One of the biggest questions entering Big East play was how would the three newcomers, Butler, Creighton and Xavier, adjust to life in a new (and more physical) conference. While the Bulldogs have struggled both Creighton and Xavier have taken to their new surroundings, with the Bluejays entering Saturday’s game at Providence ranked 20th nationally and undefeated (5-0) in Big East play.
Win at Providence, and that would set up a showdown with No. 6 Villanova on Monday night for sole possession of first place. Unfortunately for Creighton, Providence had other ideas.
Ed Cooley’s Friars dominated the boards in the first half (15 second-chance points for the game) and their offensive execution was good throughout, shooting 50% from the field and turning the ball over just five times in the 81-68 victory. Bryce Cotton played all 40 minutes and scored a game-high 23 points for the Friars, leading five Providence players in double figures as they outperformed one of the nation’s best offenses.
Doug McDermott, despite reports of being under the weather, finished the game with 21 points and seven rebounds with 13 of those points being scored in the second half. Creighton’s problem offensively was their lack of production from beyond the arc, as they shot 4-for-19 on the night. Greg McDermott’s team entered the game shooting better than 43% from three and scoring 40.8% of its points on three-pointers, so it’s clear that they rely on that shot to be at their best.
The Bluejays missed those shots, with Providence challenging the majority of them, and it rendered Creighton incapable of making up for their worst defensive showing in Big East play to date.
Even with Creighton’s struggles ahead of their big game at Villanova, the story on Saturday night was Providence. After falling in double overtime to Seton Hall and getting blown out at Villanova the Friars were 0-2 in conference play and given their lack of depth looked to be in serious trouble. Since then Providence has won three straight, with the remaining players showing the competitiveness that’s become the norm for the program under Ed Cooley.
It remains to be seen if Providence can continue on this current run. But even with their lack of depth the Friars continue to compete, and on Saturday night their effort was rewarded.
Cheick Diallo is currently practicing with Kansas, but his eligibility still remains in question.
On Monday, Kansas head coach Bill Self appeared on “The Border Patrol” on WHB-AM 810 and was asked to update the status of his freshman big man.
“He’s been cleared to practice,” Self told hosts Steven St. John and Nate Bukaty. “(His status) is depending on what they find throughout from the information we submit to them whenever we get it all together.
“A lot of people think, ‘Well, why wouldn’t it all be together?’ Well there’s a lot of reasons why. It’s because they told us recently some things that they just wanted. Instead of just throwing it to them piece by piece, they requested we to just submit it all together, so it may be a couple of more weeks before we’re able to submit everything when you’re talking about getting information from schools in Mali and everything like that.
“But we hope in two weeks, maybe three weeks, before we have a definite answer. But right now, Cheick is like everybody else. He’s practicing.”
Diallo, a 6-foot-9 forward from Mali is allowed to practice with the Jayhawks, but has been waiting to be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center despite enrolling in classes over the summer and earning six credits. Self anticipated this would be a long process, but has remained confident Diallo, the top-5 recruit in Class of 2015, will eventually be cleared to play this season.
For three years, Diallo attended Our Savior New American School in Centereach, New York, which is currently under NCAA review. In September, Pitt freshman Damon Wilson, Diallo’s teammate at OSNA, was cleared to play.
Kansas opens the season on Nov. 13 against Northern Colorado.
Last week, Albany senior Peter Hooley accepted the Inspiration Award at the Coaches vs Cancer Basket Ball in Troy, New York. The Albany athletic department uploaded his entire speech on Monday afternoon.
Hooley had one of the most uplifting moments of March after months and months of heartache.
The junior guard missed three weeks of the season to travel back home to Australia to be with his mother, who was battling colon cancer. She passed away in January. Hooley returned to the team in February and the following month, the Great Danes had a shot at an NCAA tournament berth. In the America East Tournament championship, Hooley sunk a game-winning shot with 1.6 seconds to go.
Hooley, who graduated in May, was selected to give the commencement speech.