have still rooted for the Friars, and now Cooley has them doing things we could only dream of when coaches like Keno Davis were at the helm. It’s good to want more – and I expect more than continued one-and-done experiences in the Tournament – but that doesn’t mean fans should give up early in the season either when there might be a bump or two in the road. Cooley has shown that, somehow, he and the Friars are able to will themselves into the Tournament every year, no matter what the odds.
While reasonable expectations are nice, this resolution is to not give up on the belief the Friars can still make the Tournament and do some damage. They’ve shown they can be a scary team when they want to be, and if they can continue to play that way, they might even scare some teams in the Tournament. Besides, believing in this team no matter what is way more fun. I still remember writing an article for Friarblog in February of 2014 titled “How the Providence Friars can Make the NCAA Tournament (No, Really)” and, lo and behold, they did. My resolution is to keep that attitude and belief going, because the Friars deserve to have their fans believe in them.
The Friars next game on YurView is against Seton Hall, Wednesday, January 30th at 7:00pm EST , Cox channels 4 & 1004 in Rhode Island.