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2018-19 Providence College Hoops: The Kids Are Alright

Discussion in 'College Sports' started by CouchsideSteve, Oct 6, 2018.

  1. CouchsideSteve

    CouchsideSteve Member SoSH Member

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    With the calendar turning to October, it's time for a new thread. Providence College basketball returns in a few short weeks, and the future looks bright. The team recently moved into a gleaming state of the art practice facility, is fresh off 5 straight NCAA tournament appearances, and will introduce a top-25 recruiting class to fans this fall. Whether or not the program's momentum translates into deep tournament runs in the future, it's hard not to admire what Coach Ed Cooley and AD Bob Driscoll have accomplished.

    A quick recap of last season, before we turn the page. The 2017-2018 team had high expectations, returning every meaningful contributor from the previous year's tournament squad. Those expectations were immediately called into question with a very shaky non-conference performance. But the team got better in January and February, as Cooley's teams usually do, including regular season wins over top-10 opponents in Xaiver and eventual national champion Villanova. Still, PC had work to do entering the Big East tournament to stamp their ticket to March Madness. Cooley and the senior class answered that call, producing OT wins against Creighton and Xavier, capped off by an OT loss to Villanova where the team battled back from a double-digit deficit. The Friars were tournament bound and arguably playing their best basketball under Cooley to date. Alas, as has been too often the case, they ran into a bad first round match-up, making their tournament stay a brief one. We'll remember the senior class of Kyron Cartwright, Rodney Bullock, Jalen Lindsey & Tom Planek fondly.

    What are reasonable expectations for 2018-19? Who knows. The Big East is as wide open as it has been since the re-organization. Villanova is elite, Marquette should be good St. John's should be better (finally), and DePaul is bad. Finishing anywhere from 2nd to 9th would not surprise me. Here's what I think the squad will look like:

    Projected Starters: Makai Ashton-Langford, Soph (PG); Maliek White, Jr (SG); Alpha Diallo, Jr (F); Isaiah Jackson, Sr (F); Nate Watson, Soph (C)

    Key Contributors (ordered by projected role): Emmitt Holt, Sr (F/C); David Duke, Fr (G); AJ Reeves, Fr (G/F); Kalif Young, Jr (C); Drew Edwards, Jr (G/F)

    Limited Role or Uncertain: Jimmy Nichols, Fr (F); Kris Monroe, Fr (F); Andrew Fonts, Soph (G)

    One can quibble with my role forcast. In fact, Jon Rothstein notably tweeted that he expects Duke, Reeves, Diallo, Nichols and Watson to start after visiting campus in August. Three possibilities for that tweet, in my humble opinion (from most to least likely): A) Jon is off-base; B) Cooley planted the idea with Jon in hopes of lighting a fire under MAL, White & Jackson; C) The Freshman are really *that* good, and it's going to be party time in Friartown very soon. What's certain? Diallo and and Watson have all-conference upside and are rotation stalwarts, while Jackson provides versatility and experience that should keep him on the floor during crunch-time. Otherwise, the rotation could be fluid -- though Cooley famously shortens his bench by February.

    Major questions heading into the season:

    1) Where does the shooting come from?
    Let's not sugarcoat this: The exhibited 3pt shooting talent of returning players can largely be categorized as non-existent or poor. The list of guys who have shot well at the college level begins and ends with White and Jackson. Now those fears could be assuaged with the insertion of Duke, Reeves and Nichols, who are all billed as plus shooters. But they're also Freshman. This team can't succeed without Diallo, Holt and at least one of the Freshman revealing themselves as 3pt threats.

    2) Speaking of which... how good are the Freshman, really?
    Duke and Reeves were major recruiting coups for Cooley as top-50 prospects in his back yard, and reports from practice suggest Nichols may not be far behind. These kids are legitimately talented, but that doesn't always translate in Year 1. In the out-of-conference, Cooley extends a lot of opportunity to young players, so they'll have their chances. Are they going to be on the floor against Villanova in February?

    3) Do the Sophomores take "the leap"?
    MAL and and Watson are both really talented young players. The former struggled as a Freshman, while the latter exceed expectations. Often, a player makes his biggest jump from Year 1 to Year 2, so I'm genuinely intrigued to see how they develop. I think MAL is an under-the-radar breakout candidate. While he shot poorly last year, I thought he was a surprisingly capable defender. Expect Cooley to give him the starting PG job out of the gate, but he should have a fire under him knowing that Duke, White and even Edwards could put a dent in his minutes.

    4) Whither Emmitt Holt?
    Arguably the best player on the 2016-17 tournament team, Holt is back following an abdominal surgery that forced a medical redshirt last season. When healthy, Holt is a long and versatile defender who blocks shots and rebounds well. He also has enough of an outside shot to stretch the floor and is a great finisher at the rim. If you told me the guy of two seasons' ago was returning, I would tell you he's both the Friars best offensive and best defensive player... but we just don't know.

    5) What's the ceiling for Alpha Diallo?
    Diallo propelled himself into the starting lineup midway through his Freshman year, and has been rock steady since. He's a deceptively smooth ball-handler who can drive to the rim and pass, while also contributing above average defense at multiple positions. The question is whether he can develop an outside shot (15-70 from 3pt last year), which would be enough to propel him from memorable 4-year starter to NBA prospect.
     
  2. CouchsideSteve

    CouchsideSteve Member SoSH Member

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    The season tips off on Tuesday night hosting Siena, followed by a neutral site tilt versus Wichita St. on Friday. KenPom predicts the Friars to roll in the opener and pegs them as a slight favorite in Game 2.

    While pre-season results aren’t necessarily predictive, I thought it was notable how impressive and athletic the team looked in exhibitions. It’s also somewhat remarkable that PC was picked 3rd, behind Nova & Marquette, in the Big East coaches poll — this after being picked to finish in the bottom half the last few years and consistently exceeding expectations. In a mild surprise, Diallo was voted to the pre-season First Team, with David Duke sharing pre-season Freshman of the Year honors (alongside Nova’s Jahvon Quinerly).

    The rotation remains a bit of a mystery, though it wouldn’t surprise me if the starting five from the final exhibition game — Duke, White, Diallo, Holt & Watson — starts Tuesday.
     
  3. Clears Cleaver

    Clears Cleaver Lil' Bill SoSH Member

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    outside of Nova (who is also down, but still going to be competitive), the Big East is way down this year, at least perception-wise. no one else in the top 25, only a handful of teams receiving votes (including PC). Xavier, Creighton and Butler are down.
     
  4. CouchsideSteve

    CouchsideSteve Member SoSH Member

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    I think it's fair to say the league is down perception-wise, mostly because it's likely to be a single *elite* team this year with Xavier taking a step back. That said, the bottom of the conference is going to be stronger, so I don't think it's crazy to imagine 8 teams being in the bubble conversations come March. KenPom projects the Big East as the 4th strongest conference this season (after finishing 3rd in the previous three), behind the Big 12, ACC and Big Ten. And for what it's worth, the pre-season Sagarin ratings love the Big East, rating Nova 2nd, Marquette 12th, Providence 21st and Butler 27th. Time will tell.

    Two interesting articles I saw today:
    • The NBC College Basketball Talk guys predicted Alpha Diallo would be favored in the Big East PotY race come Feb as part of their 12 bold predictions article (a piece about all of college basketball, not just the Big East)
    • Good season opener preview from Kevin McNamara of the Projo, who does a great job covering the team all season long (he also does a podcast with Bill Koch in-season that is worth listening to)
     
  5. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    The Freshman guard from Roxbury, AJ Reeves, got the start tonight, and is lighting it up. He's 4/5 from 3, and has 16 points with 4 minutes left in the first half. PC has a 14 point lead on Siena.
     
  6. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    Well Steve, in your initial post, you had questions under #1 and #2, and AJ Reeves appears to be the answer to both, where will the shooting come from, and will a Freshman make an impact. He finishes 10/13 from the field, including 7/9 from deep, for 29 points and the Friars win by 10. Wow...What would it mean for this team if he's that kind of a player?
     
  7. NoLastCall125

    NoLastCall125 Member SoSH Member

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    Just got back from the game. They won by ten but after the first five minutes it felt like they were up 100. This team is noticeably more athletic than any team in recent memory and is so deep (pretty sure they had 11 different guys play decent minutes in the first half alone). Their legs are going to be fresh if Cooley can count on that kind of rotation. And they cruised while Duke and Holt were practically nonexistent. Plus the physical/mental development of some guys is significant. Watson has filled out. Young has shed even more baby fat. MAL doesn't look timid and was playing far more confident. There may not be that consistent go-to (Reeves looked fantastic, but I always assumed it'd be Diallo if anyone), but everyone on the court needs to be guarded and it could lead to big nights for different guys every single game. This team is going to be a lot of fun and I can't wait to see how they gel once the Big East schedule hits.
     
  8. CouchsideSteve

    CouchsideSteve Member SoSH Member

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    I’m trying not to overreact to a single game... but damn did Reeves looked good Tuesday night. Though somewhat prone to hyperbole, Joe Hassett tweeted that Reeves is the best “pure” shooter he has seen in 33 years on the Friars broadcast. Plaudits aside, it seems clear at least that Reeves is the starting SG. If he’s averaging 28min/game at the start of conference play, then that probably does raise my expectations a little, if for no other reason than he’s taking minutes from guys like White & Edwards, who are quality but limited upside rotation players.

    I was also very encouraged to see Diallo show an improved outside shot, as well as Jackson shooting the 3 without hesitation. When those guys are on the floor together, there is almost always a favorable offensive matchup, because of how well they both can take shake larger defenders off the dribble. (Most PFs can’t follow them out to the perimeter.)

    PC opens as a 4.5pt favorite against Wichita St down in Anapolis tomorrow. There are plenty of opportunities in the non-conference schedule, but this is one they should have.
     
  9. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    And they blow it tonight, 83-80 against Wichita St.

    The good news: Diallo went for 27 points and 10 rebounds, including 5/9 from deep. And AJ Reeves doesn't appear to be a fluke. He scored 19 on 7/10 shooting (2/5 from 3).

    The ugly: They went 13/26 from the foul line, 50%. Diallo went 6/13. If he is going to shoot like that from the foul line, they are going to have serious problems with him being their primary scorer. Their three point defense wasn't very good either, as WSU went 12/22 from the behind the arc, and also shot an even 50% from the floor.
     
  10. CouchsideSteve

    CouchsideSteve Member SoSH Member

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    They blew it, indeed. Really frustrating loss after being up 10 early.

    I’m not going to fall into the habit of quibbling with Ed Cooley’s coaching, because he is exceptional at his job. But the 11-man rotation, with Holt evidently feeling under the weather, is not suited to these competitive games. It’s a tough position to be in, because he has a lot of guys he needs to keep happy and invested, but I don’t understand why Kris Monroe was out there last night. And I just don’t see how Edwards fits, given that Reeves is clearly the team’s second best player after Diallo.

    Reeves and Diallo (FT shooting aside) were great again last night, while Watson and Nichols had some costly lapses. The front court just has to be better defensively.

    It’s also interesting to me how much Duke has dominated the PG minutes so far, and despite lacking polish, is so clearly ahead of Ashton-Langford in commanding the offense.
     
  11. CouchsideSteve

    CouchsideSteve Member SoSH Member

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    Lucky to escape with a 70-61 win over Holy Cross tonight, after trailing for a good portion of the game.

    Offense was mediocre, due largely to sloppy turnovers and another bad night at the FT line. Those issues are correctable, I think. Defense was atrocious in the first half, forcing Cooley into zone in the second. The bigs lack either the awareness (Watson/Nichols) or the athleticism (Young) to defend stretch 4s & 5s out to the 3-point line, and they’re getting killed out there. Duke and Reeves are still learning to play D in their own right. That’s going to be a problematic combination, and the only solution I can think of near-term to go super small with Diallo/Jackson as the 4/5.

    Again, trying to remind myself not to overreact to tiny samples with a young team like this, but the last two games have really underwhelmed.
     
  12. shawnrbu

    shawnrbu Member SoSH Member

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    Good win over South Carolina today. Frank Martin was upset about the free throw disadvantage (34 to 14).

    Big chance to get a resume building win tomorrow against Michigan.
     
  13. CouchsideSteve

    CouchsideSteve Member SoSH Member

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    Just boarded an Amtrak from NYC to PVD for the annual PC-URI rivalry game, so I thought it’d be a good time to check in.

    To recap where we’ve been since beating South Carolina at Mohegan for the right to play Michigan: The Friars were outclassed by the aforementioned Wolverines, who look like a Final Four contender and had previously dominated Villanova. Next up, the Friars beat a quality mid major in Iona, in perhaps their most complete effort of the season to date. That was followed by a 10-point win over low major Fairleigh Dickinson on Tue night, in which PC looked very lackluster.

    Ed Cooley teams historically get stronger as the season progresses, but I think it’s fair to say the Friars need to sweep their next three: hosting URI today, @ BC next Tue, and hosting UMass next Fri. Wichita State is looking like it might be a quad-3 (i.e., bad) loss come selection Sunday; while South Carolina just dropped a buy game, diminishing the quality of that win. 10-8 in a down year for the Big East isn’t going to get it done with another questionable loss on the tournament resume.

    That’s my assessment of the short-term. Longer-term, some good things to note: (1) Despite their inconsistency, you can see how talented Reeves and Duke are — I would be surprised if both aren’t at least second team all-conference at some point; (2) Nichols, the third freshman in the starting lineup, is awfully raw but incredibly disruptive on defense — uncommon length and athleticism for the Big East; and (3) Alpha Diallo is awesome and going to be the best player on the floor most nights.

    Now for the complications: (1) By KenPom’s 4 Factors, the only thing this team does well at all is block shots — their below average by high major standards at most everything else through 7 games; (2) Ashton-Langford didn’t see the floor against Iona and his dad is popping off on Twitter — he’s thoroughly blocked by Duke and can’t shoot... high probability of a transfer; (3) Emmitt Holt clearly isn’t 100% and might serve a limited role this season; (4) Cooley is still struggling with his rotation, I think knowing Ashton-Langford has a foot out the door, with White and Edwards also feeling underutilized.

    Today will be fun. The Friars could use an emphatic win. The NCAA’s new NET rating isn’t giving them much credit (outside the top-100), and KenPom rates them 64th.
     
  14. shawnrbu

    shawnrbu Member SoSH Member

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    AJ Reeves!
     
  15. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    Was wondering if anyone else was watching. The Frosh from Roxbury is amazing.
     
  16. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    PC has been outscored 30-14 from the free throw line...

    Make it 32-14...BC is 32/37 and PC is 14/20
     
  17. CouchsideSteve

    CouchsideSteve Member SoSH Member

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    Gritty effort from the Friars just to force OT. What more can you say about Reeves?!
     
  18. PC Drunken Friar

    PC Drunken Friar Member SoSH Member

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    There's been one minute off the clock in the last 9 real time minutes
     
  19. CouchsideSteve

    CouchsideSteve Member SoSH Member

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    Reeves, my goodness!
     
  20. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    Jesus, PC falling apart from the free throw line. 2/6 in overtime, and Reeves just missed 2 out of 3.
     
  21. shawnrbu

    shawnrbu Member SoSH Member

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    Why is the crowd booing? PC is just going to miss the free throws anyway.
     
  22. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    This is fucking ridiculous. These refs can't help but blow the whistle on every trip.
     
  23. shawnrbu

    shawnrbu Member SoSH Member

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    Clearly the refs are being paid per foul.
     
  24. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    The color man is clearly a BC guy. Has complained about every foul called for PC, but hasn't said a word about the 4 dozen called the other way.
     
  25. PC Drunken Friar

    PC Drunken Friar Member SoSH Member

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    One of the guys in this crew has 7 (or 4...I can't remember what they said) final fours to his credit.

    Wow
     
  26. PC Drunken Friar

    PC Drunken Friar Member SoSH Member

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    We are approaching 25 minutes for this OT
     
  27. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    And the refs don't call the foul when they should have and PC is able to salt away the clock. What a game, what a win for this team.
     
  28. CouchsideSteve

    CouchsideSteve Member SoSH Member

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    Really, really important road win. More thoughts to follow!
     
  29. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    This isn't the first time Jackson has made a bunch of huge free throws down the stretch of a close game. I like him on the floor in those situations.
     
  30. shawnrbu

    shawnrbu Member SoSH Member

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    First win for Cooley on the road at BC. The home team had won 8 in a row in this series. Most recent road win in this series was BC winning at The Dunk in 09.
     
  31. Ale Xander

    Ale Xander Member SoSH Member

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    You guys have a pair of good ones in Reeves and Watson.
     
  32. PC Drunken Friar

    PC Drunken Friar Member SoSH Member

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    Blow a 20 point lead at home to a pretty bad UMass team. Wow. That's the type of loss that will (and should) keep you out of the Tournament. Pathetic.
     
  33. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    What the hell happened? I checked the box score at halftime, and PC was leading 50-32, and I figured they were taking care of business, and then I check an hour later, and they lost 79-78?

    UMASS is like really bad (although Pipkins is a player). They lost to Harvard (who lost to Siena) and Holy Cross (who lost to Harvard) already this year. Uggh..
     
  34. moretsyndrome

    moretsyndrome Member SoSH Member

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    Ouch. I have a feeling I’ll be sitting in front of the tv before the selection show regretting that 2nd half, man.
     
  35. CouchsideSteve

    CouchsideSteve Member SoSH Member

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    I’m afraid this is right. I can count on one hand the number of games that I haven’t watched, at least in part, over the last 5 years. But I was at my office holiday party on Friday night, followed the first half score, and essentially forgot about it. Shocked to find they coughed it up.

    Cooley owned it and looked very frustrated in the post-game presser — it isn’t lost on him what a consequential loss this was. The Big East is really a mixed bag this year, but obviously down overall. The Friars will need to go 11-7 or 12-6 in conference play to make the tournament now, IMO. Certainly possible, but unlikely.

    This will be an extremely fun team to follow regardless, given its youth, but damn. The bad out-of-conference loss is such a gut punch.
     
  36. steveluck7

    steveluck7 Member SoSH Member

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    Reeves out 4-6 weeks with a foot injury
     
  37. CouchsideSteve

    CouchsideSteve Member SoSH Member

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    The Reeves injury is really disappointing, but it sounds like something he’ll come back from in February. Fingers crossed, because the kid is special.

    Short-term? The injury is oddly clarifying: This will not be an NCAA tournament team for the first time since 2013. That’s too bad, but we’ve all seen Cooley struggle with lineup decisions so far this season that balance winning with development. By his own admission, we lost the Wichita State game because he played 11 guys. And he might’ve over-corrected in the subsequent games.

    With Reeves out, it’s time to let MAL play through his slump to see if Cooley can get him to buy back in; maybe re-allocate some minutes from Jackson and Diallo to let Monroe play a bit, since he’s burned the redshirt. It’s going to be a bummer for games not to mean as much in Feb and early-Mar as they have in year’s past, but player development could be the silver lining. (It’s the only positive I can draw from an otherwise depressing few days for Friars basketball...)
     
  38. CouchsideSteve

    CouchsideSteve Member SoSH Member

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    There isn’t much to be gleaned from beating Central Conn. and Albany, but it was heartening to see Maliek White step up in a big way with Reeves out. It’s also notable that they throttled two lesser teams at home, in a way that they should, but have struggled to in recent years, often playing down to those opponents’ level.

    Tonight will be an interesting test playing @ Texas (Vegas has PC a 9pt underdog). It’s a game they realistically need to win to keep faint tournament hopes alive.
     
  39. canderson

    canderson Fomenting voting confusion and angst since 2016 Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    Lucky for you guys, Shaka Smart is the biggest fraud in college basketball.
     
  40. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    Uggh, two bricks from the foul line by Ashton-Langford with 4 minutes to go and a 6 point lead. Points are getting really hard to come by for PC. Need someone to step up soon.
     
  41. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    Geez, Diallo. Looked like he lost two balls going up to the rim there, got bailed out by Watson grabbing the board and putting it back, and then got a foul the second time.
     
  42. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    Huge free throws by Diallo. Texas makes a 3. 4 point lead, PC inbouding with 16 seconds left. MUST MAKE FREE THROWS.
     
  43. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    Huge free throws by Diallo. Texas makes a 3. 4 point lead, PC inbouding with 16 seconds left. MUST MAKE FREE THROWS.
     
  44. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    If they overturn this, and PC gets fucked by the refs against Texas again, that would be awful.
     
  45. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    If you have to look at it this long, it's not indisputable video evidence. Why don't refs understand that?
     
  46. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    Diallo knocks down the 1st to make it a 5 point lead.
     
  47. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    And makes the 2nd. 4 huge ones by Diallo down the stretch.

    And a huge win for PC. Needed that big time.
     
  48. CouchsideSteve

    CouchsideSteve Member SoSH Member

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    Sloppy, but that’ll do — best win on the out-of-conference resume by far. Nice show of resilience to finish the game after it felt like the momentum has swung midway through the second half.
     
  49. CouchsideSteve

    CouchsideSteve Member SoSH Member

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    As of this morning, KenPom has PC at 58th nationally and projected to go 9-9 in conference play. But amazingly, 12 of 18 games have projected spreads of +/- 5 points. The first three games of Big East play are effectively coin flips (home vs. Creighton & Nova, at G’town). 2-1 in those tilts keeps the dream alive.
     
  50. CouchsideSteve

    CouchsideSteve Member SoSH Member

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    Just not enough shooting to hang with Creighton this afternoon. Can’t lose at home to mid-tier Big East opponents if you expect to play meaningful games in March.

    This team will be a tough out in the NIT, once the young guys have jelled.
     

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