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The Road to Madness: 6 Games That Defined The Providence Friars Season

Kyron CartwrightAt what point, as a fan, do you transition from “omg I can’t believe we made the tournament!” to “I expect us to make the tournament”?

If I’m being honest, I hope I never become the latter.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love the security and confidence that comes with making the tournament every year. But, then again, if I had that certainty, how would I enjoy the suspense that each season brings? I remember back in 2014 when the mantra was “one more win!” all the way through the Big East Tournament. “One more win and we’re in!” we said…up until we won the Big East Tournament. Then it was “yeah, we’re in.” And, looking back on the fondest memory of my PC fandom, I wouldn’t trade in any one of those games for anything. Each game had weight. Each win was a euphoria in and of itself.

We were blessed then. We’ve been blessed since. And now, once again, we’re blessed – to be in the conversation of an unprecedented fourth NCAA appearance? When we were picked 9th (NINTH!) in the preseason? In contention for 3rd place in the Big East? It’s incredible to be here now.

But it wasn’t easy. It was a journey of peaks and valleys. I find myself looking back through the season and thinking about just how lucky we are. Let’s revisit the six games that made it to where we are.

November 25 – Providence beats Memphis, 60-51

This was a winnable game. We, as fans, knew we could win this game. But “winnable” and “winning” are two different things, and as I sat with my girlfriend and her parents in North Carolina over Thanksgiving weekend, my eyes glued to the TV while they asked me “how good should Providence be this year?” I found myself verbally admitting to a thought I’d kept inside my head for fear of being foolish:

“They’re better than expected, and they could very feasibly make the NCAA Tournament this year despite the naysayers.”

It was bad at points – Providence went down early in the first half and seemed to rally by a miracle to close a double-digit gap and only be down by 1 at the half – but at some point through the second half I started to believe in this team and the potential they could achieve.

December 3 – Providence Wins 7-in-a-row over URI, 63-60

Was this game ever in question, as a Friar fan? Yeah, probably. Preseason hype around URI was something new for Friar fans and URI fans alike to feel, and the fact they were ranked was novel. And yet, when gametime came, it wasn’t about a number next to a name, it wasn’t about preseason hype, it was about one thing – who wanted to win more. URI played hard, and they left it all on the court, and as a Friar fan I admire their desire to win, but this game was Providence’s to lose, and they proved they were more than what the doubters claimed they were.

Flood FordDecember 23 – A Festivus Miracle brings Boston College victorious over Providence, 79-67

I hated this game. I still do. I care that we lost, immensely, but that’s not why I hate it.

My dad and I have never watched a Providence game live together before. We’ve been to games together, but as a student for me and a parent for him. Never sat together. Never had the chance to. This was it.

And we got our butts kicked.

The fact that we lost was bad. At the time we had been building a case early for why we deserved an NCAA bid, and that was a setback. The fact that we got blown out was concerning because it felt like the team may have been oversold after meaningful wins in November and early December. The fact we lost the first PC game I ever got to watch with my dad – terrible. It still leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

January 10 – DePaul rallies to steal victory from the Friars, 64-63

DePaul Day. That’s the day that the old Big East teams would call, well, the day they played DePaul. Essentially it was meant to be a win on the schedule that helped in-conference rankings and kept teams looking sharp.

Here’s the thing though – you have to actually win. Providence did not do that when they made their trip to Rosemont in early January.

Mind you, by this point we were 1-3 in Big East play. We had gotten hammered by top teams in the conference but took care of business against Georgetown. Nobody was expecting a victory over DePaul to put the Friars back in the NCAA conversation, they were just expecting a win. The game looked good for awhile – Providence was up, they were playing confident, things were good.

And then they got lazy. Maybe lazy is the wrong word. Maybe relaxed is better. I don’t know. I don’t care. The way that Providence fell apart right at the end – I mean, right at the end – was deflating. And of course, it all culminated to a last-second coast to coast layup attempt from Kyron Cartwright…who just barely missed it as the buzzer sounded. The layup would have helped us escape. Instead it just served as a brutal reminder of “too little, too late.”

January 28 – The Friars win their first one ever in Milwaukee over Marquette, 79-78

0-10. That was the record Providence held playing against the Golden Eagles of Marquette at their home in the Bradley Center. Not after their most recent trip, however, where they stunned the Golden Eagles.

I think what’s interesting about this game is that, at the time, this was just a nice win to a season that was hopefully ending with a bid to the NIT. This wasn’t supposed to be a win that, looking back in March, we could use as a case to get into the bracketology of the best experts out there. This wasn’t a game that was supposed to kick off our late push. And yet, in retrospect, that’s exactly what it was.

I was equally lucky to be in the house for this game, and it’s always awkward when your team wins as the visitor. Fans are clearly upset and you’re having a blast. However, hats off to the Marquette fans – they were classy as hell and many were congratulatory on the win.

February 11 – Providence topples a top-25 Butler team to start a 5-game win streak, 71-65

Just win. That’s the mantra when you get into February and you’re making a case for a tournament bid. Yeah, you can talk about RPI and you can talk about such and such team from whatever conference is doing whatnot, but at the end of the day you’re in control of your fate and all you can do is just win.

And that’s exactly what Providence started doing. Beginning with a win over Butler, the Friars have gone on a five game win streak that has put them at the tipping point of an NCAA bid. But it all started with a win over Butler to get the attention of national analysts who, suddenly, are thinking that maybe the Friars are better than 9th in the Big East.

Will Providence make the NCAA Tournament? I don’t know. But the Friars are there once again. The road wasn’t smooth and it was full of emotional highs and lows, but it’s March and Providence is here!

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