Providence will face a 30-win team in South Dakota State in the NCAA’s
By KEVIN McNAMARA
So the path is finally clear, and it’s far from an easy one.
The Providence College Friars found out their itinerary for this week’s NCAA Tournament and will be armed with the highest seed in program history. Whether that’s enough to get any work done is another question.
The Friars earned a four seed in the NCAA committee’s eyes and will face a veteran, high-octane shooting team the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State. They breezed through the Summit League with a perfect (18-0) record and are just one of three teams who’ve already cracked the 30-win mark at 30-4. The Jackrabbits last loss came way back on Dec. 15 to Missouri State.
How dangerous are the Jackrabbits?
Only Gonzaga averages more points (86.7 ppg.) or shoots better (52.4 %) and the rabbits are the best 3-point shooting team in the land at 45 percent. Vegas likes another close one and I can’t recall another 13 seed being only a 2.5 point underdog.
If the Friars (25-5) are fortunate enough to win their first game, they’ll face the winner of the Iowa-Richmond game. Both teams are coming off wins in their conference tournaments with the Hawkeyes emerging as one of the more talented scoring teams in the Power Six.
So that’s the path the Friars must follow. The first objective is to erase the bad feelings from a desultory, surprising 85-58 loss to Creighton in the Big East Tournament. That the 27-point loss came just 13 days after a 21-point win over the Jays certainly raises many red flags, or at least concerns that must be addressed quickly.
If Creighton can pile up 85 points, what can the high-scoring Jackrabbits do? So defense needs to be the first, second and third priority in practices leading up to Thursday’s tipoff. Creighton shot 52 percent and PC’s attention to detail on screens ranged from poor to bad.
“Hopefully we can play much better than the last time we were out on the floor,” said PC coach Ed Cooley. “Our guys have a great energy and a different approach about them. We do have a veteran team, we have a hungry team, we have a team that wants to advance any way possible. We’re looking forward to the next 40 minutes and that will be against a team that can really score the ball.”
South Dakota State’s four losses came at Alabama (104-88), on a neutral court against Washington (87-76) and at Idaho and Missouri State. Super Senior Douglas Wilson is a two-team All-Summit League pick but sophomore Baylor Scheierman won the Summit’s Player of the Year award. The Aurora, Neb., native ranked third in Summit play in scoring with 18.2 ppg and was the only Division I player to lead his conference in rebounding (8.2) and assists (4.6).