To All the Haters…

Ever since early April when soon-to-be sophomores Johnnie Lacy and James Still were arrested and subsequently kicked off of the Providence College men’s basketball team, head coach Keno Davis has been under fire.  Then, when May rolled around, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder was dismissed from the team for a “violation of team rules.”  The amount of criticism directed towards Davis increased in volume and number.  Within the last month or so, the situation with recruit Joe Young has escalated into quite a predicament.  Young, who signed a National Letter of Intent (NLI) with Providence College, asked to be dismissed from his NLI earlier in the summer because his aunt (currently living in Texas) was suffering from some medical issues and her health was ailing.  Coach Davis refused to release Young from his NLI, so Joseph and his family filed an appeal to the governing body of the NLI program.  On August 17th Young’s appeal was denied as the governing body of the NLI program ruled in favor of PC.  Young’s father, Michael, responded quite furiously to their denied appeal by saying, “The NLI system is crap…There’s no chance in Hell that Joseph would ever go to Providence.”  I do find it quite intriguing that Michael Young, in the past year, has become a member of the University of Houston men’s basketball team’s coaching staff.

Ever since that dreadful day in early April, every move that Keno Davis makes is criticized, evaluated, and ripped apart.  Clearly Davis was in the wrong in both the Lacy/Still and the Peterson incidents.  As head coach of the basketball team, Davis is responsible for walking with his players when they leave campus at night.  I’m almost certain there is language in his contract that makes him the team babysitter.  Although holding hands is optional, it is certainly recommended by the Athletic Director.  And, if you read a bit more into Davis’ contract, you’ll see that when his players occupy dorm rooms, he is contractually obligated to be the RA.  Jamine has more than five friends in his room, Keno is there to put the nix on that.  Another player wants to have a 6-pack in his dorm refrigerator before he is 21, RA Davis is there to stop the malarkey.  A scuffle breaks out in the dorm hallway at 2am, Keno is primed and ready to go.

http://www.beloblog.com/ProJo_Blogs/hoops/davis2.jpgLet’s be realistic for a minute, shall we?  Keno Davis was hired by athletic director Bob Driscoll in April of 2008 for one reason and one reason only, to win basketball games in the toughest conference in the country.  The Providence College community was sick of being mediocre.  Tim Welsh put the school in a position where a trip to the NIT, or a few wins in the Big East Tournament was looked upon as a successful season.  The hiring of Davis sent a message to the fan base that mediocrity was no longer acceptable and that PC wanted to be a consistent member of the field of 64 (well, now 68).  I am willing to bet a large sum of money that off-season incidences, similar to the ones that have occurred with PC, are not rare in college basketball.  But, if it happens at Kansas, nobody cares because at the end of the season they’ll be competing for a national championship.  The same with Kentucky, Michigan St., North Carolina, Syracuse, etc.  Keno Davis is being hit so hard by this criticism right now because he has yet to win with a program that is still rebuilding.  We are quick to forget that Davis has only one of his recruiting classes with NCAA experience.  Last season’s freshman class was Davis’ first.  All players that are sophomores and above are still (or were still in some cases) Time Welsh’s recruits.  With a great recruiting class incoming this year, the turnaround seems to be in full-swing.  I have no doubts that Keno Davis has this program going in the right direction, and getting closer to being consistent contenders in the Big East.

As for the Joseph Young situation, NLI’s are in place for a reason, for instances just like this.  Joe Young wasn’t necessarily a big-time recruit when PC signed him to an NLI.  But, Young went out and played well in a couple of tournaments and different camps, opened up some eyes from other schools, and now his very concerned about the health of his aunt.  Now, I’m not trying to downplay Young’s relationship with his aunt, nor am I questioning the integrity/significance of her illness.  But, could the severity of her condition not have been predicted several months when Young signed with the Friars?  It is hard for me to accept that the necessity of a heart transplant is something that develops over a few short months.  What this whole situation sounds like to me is that first year head coach James Dickey could not believe that a member of his staff (Michael Young, director of operations) was letting his nationally recruited son go to a school other than Houston.  So, Michael Young releases statements (regarding Keno Davis) such as, “He’s a bad guy. Anytime you deny a kid from something he has worked so hard for all of these years and kids are very emotional about situations like this.”  I’m sorry Mr. Young, YOUR SON SIGNED A NATIONAL LETTER OF INTENT.  He is legally obligated to attend Providence College, or he can pay the price and sit out for a season to transfer.

I think that it is complete bullshit that Keno Davis is catching heat for not letting this kid go freely.  If Young decided to not sign with Providence College, than Keno would have certainly offered that scholarship to another recruit.  Is Davis simply supposed to let Young walk without finding a replacement for him?  So Bill Reynolds of the Providence Journal, maybe you should get off your high horse for a minute and look at this situation from an unbiased perspective.  It would be completely stupid for Keno to let this kid go right now.  Coach Davis needs time to get back on the road and find a recruit that can help this team immediately.  College basketball is not a game about player’s feelings.  As sad as it is, these kids are simply pawns that bring in huge sums of money for television networks and universities to make money off of.  Without Providence College basketball, you would have one less team to write terribly about and one less thing to bitch about in your Sunday morning articles…write that one down Bunky.  Now you can complete your transition from former PC men’s basketball advocate to current Jim Baron ass kisser.

As a side note, for all of you who used to call yourselves Providence College basketball fans, but are now so “disgusted” with the current state of the team that you are questioning your fanship…we don’t need you.  When Keno gets out from underneath this cloud of negativity that the lowly Rhode Island media has placed above his head, and he gets back to bringing in top 100 players and winning games, don’t you dare come back to supporting the Friars.  They always say that in times of adversity you know who your true friends are and that holds true for fans of teams as well.  In times of adversity, only true fans stick by their team.  I know that come late November I’ll be sitting in the second level of the Dunkin’ Donuts center watching these young kids run around throwing up errant shots.  And I hope that all of you out there distancing yourself from the PC Friars basketball program don’t show up, because as I watch Gerard Coleman and Vincent Council light up the Big East, I will know deep down inside that not even for one moment did I abandon my team.

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The Lack of Defense is Offensive

I don’t care that Providence College almost capped off a colossal comeback in last night’s opening round of the Big East Tournament against Seton Hall.  I don’t care that with 13 minutes left and down by 29, they almost tied the game at the final buzzer.  As the cliché phrase states, “Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

It is preposterous that a team that is 6th in the nation in scoring can only win 12 games.  I understand that Providence plays in the Big East, which is the minor league of the NBA, forget the NBDL. I understand that Providence is a small school in a big conference. But I am of the feeling that within that conference they can compete.  Providence has the talent to be competitive in the nation’s toughest conference and they showed that all year-long by playing close with top teams.  During their infamous 11 game losing streak, they played 4 top 10 teams in the nation.

Last night Jay Bilas, Bill Rafferty, and Sean McDonough routinely bashed Providence and how bad their defense is and was. Rightfully so.  In the first 4 minutes of the game Seton Hall had 9 layups.  All season long Providence has shown zero interest in anything remotely close that could be considered a semblance of defense.  Sorry Keno, you may throw up 104 points but it means nothing when other teams can throw up 105 at will.  Whats worse is that watching the game you can actually see the lack of interest on the defensive end.  Jamine “Greedy” Peterson is the most guilty.  He will bust his tail on the offensive end with no regard for anyone else on the court.  But once the opposition gains possession of the ball he jogs back on defense with a lackadaisical effort.  Peterson personifies the term “dog.”

Coach Keno Davis says that the up and down style is a great recruiting tool.  Kids want to run up and down and throw up points.  While no one can question the young talent PC has,  it is hard to say the future is bright with their offensive mentality.  And to Keno Davis, a better recruiting tool is something called winning.  See Krzyzewski, Mike, Calipari, Jim, and Boeheim, Jim among others.  Unless Keno Davis can bring back John Linehan this team will continue to be terrible to occasionally mediocre.

Big East Full of Beasts

The major college sports all have their respective conferences that every year seem to dominate the standings and rankings.  Football has the SEC and Big 12, baseball with the Pac-10, Big 12 and SEC, hockey is more of a northern sport, and then their is basketball.  NCAA Men’s basketball in the last 15 years has had the widest range of competitive teams that have made postseason runs.  With the exception of those teams that are unlucky enough to get into the 16 seed, although very rarely they have given their No.1 opponent a run, have a chance to advance through the NCAA tournament more so in basketball than any other college sport.  Every year though, there is one supreme conference among all the rest, the Big East.  Other conferences have their perenial ranked teams, such as Duke and UNC in the ACC, Texas and Kansas in the Big 12, UCLA in the Pac-10, and Kentucky and Tennesee in the SEC, but when you look at these respective teams play in conference the Big East teams look like men, as for the rest?  Just boys. 

As I sat down and watched the Monday night prime time game involving the long time rivalry of #11 Georgetown at #4 Syracuse in which the Hoyas came into Syracuse and quickly took a 14-0 lead out of the gates only to have the Orangemen clamp down defensively to eventually win the game by 17, I asked myself, “What could be better than watching conference play in the Big East?”  After being distracted by bright colors, followed by seeing Brett Favre (you should be pronouncing that Fah-vruh) on the TV and realizing how much I really do not care, I eventually landed at the answer that Big East basketball is consistently the most entertaining form of sport to watch.  Greatly helping the fact is the Big East is also consistent with having the most seeded teams in the country, regularly having 4 to 5 teams, and currently 6 in the Top 25, with 2 in the top 5 this year.  Having all these ranked teams provides you with an exciting thing to watch, the upset.  The upset, especially when it is of the “cinderella” variety running through the tournament, is exciting to watch in any sport but with the overall parity in college basketball it has almost become a common occurrence and gives fans of teams that do not have the talent of others hope that they will be selected to play in March, proven by how I feel tonight watching Providence take down a talented UCONN team coming off a win against then No. 1 Texas.  Having so many of these teams in the Big East and seeing the other teams in the league randomly take the ranked ones down repeatedly proves how strong of a conference these teams compete in.  In recent years ranging to years passed some full Big East squads in these respective years probably could have challenged many NBA teams consistently…with that said almost any college team could dominate the Nets right now, possibly even D-III Rhode Island College.

Yet, in college basketball it is not just about getting the ranking as much as it is about keeping that ranking next to your school name.  Kansas, Texas, and as of last night Kentucky have all held the No. 1 rank this year and all three were unable to hold onto it, in the case of the Wildcats they could hardlykeep it for a couple days!  That is the case though.  Some of the high ranking teams in the land really do not have the quality competition that you find in the Big East and still lose. That quality competition is the key ingredient in these teams always moving up and down, sometimes out of the rankings, because of the talent top to bottom imposing physical match ups every night.  For instance…UCONN, a perenial power, has 7 losses this season, 4 of which from Big East Teams, and 2 of those from unseeded teams….Syracuse has one loss coming from the conference, PITT has 2 of their 4 losses in conference, 4 of 6 Notre Dame losses are due to conference play, Cincinnati was ranked nationally for a short time earlier this season and had 3 losses going into conference then received 4 more…if you do not understand what I am getting at then my attempts are futile, but I will try one more attempt anyway…

Let’s take a look at the Final Four in the last 25 years because that is what the season comes down to in getting yourseilf into that 4, and allow me to throw some numbers at you:

3 – The number of teams the Big East sent to the Final Four in 1985…no other conference has ever had 3.

4 – The number of times over this period when the Big East has sent 2 teams amongst the 4…admittedly the Big Ten has actually done this 5 times.

8 – This number has been acheived twice, being the number of teams the Big East has sent to the tournament…no other conference has ever sent that many and the Big East has done it twice since 2006.

11 – The times in the last 25 years that a Big East team has been represented in the Final Four (Once again admitting this is tied with a couple conferences and the ACC absolutely dominates this category with being represented 19 times in the last 25 years!)

And the most important of all these numbers…

10 – As opposed to 7 for the Big 10, 5 for the SEC, 4 for both the Big 12 and ACC, and 3 for the Pac-10, these digits show the number of DIFFERENT teams that the best conference in the nation has sent to the Final Four in the last 25 years, that conference being THE BIG EAST.