Sleeping With The Enemy: The Friars of Providence

What a week it's been, huh?  From Georgetown's ascension in the national rankings to the absurd levels of joy gleaned from the dissention among Syracuse fans, this has certainly been a week to remember at THE GLOBAL PHENOMENON.  The February 9th showdown with our hated rivals from Canada looms largely on the schedule, but before we tackle the Orange, our focus is squarely on the feisty squad from Providence.  As always we're bringing you everything you need to know about Georgetown's next opponent, and special thanks to FriarBasketball.net for providing answers to our always intriguing questions.  This Four Loko is for you. 

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Providence has been a bit of an enigma this year. They lose 6 straight to start Big East play, then beat Louisville and Villanova, and then lose to Seton Hall. Has it been frustrating that the team hasn't been consistent, or thrilling to knock off two top tier teams?

The inconsistency isn't a surprise considering the lack of depth and experience on this roster. The Friars are currently starting two freshmen, two sophomores, and one senior. There aren't any juniors on the roster, and aside from Marshon Brooks the only other scholarship senior on the team plays 3.9 mpg and has had 5 DNP-CDs.

That being said, I wouldn't call the wins over Louisville and Villanova "thrilling" as much as I would necessary. Following the longest Big East losing streak in team history to close out last year, things were looking up after an 11-2 out of conference schedule, but PC started 0-6 and Friar fans were grumbling about their head coach. The wins were more of a distraction than a thriller.

More fun with fun people after The Jump:

Speaking of Louisville, how does the Providence fanbase perceive Rick Pitino?

The perception of Pitino really depends on who you speak with. He did provide an epic ride to the Final Four and proved that winning can be done in Providence, both of which Friar fans will thank him for forever. That year will go down as the best coaching performance in PC history.

That being said, he signed an extension the spring after that run and swore he was not interested in heading to the Knicks before suddenly leaving. How he left, not so much as that he left is what angered many in Providence. Plus, he had a tremendous amount of talent lining up to come to PC after 87 that never made it here after his departure, which stings a fanbase that hasn't seen consistent success in the Big East.

Also remember, a lot of these Providence fans are Celtics fans too and he left that job by leaving a note on a road trip in Florida saying he'd hold a press conference when he got home. We went to play golf, the Celtics headed home, and the presser never happened.

On a scale of 1-10, how would you grade the Keno Davis era thus far?

In fairness to Keno, he took over a struggling program. They won six Big East games the year before and got to 10 in his first season, narrowly missing the tournament. It has been a downhill slide ever since though. He's received commitments from three top 100 players who eventually bailed (Naadir Tharpe to Kansas, Joe Young to Houston, and most recently Ricky Ledo), the team's 20 and 10 power forward was kicked out of school last year, two others assaulted an innocent student last year so badly that they broke his nose and eye socket (they were expelled needless to say), his top assistant left for the same job at Pitt, and the 0-6 start this year capped a 17 game Big East losing streak. I won't put a number on it, but you can do the math.

Providence's alumni base happens to have some real heavyweights in the coaching world - Rick Pitino, Billy Donovan, John Thompson, Lenny Wilkens, Pete Gillen, and Rick Barnes. If you could hypothetically start a program with one of those coaches in his prime, who would you choose?

Wow, great question. Joe Mullaney is the godfather of Providence basketball, but I would take his assistant in the 60s Dave Gavitt over any of these great names. Gavitt led PC to the Final Four in 1973, created the Big East, was the commissioner from 79-90, and developed the idea for the Dream Team in 1992. Aside from Wilkins and Thompson he is the only member of the Friar athletic department to be named to the Basketball Hall of Fame. He was a true innovator remembered for his help in growing the Big East and NCAA Tournament, but he was a terrific coach as well. Gavitt was also set to coach the USA Olympic Basketball team before they boycotted the Moscow games and ran the Celtics in the 90s. Great, great basketball mind and beloved in Providence.

If you were to choose an All-Providence starting 5, who is on that team? Is there room for both Austin Croshere and Ryan Gomes?

I'm going with a three guard lineup, and Croshere isn't in my top seven. The best player in Providence history is Jimmy Walker. Walk averaged 30 points per game in his senior season before being taken first overall in the 1967 NBA draft. Two Walker fun facts: he was the father of Jalen Rose and he was drafted by the New Orleans Saints the same year the Pistons took him first overall. Not a bad athlete.

Hall of famer Lenny Wilkens is one of my other guards, and Ernie DiGregorio is my point guard. Ernie D was taken third in the draft and won the rookie of the year in 73-74, but got hurt early in his career.

Marvin Barnes is the best big man in Providence history. He led PC to the Final Four with Ernie D before hurting his knee in the semi-final game in which Providence led by double figures when he went down. Barnes averaged almost 21 and 17 for his career, went second in the NBA draft, but decided to play in the ABA where he won rookie of the year over Moses Malone. A drug addiction curtailed what should have been a great career.

We'll need another big man, and while I like the length of Otis Thorpe, I've got to find a way to get Gomes in there. Ryan gets the fifth spot.

Call me crazy, but couldn't UConn and Providence trade Kemba Walker and Marshon Brooks and both teams would be in the same places they are in now?

I don't think so. Brooks has scored well, and actually shot it at a higher percentage than Kemba, but Walker has just made so many huge late shots for UConn. Brooks is having a great season, but he isn't as clutch or explosive as Walker. Providence might be in the same place, as I don't think any one player in the conference would make this team significantly better, but I don't think UConn would be as good.

We know about Brooks, the second leading scorer in the Big East, but who else should Georgetown fans fear on Saturday?

Fear may be strong, but the Friars' next best player is Vincent Council. He is a terror if teams try to pressure him as Louisville and Villanova did. Pressing Council gives PC a shot against anyone. He can be a blur who picks teams apart. The sophomore is leading the Big East in assists on a team really lacking in shooters and finishers - a testament to his passing ability. He can over-dribble and force it a bit in the halfcourt, but he's a solid player who would be great if surrounded by better talent.

What is Providence's biggest strength as a team this year? Where are they most vulnerable?

Davis has done a fine job of manufacturing offense on a team really lacking in options. The Friars get to the free throw line well, which is key as they are a poor outside shooting team and have no interior presence.

They are vulnerable on the road, where they have yet to win this season. PC is 13-2 at home, 1-1 on a neutral court, and 0-6 on the road. You'll see a different Providence team than Nova and Louisville did up here.

In your mind, who are the four best teams in the Big East when all is said and done this year? Who do you think wins the National Championship?

I was high on Georgetown coming into this season, and I may be biased as I grew up a Georgetown fan (I met Alonzo Mourning at the 1989 tourney in Providence and my older sister went there in the 90s with Iverson, Harrington, Jerome Williams, Jahidi White etc - I caught a lot of flack being a Boston kid rooting for Georgetown versus UMass in the Elite 8), but they are starting to prove me right with their recent play. Pitt is the best team in the conference, and then I like Nova, followed by some combination of Georgetown, Syracuse and Connecticut. Let's bump the Cuse out and go Pitt, Nova, Georgetown and UConn. And yes, I know Syracuse just beat UConn.

How long does Keno Davis have until it will be expected that he delivers an NCAA Tournament berth?

He better produce something fast - patience is running thin. It may not happen for a while, as a team short on talent is losing Brooks next year. This is where missing out on the aforementioned Tharpe and Young really hurt his cause. We are look at a tournament in 2013 at the earliest. Sad.

We saw that Ricardo Ledo recently decommitted from Providence, how much does that hurt Keno's future at Providence?

Ledo's decommitment alone wouldn't hurt him (who can blame a coach for the whims of a 17 year old?), but on the heels of Tharpe, Young, truly embarrassing off-court issues, and some serious losing it is another brick in the wall. It hurts Providence long-term, and in the present, as the heat has really been turned up on Keno of late.

Who does Providence consider its biggest rival in basketball? Who do you consider to have the most annoying fan base in the Big East?

Tough call on biggest rival. I would have said BC before they left for the powerhouse that is the ACC. It was disappointing to see them leave, as there were similarities in both schhols. It's hard to call it a rivarly with Connecticut, as their program is on another level, but if I had to pick one I'd say it's the Huskies. And yes, their fans have a way of getting under our skin for a host of reasons aside from proximity. They fill our arena, get that chant going in which they spell out UConn and then say the word three times over (still not sure how that caught on), and belittle Friar fans with "congratulations on winning your Super Bowl" whenever Providence defeats them - which has been more often of late than you'd think. Providence fans living in Connecticut live a tortured life.

How do you see Saturday's game playing out? What do you think the final score will be?

PC has been atrocious on the road. West Virginia beat them by 30, South Florida scored 50 second half points against them, and Rutgers and Seton Hall ran away from them. Georgetown is hot, the Friars' season is teetering, even after a sloppy win tonight over USF. The Hoyas win this one by 13. 84-71.

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