PC Set to Meet USC in NCAA Tournament for 2nd Straight Year

Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Joe Calabro, GoLocalProv Sports Team

Cartwright against USC in 2016
The Providence College Friars are in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year, a program record. This appearance might be the most unexpected one given the Friars were picked to finish 9th in the preseason. 

"First of all, Providence College is excited to be here. It has been an up and down season for us, a lot of new faces. We are excited to play a talented USC team, it has been a grind of a year and we are so excited to throw the ball up, we are excited to be here in Dayton and excited to get this game going. I can’t believe we are here, I really can’t. Don’t forget we were picked ninth in the Big East," said Providence head coach Ed Cooley in his Tuesday press conference in Dayton. 

This will be the second straight year the Friars will play USC Trojans in the tournament. 

Last year, Providence beat USC 70-69 on a Rodney Bullock layup in the closing seconds in the round of 64. This year, the game will come in the First Four. 

"The biggest experience we can take away is that we won the game. I think both teams are totally different. We have five first year guys in our of our nine man rotation. I know USC is a very young team but they have a core group of guys that actually played in the game, much like ours. Same systems, different personnel. I think their style of play is the same, ours is very similar, but totally different personnel," said Cooley. 

Game time is set for 9:10 p.m. on Wednesday night on TruTV. 

USC Trojans 

The Trojans started the season by winning their first 14 games and were 21-4 a week into February before dropping four straight games, three of which were to #5 Oregon, #6 UCLA and #4 Arizona. 

USC was eliminated by UCLA in their conference tournament. They finished the year with an overall record of 24-9.

For USC it comes down to the play of guards Elijah Stewart and Jordan McLaughlin. Combined, the two averaged nearly 26 points per game for the Trojans. 

“USC’s guard play is what fuels the team, how Stewart and McLaughlin go is how USC goes,” said James Steiner, sports producer at KABC in Los Angeles. He added “if SC can get great guard play than Providence can’t win. They are not athletic enough.” 

In last year's game, McLaughlin scored 15 points, dished out five assists, grabbed five rebounds and record four steals going up against Kris Dunn. 

"This kid McLaughlin is their glue guy, he is very talented, he plays with different paces, different speeds, he is really really good on ball screens. He is the mistro for them, I think he is one of the best guards in the country, made All-Pac 12. We got our hands full with him," said Cooley.  

The Trojans leading scorer is big man Bennie Boatright who has scored at least 20 points in four straight games. He is also their best three-point shooter, launching between seven and nine three-pointers a game. 

“The Trojans are a team that relies on jump shots. They are at their best when shots are going down and they are getting stops on the defensive end. The offense tends to fuel the defense,” said USC radio play-by-pay man Chris Fisher. 

PC Basketball - Two Thing to Watch 

Sloppy Play 

Over the last three games, PC’s play has fallen off and it all came to a head in the Big East Tournament when they lost to Creighton after turning the ball over 22 times and missing 12 free throws. 

That game was just an extension of the Friars final two regular season games in which they turned the ball over 14 times against St. John’s and 18 times against DePaul, but managed to hang on for wins. 

The Friars will look to clean up their play in hopes of advancing.

Rodney Bullock 

For the Friars to advance, Rodney Bullock is going to need to be a factor. 

In Providence’s game against Creighton, Bullock went 1 of 8 from the field and 1 of 2 from the free throw line for a total of three points in 32 minutes of action. He also turned the ball over four times. 

After reaching double figures in six straight games, Bullock has not scored more than four points in each of the Friars last two games. 

For what it is worth, last year against the Trojans, Bullock played all 40 minutes and totaled 16 points, including the game winner, and pulled down 10 rebounds. 

For more on the matchup, see the chart below. 

  • 1972-73 NCAA Final Four

    Led by Ernie DiGregorio, Marvin Barnes and Kevin Stacom, this was Providence's best shot at winning a National Title...until Barnes went down with a knee injury in the semifinals against Memphis State.  An anticipated matchup for the championship with Bill Walton's legendary UCLA Bruins never materialized.  But this team did finish 27-4, and entertained scores of fans across the country...while creating a buzz about PC hoops that still exists today. (rirhof.org)

  • 1986-87 NCAA Final Four

    This wasn't the best Friar team of all time...and probably not the most-talented.  But it was, perhaps, the most magical.  And it did have talent, led by Billy Donovan, Jacek Duda, Dave Kipfer, Ernie "Pop" Lewis and Delray Brooks.   But the best attribute of this team was shooting the three, and believing in themselves.  These Friars finished 25-9, and lost in the National semifinals to Syracuse(realclearsports.com)

  • 1996-97 NCAA Elite Eight

    This Providence team was one of the most-talented teams ever assembled on Smith Hill...but as the legend goes, had a hard time getting along with each other.  Pete Gillen led these Friars to within a missed jump-shot of a berth in the Final Four, but did get into overtime in the Regional Final against eventual national champ Arizona before falling.  God Shammgod, Austin Croshere, Jamel Thomas, Ruben Garces and Derrick "Flight" Brown whipped Duke along the way to a 24-12 record, gaining legendary status, fame, and perhaps near-fortune. (friarbasketball.com)

  • 1959-60 NIT Finalists

    No, this team did not win the NIT...which at the time was considered the TRUE National Championship Tournament.  But it was this team (along with the NIT team in 1959) that helped create the passion for Friar Basketball in Providence, and throughout the state of Rhode Island.  Led by Hall-of-Famer Lenny Wilkens, and head coach Joe Mullaney, PC arrived on national scene as well.  Big man James Hadnot led the Friars in scoring and rebounding. (providence.edu)

  • 1960-61 NIT Champions

    It wasn't the NCAA Championship, but at the time, the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) WAS the national championship, and the Friars won it in 1961...defeating St. Louis 62-59 at Madison Square Garden in New York behind Vinny Ernst and James Hadnot.  PC finished 24-5, Hadnot averaged nearly 20 points and more than 16 rebounds per game, while Ernst was a whirling dervish on the floor (look that one up)! (providence.edu)

  • 1962-63 NIT Champions

    There was one more championship team in Providence history, as two years after the first one, the '62-'63 Friars returned to the NIT throne room by winning 15 straight games to finish the season at 24-4.  Former Boston mayor and US Ambassador to the Vatican Ray Flynn led PC in scoring, along with legendary Georgetown coach John Thompson, Jr.  Vinny Ernst was also on this team as a senior, winning two titles in his Providence career. (Flynn & Ernst, providence.edu)

  • 1993-94 Big East Champion

    In the Big East era, it's tough to leave this team off of any list...even though they did not have success in the NCAA Tournament in 1994.  But PC's first Big East title came after a talented team caught fire in the '94 event at the Garden, led by Rob Phelps, Eric Williams, former Central HS and CCRI star Abdul Abdullah, Dickey Simpkins and Michael Smith - one of the best rebounders the league has ever seen.  The Friars finished 20-10, winning the Big East, but lost to Alabama in the NCAA Tournament 1st round. (Williams & Phelps, wordpress.com)

  • 2013-14 Big East Champion

    It's hard to say, when they have yet to prove much on the national stage...but this year's Friar team deserves to be ranked with the best in school history just from the story of their journey(s) alone.  Bryce Cotton came from Arizona without another Division I offer; injury and suspension depleting the roster; two transfer players playing significant roles; Coach and Providence-native Ed Cooley, whose house caught on fire during the year...it goes on and on.  One heck of a ride and a story...and it's still going. (Cotton, twcc.com)

  • 1964-65 NCAA Reg. Finals

    It wasn't known as the "Elite 8" then, but the '64-'65 Friars were certainly one of the best teams in the school's athletic history.  Finishing 24-2 and ranked 4th in the national polls, the Jimmy Walker-led Friars were beaten by Bill Bradley's Princeton team in the NCAA's, just missing out on the Final Four.  Sophomores Walker, Dexter Westbrook and future NY Knick Mike Riordan led this group of Friars, along with James Benedict and Bill Blair.  This team may have been coach Joe Mullaney's most talented. (Westbrook & Walker, friarbasketball.com)



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