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The Morning Dish – Thursday, February 15, 2018

February 15, 2018 The Morning Dish No Comments

Providence really needed a win on Wednesday night, and they got it. A big win, over a highly-ranked team, and right after a bad loss. It might be what solidifies the Friars as an NCAA Tournament team.

Beating a one-time top-ranked team in the polls and the standard-bearer in your conference can do that for you. The Friars beat Villanova 76-71 on Wednesday night.

Providence was expected to be pretty good since they returned pretty much all of last season’s team that finished the season on a tear. They were in a pack of teams that figured to give Villanova a run for their money, though the Wildcats figured to still be the team to beat. While they have been good, they have had some rough patches during the season thanks to various illnesses and minor injuries that have added up at times.

Even so, the Friars’ prior game, an 80-63 loss to DePaul at home, was a clunker that could easily have morphed into more. With a veteran team, you hope that doesn’t happen, but the potential is always there. Give Ed Cooley and his staff credit for making sure that didn’t happen, and helping them bounce back. It was a complete effort, especially offensively as five players scored in double figures.

Providence is now in a good place for an NCAA Tournament bid, so long as they take care of business at home and at least take care of Georgetown on the road since the Hoyas are their only opponent left whose RPI has three digits. A win in the Big East Tournament will go a long way as well, if only to avoid a bad loss. They have three losses to team outside the top 100, including the aforementioned ugly one to DePaul, but at this point appear to have more than made up for them as they have three RPI top 25 wins.

With Seton Hall slumping (that continued on Wednesday night as Xavier handled the Pirates 102-90 in Cincinnati), the Friars are right there with Creighton as the next-best teams in the conference after Xavier and Villanova. If healthy, they are capable of beating a lot of teams, as they have shown.

With a big win on Wednesday night, the Friars put themselves in a position to have more chances to beat teams in the month of March.


Side Dishes

Kentucky lost their fourth in a row on Wednesday, a 76-66 loss at Auburn. That drops the Wildcats to 6-7 in SEC play, and are the Wildcats in some danger of not making the NCAA Tournament? It might be a little soon to be saying that, but the Wildcats’ resume is not tremendous and the losing streak tells you they are very much trending downward. It could be worse: they could be Mississippi State, who lost at Vanderbilt 81-80, a damaging loss for their resume. Or they could be Georgia, except the Bulldogs stopped the bleeding in a big way by beating Florida 72-69 in Gainesville. They have more work to do, though, at 5-8 in SEC play.

Marvin Bagley III sat out again due to a knee injury, but Duke handled Virginia Tech 74-52 in Durham. The big ACC game of the night was Florida State knocking off Clemson 81-79 in overtime in Tallahassee, which is also Leonard Hamilton’s 500th career win. The Tigers, who already lost Donte Grantham for the season due to injury, saw junior guard Shelton Mitchell leave with 11 seconds left after taking a shot to the head, and have to hope he’s okay. Another important result was NC State beating Syracuse 74-70 at the Carrier Dome, as both teams came in at 6-6 in ACC play.

Nevada is firmly in control of the Mountain West after pulling out a 77-72 win at Boise State. They slowed the Broncos’ three-point shooting, and with this win are now two up in the loss column on the Broncos while having won both games head-to-head. It also means the Broncos are likely only going to the NCAA Tournament if they win the Mountain West Tournament next month. The Wolfpack might not have escaped without harm, however, as guard Lindsey Drew suffered what appeared to be an Achilles injury in the first half.

Bucknell clinched their fourth straight Patriot League regular season title, so they are guaranteed at least an NIT bid. The Bison blew out Loyola (Md.) 94-53 in Lewisburg, and that combined with Colgate losing 88-78 to Lehigh at home puts them up by four games with three to play. Navy is right there with Colgate for second place at 9-6 after they edged Lafayette 71-69 in Annapolis.

A news item that escaped our radar a day earlier came out west, where Pepperdine announced on Tuesday that Marty Wilson will be out at the end of the season as their head coach. An alum of the school who has also spent a number of years there as an assistant and now the head coach for the past seven years, Wilson is 86-125 at the school and will finish out the season. It’s the latest coaching casualty in a conference that is dominated by three schools that are clearly set up better to win than everyone else.

Tonight’s Menu

A busy night of action has some good early games and a lot of late action on the west coast.

  • A showdown in the American Athletic Conference is on tap as Cincinnati takes their undefeated conference mark to Houston (7 p.m.), while at the same time a hot Temple team travels to Wichita State.
  • In Big Ten play, Purdue travels to Wisconsin (7 p.m.) and Ohio State also hits the road to take on Penn State (8 p.m.)
  • Arch rivals meet in the Pac-12 as Arizona State puts their three-game winning streak on the line against visiting Arizona (9 p.m.)
  • Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Washington tries to get back on track as they host Utah, while USC hosts surging Oregon (both at 9 p.m.), while a late game of note is UCLA hosting Oregon State (11 p.m.)
  • Also out west is a big game in the Big West as Long Beach State hosts UC Santa Barbara (10 p.m.)

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