Friars vs. Golden Eagles: Senior Night, Post-season Fight
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
Game time: 9:00 pm
Location: Dunkin Donuts Center, Providence
Television: Fox Sports 1
Radio: WEEI 103.7 FM
The final game Providence's class of 2014 will play at the Dunkin Donuts Center will be their biggest. At 19-10 overall and 9-7 in Big East play, the Friars find themselves firmly on the bubble of the NCAA Tournament -- where the program hasn't been since Ryan Gomes was a junior in 2004.
Providence has a different type of star ten years later, but one that followed a path similar to Gomes who came to PC unheralded, sat the first seven games of his freshman season, and then went on to break the incomparable Jimmy Walker's career scoring mark.
Like Gomes, the news of Bryce Cotton's commitment to the Friars barely made a ripple on the national recruiting scene in August of 2010. Who could have predicted this story? Cotton faxed over his National Letter of Intent on a Tuesday with freshman orientation taking place that Thursday. Three and a half years later he's one of the best guards in the country -- the driving force behind PC's tournament scramble.
Cotton passed Joe Hassett on Providence's all-time scoring list last week, and with his first field goal on Tuesday he'll surpass Marvin Barnes for 5th all-time. If he takes a moment to look to the rafters in the midst of what should be a chaotic senior night, he'll see the numbers of Hassett and Barnes hanging above. His #11 should one day be beside them.
Cotton will be flanked by fellow senior Kadeem Batts - a 1,200 point scorer who has been part of this team longer than any current player or coach. He was part of Keno Davis's first recruiting class at Providence, a group of seven that will graduate just two. He survived two seasons of turmoil under Davis, got himself suspended his first semester under Ed Cooley, and eventually turned himself into the Big East's Most Improved Player. He was candid prior to last season about needing to mature on and off the court, did just that, and Batts is now a top three rebounder in the league and a top 20 scorer.
An already buzzing Dunk will get even louder when the crowd realizes they could be watching Ted Bancroft in person for the final time. The walk-on turned himself into a scholarship player with his infectious energy and sneakily effective defensive play, and sees more court time than even he could have imagined when he first made this team.
Like Bancroft, Lee Goldsbrough seemingly gives Friartown a nudge when he draws a charge, sets a solid screen, holds his own when being posted up, or in tracking down a rebound.
And Brice Kofane has worked himself into this rotation over the past two games and flashed the shot blocking prowess that got him here in the first place. A secondary shot blocker to complement Carson Desrosiers, Kofane has four blocks in just 12 minutes the past two games.
Those are the five we'll be celebrating on Tuesday night. It's a group that survived perhaps the lowest point in program history as freshmen, but spearheaded this program's turnaround. They weren't supposed to be the class that did so - many saw them as a group to keep the seat warm for Cooley's more highly touted classes to follow - but as portions of the next generation of Friars were lost to injury, suspension, transfer and the NBA, the class of 2014 has Providence fighting for a tournament berth that so few believed they could charge toward.
There's still work to be done. That begins with a Marquette team that has bullied this program, and this senior class, since they joined the Big East almost a decade ago. Marquette has defeated Providence ten straight times, 11-1 against PC since joining the Big East, and hasn't fallen to the Friars since a 15 point January loss in 2007. PC's current senior class were sophomores in high school at the time.
The first two times these seniors played the Golden Eagles they lost by a combined 51 points -- and they didn't receive much mercy late in either game. They've played Marquette three times since and have come no closer than seven in any of those games.
This will be a game of lasts. Perhaps the seniors' last game at the Dunk, possibly their last shot at Marquette, and potentially the last time Friartown gets a chance to thank the class that wasn't supposed to lead the resurgence, but has Providence knocking on the doorstep.
A ravenous Dunkin Donuts Center crowd awaits them. They deserve it.
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