Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK – Rick Pitino admits he has a soft spot for Providence.
After all, he did lead the Friars to the Final Four in 1987.
But independent of that, Pitino believes Providence earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament despite its 73-55 loss to top-seeded Louisville in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals Wednesday.
“Anytime you go over .500 in the ACC, the Big 10, the Big East, you should automatically be in,” Pitino said. “I don’t want to hear about all the other stuff. You should automatically be in.”
Providence is now 19-13 on the season, including a 10-8 record in Big East regular season play, yet ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has them out of the Big Dance. The Friars beat then-No. 15 Syracuse and then-No. 1 Pitt, but are just 2-8 against the RPI Top 50.
“We all know that this league is not down,” Pitino said. “We all know that Providence beat the No. 1 team in the country. You also look at the talent, they have five 1,000-point scorers.
“In my mind, if somebody’s’ over .500 in the Big East, they should be in the tournament.”
To no one’s surprise, Providence coach Buzz Williams agreed.
“If any league is going to get half their teams in, you would think with the potential three teams as No. 1 seeds [Pitt, UConn and Louisville] that they would look favorably,” he said.
Seven Big East teams are considered locks for the Big Dance: Pitt, UConn, Louisville, Villanova, Marquette, Syracuse and West Virginia.
Several others are in the mix for NIT bids: Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Seton Hall…and maybe Providence.
Pitino went on to sing the praises of Providence and say how much he enjoyed his time there.
“I always root for Providence. It’s like my unofficial alma mater,” Pitino said. “It’s a really, really special town, a really special place. If I had to pick any place in America to live, just to live, it would be Rhode Island and Providence College is a special community…I just think of those two years and how special it was and how much room they gave me to grow.”
Asked to reflect on his memories of New York City, Pitino said he signed his scholarship papers to college on the Garden floor.
“I was just an average basketball player myself and signed my letter of intent or my scholarship papers [to UMass] on the Garden floor when Julius [Erving] lost to Marquette by 30 points,” he said. “It’s something to be a New York kid and sign the scholarship papers on the floor of Madison Square Garden.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.