Friar Basketball

“20 in 60”: #19 Who Emerges in Next Phase of Big East?


This series details 20 headlines to watch in the 60 days leading up to the college basketball season.  The “20 in 60” articles will take a closer look at how the players, coaches, prospects, rivals and college basketball landscape will impact Providence in the season ahead.  

With the departure of West Virginia, to be followed by the moves of Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC in 2013, the face of the Big East is set to change once again.

While uncertainty remains for the future of the conference, and the losses of three of the Big East’s top basketball programs is certainly a blow, it may open an opportunity for the Friars to find their way out of the bottom fourth of the league.

Since the Big East expanded to 16 teams in 2005-06, Providence has struggled to find their way out of the bottom four.

The first year after realignment the Friars finished 12-15, and 5-11 in the conference – landing them in a three way tie for 15th.  The results since that first year?

2006-07: 18-12, 8-8 in conference, 10th place

2007-08: 15-16, 6-12, 12th place

2008-09: 19-13, 10-8, 8th place

2009-10: 12-19, 4-14, 15th place

2010-11: 15-17, 4-14, 14th place

2011-12: 15-17, 4-14, 15th place


Separating from the Pack

Providence hasn’t been alone in struggling to adjust to life in the new (soon to be old) Big East.  While the league has enjoyed more depth than any in the country since adding Marquette, Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, and DePaul in 2005, it has been a bit top heavy.  The pending realignment could open opportunities for five schools who’ve had trouble consistently reaching the NCAA Tournament in the new Big East.  Keeping pace with, and surpassing, these programs in the next 4-5 years is critical in getting Providence back to respectability.

Rutgers: PC fans think they know droughts?  The Scarlet Knights haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1991, one of only three tournament appearances in the last 30 years.  Mike Rice has a solid nucleus returning, with a trio of sophomore guards in Eli Carter, Myles Mack and Jerome Seagears who look primed to take a big step forward this year. The loss of Gil Biruta to Rhode Island hurts, but they will have a pair of talented big men in Kadeem Jack and Wally Judge, the Kansas State transfer who chose the Knights over Maryland.

Seton Hall: It was a painful Selection Sunday for the Hall in 2012.  A veteran team that started 15-2, closed 5-10, and saw their bubble burst.  The Pirates have been to the Dance more recently than Providence (2006), and have made the tourney three times since 2000 (2000 and 2004) – one more than the Friars.

They’ll rely on the underrated wing combo of Fuquan Edwin and Aaron Cosby in hopes of surprising this year.

DePaul: Their struggles since joining the Big East peaked in 2010 when they went winless in conference play.  Like PC, the Demons haven’t made the Tournament since 2004 and haven’t been back since joining the Big East.  In fact, they’ve finished last the past four seasons.

Oliver Purnell seems to have things a bit more stabilized, returning perhaps one of the top three players in the league in junior Cleveland Melvin, as well as the experienced Brandon Young.  2013 verbal commit Billy Garrett Jr is one of the better point guard prospects in the high school ranks, but it’s going to be a long road back.

South Florida: A bubble team that made the most of earning a bid in 2012, South Florida defeated Cal and Temple in the NCAA Tournament before falling to a very good Ohio team.

Can they build on this success?  They hadn’t made the tourney since 1992 prior to last season, so history certainly isn’t in their corner, but they return a solid cast of veterans, led by sophomore point guard Anthony Collins and forward Victor Rudd, while they add massive Junior College transfer Waverly Austin.  Austin headlines a potentially sneaky good recruiting class with small forward Javontae Hawkins and JUCO guard Musa Abdul-Aleem who has gotten very positive pub out of Tampa.  The JUCOs will make or break them.

Stan Heath landed a big time 2013 verbal in ESPN’s sixth ranked center in John Egbunu.

St. John’s: Steve Lavin has been a force on the recruiting trail since taking over in Queens, with many thinking the Johnies have already separated themselves from the pack.

They are included for now, as they’ve only made the tournament once since the 2005 realignment.  That year happened to be Lavin’s first, 2011, which, combined with back to back stellar recruiting classes, has reignited their fan base.

The 2011 NCAA Tournament appearance ended a nine year absence.  In 2002 St. John’s closed a five year run in which they won eight tournament games behind the likes of Ron Artest and Erik Barkley.  They look to be on their way back.


Finding wins among this group

Success against the programs that have struggled to make the tournament in recent seasons is essential for a Providence program that has stumbled against top competition since the realignment.

Last year eight of their 15 wins were against teams with an RPI over 200, and they were 2-10 against teams with a top 50 RPI.  They finished 0-5 versus teams with an RPI in the 51-100 range.

For a program that has struggled in recent years, it’s no surprise that Providence’s record against the RPI’s top 50 has not been pretty.

In 2007-08 they were 2-12 against the top 50, but 4-1 versus teams in the 51-100 range.

The 2008-09 team won 19 games overall and 10 in the Big East, but didn’t sniff the tournament thanks in part to a 2-8 record against the RPI’s top 50.

Providence went 3-9 against the top 50 in 2009-10 and 2-10 the following year.

In the current Big East the Friars play nearly half of their games against top 50 programs, so wins are clearly difficult to come by.  The losses of West Virginia, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh removes some of the more difficult games (road trips to all three have been disastrous for PC), but the additions of Memphis and Temple means they will still see plenty of the top 50.

The five teams listed above have combined for a mere three tournament appearances since the 2005 realignment, and there will be an opportunity for some of them to emerge in the wake of more changes for the conference.


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