Providence Friars

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Big East Conference Tournament Preview, Bracket and Conference Postseason Awards

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Big East Player of the Year: Josh Hart, Villanova

Josh Hart confirmed what was almost unanimously believed in November: he was the best player in the Big East. The senior wing averaged a conference-leading 18.7 points — shooting 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three — to go along with his 6.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game for first-place Villanova. One of the best two-way players in the nation also had some of his best single-game performances outside of the conference slate.

Big East Coach of the Year: Ed Cooley, Providence

Two days before Christmas, Providence closed out the non-conference slate with a loss at Boston College. The Friars followed by dropping the first two conference games. All three losses were by a dozen or more points. Yet, this team — without Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil — is in possession of another 20-win season, and tied the highest finish Providence has had since the conference’s relaunch. This is a competitive race, especially when you consider what Chris Holtmann and Steve Wojciechowski has done. And that doesn’t include Jay Wright’s continued dominance. But Cooley took a young roster with all the makings of a rebuild and turned it, in all likelihood, a fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

First-Team All-Big East

  • Josh Hart, Villanova
  • Andrew Chrabascz, Butler: The statistics don’t jump off the page, but the senior forward impacts the game in so many different ways for a Butler team that was projected to finish sixth, but ended as the No. 2 seed.
  • Jalen Brunson, Villanova: Taking the full-time ball handling duties this season, the sophomore averaged 14.8 points per game, shooting 54 percent from the field. He also registered a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
  • Angel Delgado, Seton Hall: The nation’s leading rebounder (13.1 RPG) has recorded 24 double-doubles this season. He’s also improved his offense, posting 15.7 points per game.
  • Marcus Foster, Creighton: The transfer guard is second in the conference in scoring at 18.5 points per game. He’s taken on a bigger role since Watson’s season-ending injury.

Second Team All-Big East:

  • Trevon Bluiett, Xavier
  • Khadeen Carrington, Seton Hall
  • Kyron Cartwright, Providence
  • Kelan Martin, Butler
  • Justin Patton, Creighton

RELATED: Player of the Year | Coach of the Year | NBC Sports All-Americans

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Villanova brought the Big East the national championship in 2016, ending critcism of the program’s shortcomings in March and providing the league with an added level of legitiamcy it yearned for since its relaunch in 2013.

So, what will the Big East do for an encore? The conference might send 70 percent of its members to the NCAA Tournament.

Like the previous three seasons, the league was dominated by Villanova, which won its fourth consecutive regular season championship. Butler finished second, and spent much of the year in the top-20. Creighton looked every part of a Final Four contender until Maurice Watson Jr. tore his ACL in mid-January. Xavier, which began the season ranked, has struggled since Edmond Sumner suffered the same season-ending injury. Marquette, Providence and Seton Hall have all made late pushes for at-large bids, resulting in a wild finish to the regular season. Four days in New York should be eventual, to say the least.

The Bracket

When: March 8-11

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York City

Final: Saturday, March 11 5:30 p.m.

Favorite: Villanova

This should come as a surprise to no one. This reigning national champions enter the World’s Most Famous Arena as the top seed for the fourth straight season. Villanova has at its disposal the conference’s player of the year, another unanimous first-team selection, a national coach of the year candidate and the athleticism and versatility not many teams can brag about. Depth is a concern, with Phil Booth out for the season and Darryl Reynolds, the only true big man in the rotation, recently returning from injury. It’s also worth noting that two of three Big East losses came against the same opponent.

And if they lose?: Butler

The Bulldogs have twice defeated the Wildcats. They did so in Hinkle Fieldhouse on Jan. 4, handing Villanova its first loss of the season. Butler went for the sweep by knocking off the Cats on Feb. 22, the only time they lost at the Pavilion this season. In both contests, Butler made the key plays down the stretch for hard-fought victories. Butler has an improved defense from last season to compliment with its always-efficient offense. With a big like Andrew Chrabascz, the Bulldogs are more equipped to match up with Villanova. Also, Kelan Martin, since his move to a reserve role, has caught fire in the last five games of the regular season.

Kelan Martin (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Other Contenders:

  • Providence: The Friars have won six straight, with wins over Butler, Xavier, Creighton and Marquette. Kyron Cartwright and Rodney Bullock may not be Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil, but they are anchoring a hot team that could give Providence its second postseason championship in four years.
  • Marquette: The Golden Eagles are the only Big East team team other than the Bulldogs to defeat Villanova. They have a nice balance with a deep roster. Five players average double-digits in points, and Andrew Rowsey, the Big East Sixth Man of the Year, and Katin Reinhardt have been huge in the second unit.

Sleeper: Seton Hall

The Pirates played strong basketball down the stretch last season to win the Big East Tournament championship. Isaiah Whitehead is playing in a different borough now, but Seton Hall is rolling, winners of seven of nine. The defense isn’t as strong as it was during last year’s run, but Angel Delgado, Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez are capable of a repeat performance.

The Bubble Dwellers:

  • Xavier: The Musketeers lost six of seven to close out the season. They have two wins in the past five weeks: both against DePaul. A loss to the Blue Demons on Wednesday night could burst Xavier’s bubble.
  • Marquette: The Golden Eagles should be safe at this point. Sure, they earned a come-from-behind win against Villanova, but that won’t stop critics from poking holes in their resume on Sunday, especially when four wins against Xavier and Creighton came after injuries to Edmond Sumner and Mo Watson.
  • Providence: A six-game winning streak and a third-place finish should mean the Friars are safe, but most bracket projections have them as one of the last at-large four bids.

Defining moment of the season: Marquette, down 17 points, comes back to stun No. 1 Villanova, starting a run for the NCAA Tournament.

CBT Prediction: Villanova

Providence beats No. 21 Rhode Island 63-60

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley knew the Rams were in for a tough one against Providence, which had won the matchup of cross-state rivals six straight times.

He didn’t see this coming, though.

Kyron Cartwright, who had made four 3-pointers all season, hit four of five from beyond the arc in the first half. The Providence point guard finished with 19 points and eight assists to lead the Friars to a 63-60 victory over No. 21 Rhode Island on Saturday.

“That’s sports, and that’s the type of thing that makes coaches go gray and lose their hair,” Hurley said after his team lost for the third time in four games. “Four 3-pointers in seven games and he made four today – all in the first half.”

Rodney Bullock scored 17 points for the Friars (6-2). Cartwright had 15 in the first half and Jalen Lindsey scored nine of his 13 points in the second, five during a 7-0 run that erased a seven-point deficit.

“My teammates were telling me, `You need to take those shots to open up the defense,”‘ Cartwright said. “(And) we don’t shoot the ball to not make it.”

Hassan Martin had 14 points and 17 rebounds for Rhode Island (5-3), which lost at unranked Valparaiso and Providence a week after falling to No. 1 Duke. E.C. Matthews scored nine points and went 1 for 8 from 3-point range, airballing a 3 with 2 seconds left with a chance for the Rams to tie it.

“Games like this might help us down the stretch,” Martin said. `’So you just tell everybody to keep their head up.”

The Rams led 47-40 with 12:15 left when Cartwright’s arm appeared to catch Christion Thompson in the left eye. Thompson went to the court, flailing his arms in the air looking for a call, but the teams played on until Lindsey hit a 3-pointer to make it a four-point game at 11:00.

Lindsey’s free throws brought the Friars within two points, and Ryan Fazekas scored on a fast-break goaltending call to tie it. From there, there were three more ties and kept the game within one possession until Lindsey hit a fallaway jumper with 43 seconds left to give Providence a 59-55 lead.

“We beat a tournament team today,” Providence coach Ed Cooley said.

POLL IMPLICATONS

It will be difficult for Rhode Island to stay in The Associated Press Top 25 after its stumbles.

Hurley said he isn’t concerned.

The goal at the beginning of the season was to win the Atlantic 10 and play in the NCAA Tournament.

That’s all still in play.

“We expect to have a long and great season. Nothing’s changed for us,” he said. “We lost two tough road games in a long season.”

BULLOCK’S BOUNCE-BACK

Bullock scored a career-high 36 points against New Hampshire on Wednesday, but he missed all three shots from the field in the first half and had only three points on six free throws at the break.

Cooley told him not to worry about the shooting and to try to make something happen with rebounding or defense.

“Somebody coming of a great scoring game like he did there’s going to be a lot of attention on him,” Cooley said. “I thought he showed some definite grit in the second half.”

TIP-INS

Rhode Island: Martin hit all three of his 3-point attempts in the first half. … Martin surpassed the 1,000-point milestone against Valparaiso on Tuesday. … The Rams have lost nine straight to Big East teams.

Providence: The Friars lead the all-time series 73-56, including a buzzer-beating victory last year in Kingston. … They are 1-1 against ranked teams this season, having lost to then-No. 7 Virginia on Nov. 26.

UP NEXT

Rhode Island: Hosts Old Dominion on Tuesday.

Providence: Hosts Brown on Tuesday.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.

No. 7 Virginia beats Providence for Emerald Coast title

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NICEVILLE, Fla. (AP) London Perrantes and Darius Thompson scored 11 points each and No. 7 Virginia beat Providence 63-52 to win the Emerald Coast Classic on Saturday night.

Virginia (6-0) entered the game leading the nation in scoring defense, giving up only 39.2 points per game. Providence (4-2) topped the season-high 51 that UNC Greensboro scored against the Cavaliers, but had trouble penetrating the tight defense that denies post touches and forces contested jumpers.

Mamadi Diakite added 10 points for Virginia.

Jalen Lindsey led Providence with 18 points. Rodney Bullock added 16, but that was short of his 20.4 average.BIG PICTURE

Virginia: Bolstered by strong performances from bench players Marial Shayok, the team scoring leader averaging 11.2 points going into Saturday’s game, and freshman Kyle Guy, the Cavaliers have shown little affect from the graduation of four players from last season’s 29-win team.

Providence: Losing to a highly touted Virginia team does nothing to take the luster off a strong early season showing. That includes a dramatic come-from-behind 60-51 victory over previously undefeated Memphis in the Emerald Coast semifinals.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

After breezing through four relatively weak opponents to open the season, Virginia did the same in its first major challenge, beating the Big Ten’s Iowa 74-41 in the semifinals Friday. Taking down Providence from the Big East can only enhance the Cavaliers’ chances of moving up from their No. 7 ranking if any of the teams ahead of them stumble.

UP NEXT:

Providence: The Friars host New Hampshire on Wednesday.

Virginia: Host Ohio State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday.

VIDEO: No. 23 Providence beats Rhode Island on Bentil tip-in

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Saturday night in-state rivals No. 23 Providence and Rhode Island met in Kingston, and as many expected the game did not disappoint. The Friars got off to a quick start only to see the Rams respond with a 20-4 run, and from that point onward the two Ocean State teams traded punches throughout in a game that was decided as time expired by Providence forward Ben Bentil.

Following a Jared Terrell jumper with 6.2 seconds remaining Providence point guard raced up the court, releasing a shot attempt with enough time to allow Bentil to tip in the miss just before time expired. The game-winner capped a 23-point, eight-rebound night for Bentil, who to this point in the season has not only been one of the Big East’s most improved players but one of the most improved players in the country as a whole.

Terrell led four Rams in double figures with 19 points.

Video credit: ESPN

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wednesday’s Snacks: Providence holds off Illinois, No. 1 UNC wins

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Providence 60, Illinois 59

The Gavitt Tipoff Games matchup wasn’t a high-scoring affair, but there was plenty of action in a game that had 11 lead changes with neither team leading by more than seven points. Providence point guard Kris Dunn had a quiet night when compared to his season-opening performance against Harvard, finishing with ten points, eight rebounds and three assists. Illinois was able to use multiple defenses, including a 1-3-1 zone and devoting multiple players to the ball-handler when defending pick and rolls in man-to-man, to keep Dunn in check.

However Friars Ben Bentil (18 points, 12 rebounds, three assists), Rodney Bullock (13 points, six rebounds) and Kyron Cartwright (eight points, six assists) stepped forward, keeping Providence in position to win the game. Illinois had three chances to take the lead in the final seconds but all three missed the mark, including a Michael Finke follow dunk attempt of a Malcolm Hill missed layup. Jalen Coleman-Lands led Illinois offensively with 17 points, with Hill (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Finke (12 points, seven rebounds) also scoring in double figures.

SCORES YOU NEED TO KNOW

Richmond 91, Wake Forest 82: Chris Mooney’s Spiders won the turnover battle decisively, committing just six on the night with Wake Forest finishing with 20. Richmond converted those 20 turnovers into 27 points, and that combined with a balanced scoring effort led by T.J. Cline (19 points, seven rebounds) proved to be the difference. Freshman Bryant Crawford tallied 21 points, five rebounds and six assists for Wake Forest, but he also accounted for seven of the Demon Deacons’ 20 turnovers.

No. 1 North Carolina 78, Wofford 58: The top-ranked Tar Heels moved to 3-0 on the season with a 20-point win over the Terriers, taking control of the game in the second half after leading by just five at the intermission. Joel Berry II continued his solid play with 16 points, four assists and four steals, and Brice Johnson added 16 and 14 rebounds. Johnson and Kennedy Meeks combined to score 30 points (14-for-26 FG) and grab 22 rebounds against the smaller Terriers, who were led offensively by Jaylen Allen’s 15 points.

No. 21 Purdue 96, Incarnate Word 61: A.J. Hammons made his return to the court for Purdue, who didn’t skip a beat in their sound beating of UIW. Hammons played 17 minutes off the bench, racking up eight points, six rebounds and three blocked shots. Isaac Haas led five Purdue players in double figures with 17 points while also grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking four shots, and as a team the Boilermakers shot 59.6 percent from the field.

No. 10 Gonzaga 91, Northern Arizona 52: Mark Few’s Bulldogs rolled to a win in their season opener, with forwards Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer leading the way. Sabonis scored 26 points, shooting 12-for-13 from the field, and grabbed seven rebounds with Wiltjer adding 23 points and seven rebounds. If there’s a concern to be taken out of this blowout victory it’s that as a team Gonzaga shot 6-for-23 from beyond the arc. Remove Bryan Alberts’ 3-for-4 night and the percentage is even lower. Given their front court options opponents will look to sag down on Gonzaga and force the guards to beat them, so knocking down shots will be a key for the perimeter rotation moving forward.

STARRED

Isaiah Miles, Saint Joseph’s: with DeAndre Bembry being the focus of opposing defenses other Hawks will need to step forward. That’s happened thus far this season, with Miles going for 24 points and 14 rebounds in an 89-67 win over Buffalo.

Kahlil Felder, Oakland: One of the best guards you seldom hear about nationally, Felder racked up 27 points, four rebounds and 12 assists in the Golden Grizzlies’ 91-81 win over Eastern Michigan.

Isaac Haas, Purdue: 17 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in a blowout win over Incarnate Word.

Pascal Siakam, New Mexico State: Siakam accounted for 30 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in the Aggies’ 76-63 win over Tennessee Tech.

STRUGGLED

Darell Combs, IUPUI: Combs did dish out five assists, but he scored just five points on 1-for-11 shooting from the field in the Jaguars’ loss at NC State.

Mike Thorne Jr., Illinois: Thorne struggled with foul trouble Wednesday night and played just 13 minutes as a result, going scoreless before fouling out in the one-point loss at Providence.

NOTABLES

  • Leading by just four at the half, Cincinnati dialed up the pressure on both end of the floor in the second half as they blew out Bowling Green 83-50 on the road. Mick Cronin’s Bearcats outscored the Falcons 48-19 in the second half.
  • Aaron Bacote led five Monarchs in double figures as Old Dominion moved to 3-0 with a 79-48 win over Morgan State.
  • Cat Barber scored 19 points and Caleb Martin and Maverick Rowan posted matching lines of 15 points and seven rebounds as NC State beat IUPUI 79-56.
  • Evan Bradds scored 16 points while also accounting for nine rebounds and four assists in Belmont’s 90-85 win over Western Kentucky.
  • Keith Dambrot’s Akron Zips, who have won 20 games or more in each of the last ten seasons, moved to 3-0 with a win at Arkansas. Wednesday was a rough one for the Razorbacks, who missed out on elite in-state product Malik Monk earlier in the day. He’s signed with Kentucky.
  • Arizona State moved to 2-1 on the season with a 91-53 win over Kennesaw State, outscoring the Owls 56-29 in the second half. Obinna Oleka led four Sun Devils in double figures with 19 points.
  • New Mexico continued its solid start to the season with a 75-51 win over Loyola-Chicago. After Elijah Brown scored 31 Sunday night Tim Wiliams was the star Wednesday, posting a line of 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
  • Patrick McCaw scored 24 points and Derrick Jones added 19 as UNLV pulled away down the stretch to beat Southern Utah 84-64 in Las Vegas. Four Runnin’ Rebels managed to score in double figures on the night.