PC-URI Rivalry Has Lost Some Of Its Sizzle
Wednesday, December 05, 2012
There are plenty of tickets still available for Thursday’s game between Providence College and the University of Rhode Island at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, which is a shame.
However, the reality of the situation is that both programs have been down for too long which has created apathy amongst their respective fan bases.
Yes, the diehard fans remain on board, but the casual fan no longer shows up at the Dunk or the Ryan Center because it has been quite some time since either program has enjoyed any type of success.
We’re going on 9 years since the Friars last played in the NCAA Tournament and a whopping 13+ years since the Rams last appeared in the Big Dance. That’s too long of a drought.
As a result, there is no longer quite the buzz for this intrastate rivalry game that there once was.
Friars coach Ed Cooley knew how great this rivalry was having grown up in Providence. URI head coach Dan Hurley and his brother Bobby will be exposed to it for the first time Thursday night.
Unfortunately, the Hurley’s may be a bit disappointed this year, but things should get better starting next season.
It wasn’t too long ago that this rivalry was still cherished by sports fans throughout the state and it may not be too long before it heats up again.
Remember the mid to late 90’s? In March of 1997, the Providence Friars made it all the way to the Elite 8. The following year, the Rhody Rams did the same thing.
Remember those teams? I certainly do.
As a college basketball junkie who moved to Rhode Island back in February of 1994, I fell in love with those two teams.
Providence was coached by funny guy Pete Gillen who burned all of his timeouts before halftime, sweat more than his players did during a game and kept fans and media alike entertained with his great one-liners. Gillen then left for Virginia opening the door for Tim Welsh to step in.
Rhode Island, on the other hand, had the always affable and classy Al Skinner on the sidelines before he left for Boston College giving way to former UCLA coach Jim Harrick.
But those teams weren’t just about the coaches. They were about some great, under-recruited players who turned out to be stars or great role players for their respective teams.
For PC, there were veterans like Austin Croshere and Jason Murdock who were joined by junior college transfers Ruben Garces and Derek Brown. There were also some talented young guns on that team in the names of God Shammgod, Jamel Thomas and Corey Wright.
Rhode Island also had its share of great players. They had a sensational guards Tyson Wheeler and Cuttino Mobley along with Preston Murphy. Up front there was Josh King and Antonio Reynolds-Dean.
Back then, the PC-URI games were played only at the Providence Civic Center because the Ryan Center had not yet been built. The programs would alternate who would be the home team each year and the atmosphere at the games was electric.
Ironically, URI handled PC in both the 96-97 and 97-98 match-up’s.
In December of 1996, the Rams defeated Providence in front of a raucous sell-out crowd at the Civic Center. Providence learned before the game that Derek Brown was academically ineligible and would not play. Suprisingly, the Friars raced out to a big lead early without their star forward before eventually falling to the Rams 96-79.
A year later, PC had lost Croshere, Brown, Garces and Shammgod and fell to the more talented Rams 69-58.
Still, those games didn’t lack for excitement.
The hope is that this rivalry can return to some semblance of those glory years and with Ed Cooley and Dan Hurley leading the way, there’s a good chance of that happening.
While Cooley’s undermanned Friars have played quite admirably this season, no one is expecting great things from this team. The same can be said for URI which has struggled on the court this year.
However, next season could be quite a different story.
Both programs have a plethora of talent that will be added to the mix in the fall of 2013.
Providence College has transfers Carson Desrosiers and Tyler Harris that will be joining the mix. So too will the super-talented Ricky Ledo. The Friars will also have Sidiki Johnson and Kris Dunn each with a half seasons worth of experience under their belts to go along with some of the talented players already there like Bryce Cotton and LaDonte Henton. And that’s not to mention incoming recruits Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock.
Rhode Island fans also have much to look forward to next season as transfers Gilvydas Biruta and Jarelle Reischel will be eligible and ready to play as will Nigerian big-man Ifeanyi Onyekaba. And, like Cooley and his staff are doing at Providence, Dan Hurley and his staff have added some very talented recruits to the mix for next season with E.C. Mathews and Hassan Martin.
The biggest challenge for both coaches next season may be finding enough playing time for all of their players and getting guys to accept their roles and flourish in them.
Still, it would appear that this rivalry may be on its way back which is a very good thing. Because this state needs these programs to be relevant again.
If your a fan of either program you may want to grab some tickets for Thursday night's game because next year's game at the Ryan Center may be a tough ticket to get.