In the immediate aftermath of Providence’s win over St. John’s on Thursday, many held the belief that the Friars had done enough to make the NCAA tournament regardless of what happened in their semifinal matchup with Seton Hall. However with the members of the selection committee being the only ones who truly know the answer (opinion: they’re in), why leave anything to chance?
Also of note was the fact that a win would advance Providence to the Big East tournament final for the first time since 1994, and LaDontae Henton made sure the Friars accomplished that goal. Henton tallied 26 points and 14 rebounds to lead Providence to the 80-74 win over the Pirates, meaning that on Saturday the Friars will play for the conference’s automatic bid.
Providence made 48.9% of its shots from the field and their starters were responsible for 78 of the 80 points scored. That isn’t a surprise for this group, with injuries and the suspension of two freshmen whittling Ed Cooley’s rotation down to six players for most of the season. But Providence has continued to fight and after Bryce Cotton (18 points, ten assists) led them for much of the season his teammates have risen to the challenge in New York.
Friday night it was Henton, one day after guard Josh Fortune scored 24 points to push Providence past the Red Storm. The question now is whether or not Providence will have enough left in the tank to win a third straight game, and if they’re to do so the Friars will need to perform better in the paint.
Seton Hall scored 40 points in the paint, and with a matchup with either Creighton (Doug McDermott) or Xavier (which has multiple interior options) in front of them Providence will need to help Kadeem Batts in this area. Either matchup will be difficult in that regard, but this entire season has been difficult for Providence. And the Friars have continued to fight, reaching this moment as a result.
What will be on the line Saturday night at Madison Square Garden? Not only the chance to leave no doubt when it comes to their NCAA tournament chances but to also take their place in history alongside the 1993-94 Friars, the only Providence team to ever win this event.