Providence Wins Big East Tournament, Will Not Sweat on Selection Sunday | Zagsblog
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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.
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Saturday / June 3.
  • Providence Wins Big East Tournament, Will Not Sweat on Selection Sunday

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    Bryce Cotton 2By JOSH NEWMAN

    Special to ZAGSBLOG

    NEW YORK — Selection Sunday and the unveiling of the field of 68 is going to be a nervous time for a lot of teams across the country.

    Providence will not be one of them.

    Big East Tournament MOP Bryce Cotton saw to that personally. After two sub-par games to open his final Big East Tournament, the high-scoring senior guard tallied 16 of his game-high 23 in the second half to pace the Friars to their first Big East crown in 20 years, 65-58 over Creighton, in front of a raucous crowd of 15,290 at Madison Square Garden.

    Providence came to New York this week on the bubble, but that is no longer a concern thanks to the automatic bid. Additionally, the tournament win could mean that the Friars will avoid having to play in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio on Tuesday or Wednesday. Entering Saturday, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had the Friars as an 11-seed playing in Dayton against another 11-seed.

    “If somebody asks me about the bubble, I’m gonna yell at you,” Providence head coach Ed Cooley joked. “That bubble was popped, probably a couple of games ago because of the league that we play in. I said from the beginning that this conference will have four, five or six teams in and today showed that, the strength of our league. From top to bottom, it is competitive night in and night out.”

    Cotton, the best player in the Big East not named Doug McDermott, scored a combined 30 points and shot 6-for-24 from the field in the Friars’ first two games, then shot just 3-for-8 in the first half on Saturday night. The Tuscon, Ariz. native made up for it in the second half, going 5-for-10 from the floor to finish with 23.

    While it was junior forward LaDontae Henton carrying the load on Friday night in a semifinal victory over Seton Hall, Cotton delivered the win on Saturday night, not only for the Friars, but for the Big East, both new and old.

    The old guard had to have been pleased to see Providence take the title as the Friars are one of four founding members of the original Big East to remain in the conference. Georgetown, St. John’s and Seton Hall joined Providence as charter members in 1979, while Villanova joined them in 1980.

    In terms of the new Big East, for all of the abuse it has taken this season, plus the impending ACC takeover of New York City, it certainly appears that the conference will get four schools into the NCAA Tournament with Villanova, Creighton and Xavier joining the Friars.

    “It would’ve been ridiculous if only a couple of teams got in,” Creighton head coach Greg McDermott said. “I think justice is served that we’re gonna get four teams in. I think it would’ve been very disappointing had that not happened.”

    Four schools represents 40 percent of the Big East’s membership. That’s a strong showing for the conference and it certainly contradicts what Jay Bilas told on Friday.

    “Well, the Big East doesn’t exist anymore,” Bilas said. “I know there’s a name out there. The Big East name exists, but the Big East doesn’t exist. Once Syracuse, UConn, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, once they’re broken up, there is no more Big East. It’s just a name now. And they’re going to have to establish a new brand and something behind that name because what was behind the name Big East does not exist anymore.”

    Granted, the first year of the new Big East had the mega-star power of McDermott, the Big East Player of the Year and a National Player of the Year candidate, but there is more talent on the way.

    The Big East has five of the top 27 recruiting classes in 2014, per, led by No. 7 Georgetown and No. 10 Seton Hall. Providence, which will lose Cotton and senior forward Kadeem Batts, has a strong 3-man recruiting class consisting of 4-star recruits Ben Bentil, Paschal Chukwu and Jalen Lindsey. 

    Photo: USA Today’

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