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Scott Cordischi On Sports: Does PC Have What It Takes?

Thursday, January 09, 2014

 

That was a big win for the Providence Friars Wednesday night in more ways than one.

Can Cooley's Friars be a upper half Big East team or will depth be too much of an issue?

PC’s 70-52 dismantling of Georgetown could not have come at a better time for the program. Riding a 3-game losing skid which included two close overtime losses to UMass and Seton Hall followed by an embarrassing defeat at Villanova, doubt was starting to creep into the minds of many about this team. What they did last night should erase those doubts as it shows what this team is capable of when firing on all cylinders.

Start with the fact that PC desperately needed to pick up its first Big East win. Off to an 0-2 start in conference play, another loss would have made it very difficult for the Friars to assert themselves as one of the top 5 or 6 teams in the conference.
But, what was really big about the victory was the performances Ed Cooley received from Kadeem Batts and Josh Fortune.

With the injury to Kris Dunn and suspensions of Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock, PC’s depth is razor-thin this season leaving Cooley very few options to turn to on his bench. This is why every member of the team’s starting five has to be a key contributor if this team wants to realize its goal of making a run for the NCAA Tournament.

Bryce Cotton is, for lack of a better word, a stud. You can count on Cotton game in and game out to give you 38-40 minutes and to fill it up. Were it not for Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Cotton would be the front-runner for Player of the Year honors in the new Big East.

In addition to Cotton, transfer Tyler Harris has been even better than expected in his first season with the Friars. Harris is second on the team in scoring and has shown the ability to score inside and out.
LaDontae Henton has also been a consistent performer from the day he arrived on Smith Hill. The junior can pretty much be penciled in for somewhere in the neighborhood of 13 points and 7 rebounds per game.
However, it is Batts and Fortune who may hold the key to just how well this team is capable of performing this year.

Bryce Cotton has been money for the Friars this season.

After a terrific junior year which saw him 15 points and more than 7 rebounds per game, Batts has not taken a step forward as many expected. Instead, for some unexplained reason, Kadeem has struggled with consistency this season. His field goal percentage has also dropped from 48% to 43%. Last night, however, we were reminded of what Batts is capable of when he is on top of his game.

Josh Fortune is a different story. In an ideal situation, Fortune would be the 7th or 8th man off of Ed Cooley’s bench as someone who could come into a game an make a shot or two. However, with the rash of injuries and suspensions, Fortune has been pressed into service as a starter.

As a 2-guard, you are expected to be a good shooter who can score. Fortune is only averaging 6.5 points per game on less than 6 shots attempted per contest. Granted, Bryce Cotton is not a point guard so getting the ball to an open Fortune to make shots will be a little bit more of a challenge than if Dunn were healthy. But, when he is open, he needs to get the ball and he needs to take and make those shots. Last night he did just that against the Hoyas.

While the jury remains out on the overall strength of the new Big East, one thing is for sure. There will be no easy wins for the Friars on their schedule in conference play. What about DePaul, you ask? Let’s not forget that the Blue Demons beat PC by 10 last year at the Dunk.

None-the-less, there is still a slight chance that Providence could compete for a spot in the upper half of the Big East standings. That will certainly take some doing given the circumstances. But, if Batts and Fortune can bring it more consistently for the remainder of the season, anything is possible.

-He is still a year or two away from being able to get his program to compete at the top of the Atlantic Ten, but the win by Dan Hurley’s Rhody Rams at LSU followed by a near-upset of St. Louis at the Ryan Center has to make you feel that things are heading in the right direction.

Dan Hurley's young Rams have been playing a better brand of basketball as of late.

-Am I the only one who is disappointed that the temperature on Saturday will be near 60 degrees in New England? I don’t know about you, but I was hoping for some cold and nasty New England weather for the Dome team that is the Indianapolis Colts who will be coming to town for an AFC Divisional Round playoff game at Gillette Stadium.

-It appears that the Boston Celtics, losers of 9 out of their last 10 games, are playing more like the team we thought they would be this season. Or, as the Sports Hub’s Michael Felger would say, “tank-a-palooza is back on!”

-Who says you can’t go back home? With Louisville naming Bobby Petrino their new (old) football coach, Petrino heads back to a program he single-handedly lifted to the big-time last decade. Petrino’s off the field issues which cost him his job at Arkansas have been well documented. Still, I think that this is a great hire by Tom Jurich and Louisville who lost Charlie Strong to Texas. Petrino is a brilliant offensive mind who does a great job developing quarterbacks. And Louisville could use a boost as they get ready to make the jump to the ACC this fall.

-I have no problem with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas being selected for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, I do have a problem with former Tigers’ ace Jack Morris getting snubbed again by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Morris had a stretch of more than a decade where he was considered one of the most dominant starters in all of baseball and was an absolute postseason stud to boot helping both the Tigers and Twins win World Series titles. Since this was his 15th year on the ballot, his only way into Cooperstown now will be if he buys a ticket or has the Veterans Committee vote him in. I’m betting that the latter will someday happen for him.

Jack Morris will no longer be on the ballot for the Hall of Fame.

-I’ll take New England, Denver, Seattle and San Francisco in this weekend’s games.

-Did you see where the Sporting News did a piece calling Tom Brady the worst of the 8 quarterbacks remaining in the postseason? I realize that the Sporting News never has been the greatest publication/website, but Tom Brady 8th out of 8? Really? Their criteria was arm strength, accuracy/delivery, mobility/athleticism, pocket presence/awareness and intangibles. I realize that there are some good quarterbacks playing this weekend, but you mean to tell me that Brady ranks behind Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson? Apparently the author of the column – Vinny Iyer – must live in a state like Colorado or Washington where marijuana has been legalized for recreational use.

-So Ric Flair is a 49er fan and Hulk Hogan is a Patriots fan? Should I also assume that the Honky Tonk Man is a fan of the Tennessee Titans?

The Honky Tonk Man's famous move was the "shake, rattle and roll."

-It was 11 years ago that the late, great Will McDonough of the Boston Globe passed away.  Will's Saturday column in the sports section of the Globe was, by far, my favorite piece of reading each week.  His connections, particularly in the football world, were unmatched at that time and he regularly quoted both named and unnamed coaches, GM's and owners adding tremendous insight into his story.  He was Peter King, Mike Florio, Adam Schefter, name your NFL reporter before those guys ever made a name for themselves.  I also remember sitting with him in the media section of the Superdome when the Patriots beat the Rams in Super Bowl 36.  I'll always remember what he said to me as we walked down the ramps of the Superdome towards the postgame interview rooms after Vinatieri split the uprights to pull off the shocking win for New England.  He said, "Scottie, I've covered a lot of great teams.  I've seen a lot of championships in my time and been a part of a lot of great moments in New England sports.  None of them compare to what we just saw.  This one ranks up at the very top!"  Rest in peace Will.

-I understand how much it means to these pro hockey players to represent their countries in the Olympic game, but it would be nice if Boston’s Louis Eriksson would take a pass on the Sochi games and not play for his native Sweden. Having missed ample time due to multiple concussions this year, it seems a bit too risky for him to return to the ice and immediately play in the Olympics. Granted, Olympic-style hockey is not nearly as physical or tight-checking as it is in the NHL. Still, the two and a half week break would be the perfect time for him to get the extra rest he made need to return as close to full strength for the Bruins who will be making their push towards the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

-Dennis Rodman is about 5 beers short of a 6-pack, if you know what I mean.

Dennis Rodman stirred up some controversy with his trip to North Korea.

-It’s amazing how quiet the NFL has managed to keep the Incognito-Martin investigation in Miami. Clearly the league does not want anything to upstage the playoffs so it will likely wait until after the Super Bowl to release the findings and any disciplinary actions that many accompany them.

-While it certainly is no indication of how they will perform Saturday night, I do like how the Patriots have been running the ball late in the season. At this time of year, having a strong running game can be very helpful given weather conditions and other factors. Also, with no great weapons to speak of to stretch the defense on the outside and no Rob Gronkowski to take pressure off of Edelman and Amendola in the middle of the field, a solid running game would make the play-action game that much more effective for Tom Brady and the Patriots offense.
 

 

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