Friars Hockey Season Wrap-Up

(Photo via alongtheboards.com)

The Friars met their demise last Friday in Worcester, Massachusetts, as they fell to the Bulldogs of Minnesota, Duluth, by a final of 2-1. This is a major loss for the Friars as they were the reigning National Champions, yet they take a first round exit from the tournament this season. This game was one for the ages, however, as the teams went on a double overtime marathon.

This double overtime game was completely dominated by the Bulldogs as they out-shot the Friars 56-37. With a differential of 19 shots, it really is no surprise that the Friars took the loss. However, this also gives a lot of hope to the Friars for next season as their goalie Nick Ellis demonstrated that he could play big, even in big games. Ellis finished with 54 saves with many of those saves being very difficult to make. However, a loss is a loss, and this one hurts big time. Aside from the team taking an early exit this year, the Friars are also losing NINE seniors. This is a huge loss for the team as the men who are graduating were Coach Leaman’s first recruiting class and were major components of last year’s championship run. If the Friars want to have sustained success, Leaman will have to continue his excellent job of recruiting, and keep getting his team into the playoffs.

A season that started off with such great promise, reigning national champions, did not lose a game until after Christmas break, nine returning seniors, etc. It is really sad to see it end in such a disappointing way. However, with current freshmen like Erik Foley (Winnipeg Jets draft pick), Steven Ruggiero (Anaheim Ducks draft pick), Hayden Hawkey (Montreal Canadiens draft pick), and Vinny Desharnais, the future years promise to be exciting.

– K. Troy

Can UNC be Beat?

(Photo via chicago.suntimes.com)

The Tar Heels have dominated their opponents this March. As the Final Four approaches, the question arises: Can they be beat?

UNC has to play Syracuse in the Final Four, so it looks like it will be smooth sailing to National Championship. Syracuse has had their fifteen minutes if you ask me, however, they will tell you otherwise in upstate New York. I hate to burst your snow globe Syracuse, but in my opinion, Cuse had one of the easiest roads to the Final Four barring the Elite Eight win over Virginia. I will give them credit where credit is due. The Orange made one of the greatest comebacks we saw this year. However, other than slaying a Goliath in the Elite Eight, all they had to do was play upset winners. So most of the hard work was already done for them.

In the National Championship I think they will be playing Oklahoma and Buddy Heild. Heild has been the most dominant player in this year’s tournament, although Marcus Paige is making a case in the last two rounds. And that is where I believe the “x-factor” is, Paige. If Marcus Paige shoots the ball the way he has lately and the Heels get the performance in the paint that they just got from Brice Johnson, I really don’t see a way that UNC doesn’t hoist the trophy.

UNC’s Recipe for Success:

The Tar Heels are so much bigger than everyone else they play and they are deeper down low. They have been scoring easily in the paint, and have been assaulting their opponents on the glass. They need to continue going down low to Meeks and Johnson for easy hoops.

On top of that, I would be as aggressive as possible on the offensive boards. UNC is a run and gun offense. So who cares if you get a little out of position and give up a fast break once in a while. I have seen them get enough second chance points to know that they will gain more than they will lose in that department. On top of that, most teams try to slow down and control the pace (i.e. Notre Dame). So, if you get the opponent in transition, all that does is create quicker shots and more UNC possessions throughout the course of the game.

Lastly, I think you need to give Paige more touches. Last year and most of this year, Paige wasn’t putting up the numbers that he was his freshmen year. But now, he’s one of the most efficient and lethal shooters in the game. I watched him catch fire early in the past couple games. I was like “this kid’s going to put up 40.” and then it was like he was a role player after that. The bigs did dominate, so I’m not going to say UNC was doing poorly, I just think you have to put the ball in your leader’s hands much more. There is no doubt in my mind that Marcus Paige is the reason UNC has a chance to win it all. I said it in the beginning, if Paige gets hot, then UNC is unbeatable, if not, then they can be beat.

How to Play UNC:

I think Notre Dame played almost as well as they could have. The way to beat UNC (or at least try to) is to slow the game down and limit the amount of possessions. If you get into a sprint, you can just hit the showers at half time. If you make the game a marathon, you will still have a tough time winning the race, but you can always hope they cramp up on mile twenty five. UNC was one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the entire country this season, so slowing down their offense and forcing them to work for tough jump shots is the best way to limit their offense.

Notre Dame played great, but they didn’t have the size. You need to have big men down low and you need to box out effectively. Notre Dame did not do that in the second half, that’s for sure. There were multiple plays were two or even three Tar Heels came flying to the rim for the put back. Easy points is the one thing you can not give them. If you are the underdog, you have to play tight defense inside and force your opponent to work for every single point. Bottom line, you have to box out and prevent those second chance points.

Lastly, you have to shoot the three. Chances are you aren’t as big as UNC, so you are going to have trouble getting inside. If you can shoot a good percentage from the three point line, it forces the defense to come out and respect the shot. This will provide more floor spacing and some closer looks.

– R. Ilardi

Derek Kellog Giving UMASS Fans Hope For Future

(Photo via masslive.com)

With their year officially over after a 15-point loss to VCU in the second round of the A-10 tournament, the UMass basketball team can finally put this season behind them. They under-performed by many standards, ending the year with a 14-18 record. They are now losing a solid group of seniors who had been contributing a lot of minutes to the team. But, head coach Derek Kellogg assures the fans of a bright future ahead.

Although the UMass athletic program fired both the Women’s basketball coach and the Men’s hockey coach at the conclusion of their respective seasons, AD Ryan Bamford confirms Kellogg’s job safety. “We are moving forward with Derek. Derek is our head coach,” via masslive.com. This is great news for the program; besides the unfavorable results in the last two seasons, Kellogg has done a fine job as coach for 8 solid years. He is well respected by the fans, the players, and in many coaching circles.

Clearly, the AD feels that Kellogg is the most capable of turning the basketball team around. As a former John Calipari assistant, he is certainly capable of handling any sort of pressure thrown at him. Now, it’s time to prove it. Luckily for him, he will have the luxury of coaching a talented 2016 rookie class, which has been ranked in the top 25 by most recruiting sources. And he already seems ahead of schedule.

Kellogg, in a press conference following the VCU loss, said that he is already planning on working with his players in the spring, summer, and into the fall as they prepare for next season. He expressed his determination to learn from his team’s mistakes in the 2016 season. He has high hopes for the season ahead, as he should. Yes, the team didn’t live up to anybody’s expectations, but with solid pieces like Dante Clark and Antwan Space returning, along with one of the best recruiting classes the team has seen in years, Kellogg has every right to feel optimistic about the future. This year’s performance can be seen as more of a detour than a road-block, where the goal and final destination still remain intact.

– J. Yellin

Thank You Kris

(Photo via golocalprov.com)

Saturday night saw the demise of the Providence Friars dream season, one in which they had made the top ten and won a March Madness game for the first time in 19 years. While the season’s over, it was still an awesome run, and the team will be back and ready to go next season. However, it will be without current team superstar Kris Dunn, who will be graduating this year and heading into the NBA draft. As reports coming out today of his plan to hire an agent and enter the NBA draft have made Dunn’s commitment to the NBA official, all we can do now is thank Kris for what he gave us over the course of his career at PC.

Dunn’s life story was told earlier this year in a Sports Illustrated article. It highlighted his tremendously rough up-bringing’s, and eventual commitment to Providence. When Dunn first committed here, I had no clue what Providence was other than a city in Rhode Island, but Dunn changed all that. In Dunn’s first two seasons in Providence, he was not much of a factor on the team, and it was mainly Bryce Cotton, who led the Friars to a Big East Tournament Championship in 2014. The next year when Cotton was gone Dunn, did him one better.

This was now Dunn’s team. Yes, there was a lot of talk about LaDontae Henton, but this was Dunn’s team. This was his break out season, and he managed to get the Friars into the top 25 for the first time in 10 years. They were unable to repeat as Big East champions, but they made the big dance regardless, but sadly lost in the first round. Then, this season, his senior year, he was a monster. Dunn led the team not only into the top 25, but into the top 10. Once again, the team made the big dance, and for the first time in 19 years, won a game in the tournament. Sadly, now the run is over, and so is Dunn’s time in college.

Looking at his time here in Providence, there were very small successes, but there was a large change. When I told people I wanted to go to Providence College, many of them had either not heard of it, or didn’t even know where Providence was. Now, after this past season, people all know the school that was in the top 10; I met people who went to games just to watch Dunn. So while we never got to see a national championship in basketball, Dunn took a little known school and made them known throughout the country. He put the small private school on the map and made it extremely fun to watch, and that is how he “Got it Dunn.” Thanks Kris.

– K. Troy

 

Buzzer Beating Madness

(Photo via bleacherreport.com)

The first official weekend of March Madness has kicked off and in the Providence Friars game in the round of 64, they had the challenge of taking on the USC Trojans. The mood on the Providence campus was electric, as fans were confident that they would win the game, and all students flocked to their friends’ dorms to watch. Then, as the game got going, the fans of Providence were in for a thriller.

The Friars hung around all game, and never let USC gain a large lead. As time was almost up, the Friars found themselves down by three, 68-65, but that’s when their leader Kris Dunn took over knocking down a game tying three with approximately 90 seconds left. The Trojans then took a one-point lead on a free-throw by Bennie Boatwright. This gave the Friar Faithful panic attacks, but the team knew it was not over. With 1.5 seconds left on the clock the Friars had the ball under the hoop, and in-bounded it to Rodney Bullock, who made his layup to seal the deal, and gave the Friars their first madness win since 1997.

Once the layup was made, the campus went into a frenzy, and all the students went out into the streets to celebrate. The Friars win earned them a date with top-seeded UNC, a match-up no college team wants to see on the first weekend of March Madness. UNC won somewhat handily by a final of 85-66. This loss was a heartbreaker for Friartown, but can not take away from what Kriss Dunn and his fellow Friars were able to do this year.

– K. Troy

Most Unpredictable Bracket of All Time

(Photo via bleacherreport.com)

March Madness is the most incredible and incredibly frustrating sports period of the year.  It’s the time of the year where everyone thinks that they have the perfect bracket, but then after the first day of competition, just about everyone says that they will never fill out a bracket ever again.  Unfortunately, this year will probably be the most difficult and incredibly infuriating bracket of all time.

This year in college basketball can be summed up in one word: Upsets.  Every single week it seemed that either the number one team in the nation was losing, or four to five top ten teams were losing. This did provide terrific entertainment night in and night out, but for us fans who are interested in winning March Madness brackets, this is very bad news.

After looking through the bracket, there really is no true dominant team, and it appears that any team can lose to anyone at any point in the tournament, and you can really make a case for just about anyone to come out on top.  Kansas appeared to be the most consistent team this season, which is why they are the number one seed, but even they could be a threat to be upset in their potential matchup with UCONN in the round of 32.  Even the play-in games appear to be unpredictable this year, and they could be some of the best games of the entire tournament.

If this tournament is anything like the regular season, we may be in for one of the greatest March’s ever.  However, if this tournament is anything like the regular season, don’t be surprised if you want to set fire to your bracket after the first game either.

– C. Homola

Hockey East Playoffs

The Friars of Providence kicked off their bid to win the Hockey East this past weekend in a three game set against the Warriors of Merrimack. Based off the Friars stellar regular season, in which they tied Boston College for first in the league, they obtained home ice advantage for round one.

In game one, which took place on Friday, March 11, the Friars almost lacked home ice advantage as Merrimack fans poured into Schneider Arena in Providence, RI, loud and signs in hand. This, however did not faze the Friars for even a second. Less than seven minutes into the contest, Nick Saracino found the twine, and gave Providence a 1-0 lead. The lead remained as such until the third when Merrimack came back and tied things up, but not for long. A late goal by Friar Freshman Erik Foley gave Providence a 2-1 lead, which was then backed up by an empty netter by Trevor Mingoia to secure a 3-1 win for Providence.

Game two was a little bit of a different story. Once again the Merrimack fans poured in, however, the Friar Faithful were ready this time, as they too flocked to the arena. The game started slow and there were no goals until the third period, but when the Friars finally lit the lamp on a goal by Garrett Gamez just past the midway point in the final period, they never relinquished the lead. This game was locked up on an empty net goal by Kevin Rooney, and the Friars ensured that they would be advancing to Boston.

The playoffs continue this Friday as the final four contain match-ups of Providence vs. UMass Lowell, and Boston College vs. Northeastern. The finals take place Saturday night and will give the winner about a week to prepare for the big tournament as teams duke it out to become National Champions.

– K. Troy