NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.21.15 Edition

Posted by Walker Carey on March 21st, 2015

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March Madness is finally upon us, and we here at RTC are here to make everything a little bit easier for you. From the First Four until One Shining Moment, we’ll be dropping daily tidbits of knowledge regarding the teams in each region.

Midwest Region

Goodness Gracious. (USA Today Images)

Goodness Gracious. (USA Today Images)

  • Kentucky expected more out of itself in Thursday night’s win over Hampton. It is possible that the Wildcats need the edge back from last year when they advanced to the national title game as a #8 seed?
  • Cincinnati interim coach Larry Davis traces his roots back to Kentucky.
  • After earning a thrilling victory over Buffalo on Friday afternoon, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins acknowledged in his postgame remarks that he does not understand ESPN analyst Jay Bilas’ Young Jeezy-inspired Twitter schtick.
  • Maryland walk-on defensive specialist Varun Ram saved the day for the Terrapins on Friday when he locked down on Valparaiso guard Keith Carter and produced a turnover as the buzzer sounded to ensure  a 65-62 Maryland win.
  • Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew will always have his March Madness memories from his miracle run as a player in 1998, but he was unable to produce new memories as a coach in Friday’s narrow loss to Maryland.
  • Butler coach Chris Holtmann acknowledged Friday that junior forward Roosevelt Jones will play Saturday night against Notre Dame after suffering a knee injury in Thursday’s win over Texas.
  • Notre Dame coach Mike Brey is expecting senior captain Pat Connaughton to have a big game Saturday night when the Irish take on Butler.
  • Indiana showed that it has talent on the perimeter in Friday’s close loss to Wichita State, thus it seems like the next move for the Hoosiers is to find a big man capable of leading the team to greater heights.
  • With Friday’s victory over Indiana, Wichita State earned its shot to play Kansas – a shot the program has been craving for years.
  • Kansas forward Perry Ellis said his previously injured knee “felt great out there” in Friday’s sizable victory over New Mexico State.

West Region

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Rushed Reactions: #11 Dayton 66, #6 Providence 53

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on March 21st, 2015

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Dayton gave Providence fits on Friday night. (Paul Vernon, Associated Press)

Dayton gave Providence fits on Friday night. (Paul Vernon, Associated Press)

  1. Dayton had home-court advantage, and it clearly mattered. After beating Boise State on Wednesday in Dayton, the Flyers barely had to trek one hour east for tonight’s game in Columbus. Same went for their fans, who showed up in full force to Nationwide Arena. When the shots starting falling and the lead began to build, so did the volume, helping Archie Miller’s undermanned and undersized club maintain its level of energy and confidence against the bigger, deeper Friars. And the story should be much the same against Oklahoma on Sunday, which begs the question: Has a #11-seeded, First Four participant ever been in a better situation?
  2. The Flyers are impervious to fatigue. This was Dayton’s fifth game in eight days, which might not be so bad were it not for the fact that it ranks 343rd nationally in bench minutes. Unlike last year, when Miller played 11 guys a night, only six or seven Flyers see significant time on the court this season. Moreover, none of those players stand taller than 6’6”, meaning their effort and activity on the defensive end – especially against a frontcourt as massive as Providence’s – must to be at a maximum on every possession in order to compete. And yet they never seem to tire, routinely overcoming mismatches and attacking opposing defenses like it’s the middle of November instead of the third week of March. Conventional logic and scouting reports don’t seem to apply to this group, which is why it could wind up in the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row.
  3. Providence’s Ed Cooley should not have received a technical foul. Cooley is a smart, level-headed coach who was clearly trying to motivate his team when he tipped over a chair during the under-4 timeout in the second half. But he received a technical for it, which John Adams, the NCAA’s national coordinator of officials, said was supported by Officiating Manual Rule 10, Section 3, Article 2 – “Bench personnel committing an unsportsmanlike act.” – and further supported by another section pertaining to “a negative response to a call/no-call.” I understand that rules are rules, but considering the situation – 3:42 left in an eight-point game – it seemed completely unwarranted.

Star Player: Kyle Davis (six points, nine rebounds, five steals). Dyshawn Pierre led the team statistically with 20 points and nine rebounds, but Davis – the quick-handed sophomore guard – was a force on the defensive end, beating Providence’s Kris Dunn at his own game (swiping the basketball) and using his speed for a few timely buckets.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Villanova 63, Providence 61

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 13th, 2015

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Three Key Takeaways.

Just Another Night in the Big East Tournament (USA Today Images)

Just Another Night in the Big East Tournament (USA Today Images)

  1. That was an old school Big East battle. Some people like to talk about how the “new” Big East just isn’t the same, but they fail to remember the Big East was a small nine-team league when it developed its reputation as one of the top conferences in the nation. Two of those nine teams battled it out in this game and the result was a throwback to classic Big East games of the past. This was as good as it gets. A tough, physical underdog going up against the conference goliath that is playing as well as any team in the nation. The Garden crowd was electric on this Friday night for a game that more than lived up to its billing.
  2. Providence dominated the boards and nearly overcame poor shooting. The Friars shot only 35 percent for the game but outrebounded Villanova 42-30, including a 19-9 advantage on the offensive boards. Freshman Ben Bentil in particular was great, pulling down six offensive boards and scoring 12 points mostly from second chances. Providence held a 19-6 edge in second chance points but just could not overcome a rough shooting night by most of its better players. LaDontae Henton, Kris Dunn and Tyler Harris were a combined 11-of-33 (33 percent) from the floor.
  3. This game was a great test for both teams as they head into the NCAA Tournament. There is no doubt that both Villanova and Providence will be participating in the Big Dance next week. Both coaches commented after that game about how much a tough, close, grinding game like this one gives them valuable experience heading into the NCAAs. NCAA Tournament games always seem to be played at a slower pace; although both of these teams are comfortable in transition, getting a hard-fought experience against a quality opponent like here can only help as they transition into next week’s action.

Player of the Game:  Daniel Ochefu, Villanova. Could reasonably have gone with Kris Dunn or Josh Hart in this spot, but Ochefu was dominant inside tonight, especially defensively. Providence was smothered most of the time when it tried to go in the paint and a lot of that credit goes to Ochefu. His five blocks tied a season high. On the offensive end, the Villanova big man totaled 15 points and 13 rebounds, his seventh double-double of the season. Ochefu plays an important role as a true big man on an otherwise undersized team. He will be a valuable piece as Villanova begins its quest for a national championship.

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Rushed Reactions: Providence 74, St. John’s 57

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 12th, 2015

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Three Key Takeaways.

Ed Cooley's Game Plan Against St. John's Worked to Perfection (USA Today Images)

Ed Cooley’s Game Plan Against St. John’s Worked to Perfection (USA Today Images)

  1. Providence flipped the script on St. John’s. After getting swept in the regular season by the Red Storm and allowing an average of 79 points per game in those two matchups, the Friars locked down defensively and held St. John’s to 57 points on 31 percent shooting. Providence did not play an outstanding offensive game, but that is not where this game was won. Ed Cooley’s team kept D’Angelo Harrison and Sir’Dominic Pointer in check, as the two combined for only 14 inefficient points. It was an outstanding defensive effort and it took St. John’s out of everything it wanted to do.
  2. Do not be surprised if Providence pushes Villanova. While it would take a lot to beat a team that pounded Providence by 28 points just over two weeks ago, Providence is a team that can do it. The Friars have something that Villanova, aside from Daniel Ochefu, does not have — length. Providence uses as many as four players who stand 6’8” or taller, including two seven-footers. If that length is enough to keep the Wildcats from attacking the rim, it allows Providence to get out on Villanova’s lethal three-point shooters. Either way, it should be a fun game and more competitive than any game we’ve seen so far in this Big East Tournament.
  3. St. John’s could not get its transition game going. Steve Lavin’s team is at its best when it can utilize its quickness and athleticism in transition. Providence deserves credit too, but the Red Storm just could not get anything going on the fast break. For the game, St. John’s tallied just four fast break points and only six points off of turnovers. When this team is forced to play so much in the half-court, it struggles. After the game, Cooley talked about forcing them to play against a set defense — his team executed its game plan almost perfectly.

Player of the Game. LaDontae Henton, Providence. The Friars’ senior swingman totaled 20 points and 12 rebounds, his sixth double-double of the season. Only the second Providence player ever to score 2,000 points and pull down 1,000 rebounds in his career (Ryan Gomes is the other), Henton showed why that is today. The first team all-Big East selection is one of the nation’s most unheralded players, but the rest of the country will find out just how good he is soon enough when Providence plays in the NCAA Tournament.

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Is This Finally the Year for Villanova?

Posted by Justin Kundrat on March 3rd, 2015

Save for one or two uncharacteristically poor seasons, Villanova has been on the college basketball map nearly every year in the last decade. And being on the map doesn’t mean an above average team that wiggles its way into the NCAA Tournament every year; rather, the Wildcats have finished with 20 or more wins in 10 of their last 11 seasons. Still, for reasons unknown to most everyone around the program, Jay Wright‘s team has fallen short of expectations in every season since its magical 2009 Final Four run. One year the issue was a lack of team chemistry in the backcourt; the next year it was supposedly a lack of size. For one reason or another, Villanova has simply been unable to progress past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

Is this finally the year for Jay Wright and Villanova? (Getty)

Is this finally the year for Jay Wright’s Villanova Squad? (Getty)

Many initially questioned whether Villanova would be adequately challenged in the new Big East. While the league has had a great season and is likely to place six teams in the NCAA Tournament, the concerns remain. Just how good is Villanova? As of Tuesday morning, Jay Wright’s team is 27-2 and just three wins away from tying the school record for single-season wins. The Wildcats are 10-1 against the RPI top 50, 6-1 against the RPI top 25, and have just two road losses to top 100 teams. According to KenPom, Villanova ranks third in the country in offensive efficiency and is one of five teams to rank among the top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency (17th). With Wisconsin and Gonzaga’s losses over the weekend, the team ranks 4th in the AP poll and is firmly on the cusp of landing a No. 1 seed for the first time since the 2005-06 season. And yet, many have failed to take notice. Is public dismissal of the team based on its general lack of NBA-caliber players? Or the falsely-held notion that the Big East is not as good as it once was? Read the rest of this entry »

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Morning Five: 02.09.15 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 9th, 2015

morning5

  1. The word legend is overused, but college basketball lost a legend on Saturday night as Dean Smith passed away at the age of 83. Smith, who belongs on any Mount Rushmore you want to make for the sport, was a universally loved and respected figure in the game, which is a rarity. Some of that may have to do with the way he comported himself, but it also has do with his off-the-court work including being a vocal advocate of integration not only in the ACC, but also in the state of North Carolina. We won’t rehash all of his accomplishments, but would  highly recommend that you read some of the pieces that are being written about him now particularly the ones that talk about his work outside of basketball.
  2. The second biggest news from this weekend happen in Charlottesville where Virginia junior Justin Anderson fractured a bone in his left hand. He underwent surgery yesterday and is expected to miss at least three weeks, but could be out for as long as six weeks. Exactly how long he will be out could be a big factor in determining how far the Cavaliers will go in the NCAA Tournament. Anderson’s emergence as a consistent outside threat makes the Cavaliers a legitimate NCAA title threat. They still could conceivably when the title without him or even with him not at full strength, but the task would be significantly tougher.
  3. Normally the NIT is a forgettable event that we only watch if we happen to accidentally stumble upon it. This year promises to be different (ok, we probably still won’t watch it) as they will be experimenting with various rule changes. The most prominent of these changes is trying a 30-second shot clock that is already proving to be controversial. The other significant move will be to increase the size of the restricted area, which could reduce the number of questionable charges that are called. We will wait after the event is over before passing judgement on either change, but can’t see a downside to increasing the restricted area (within reason). We just hope that the powers that be are paying attention.
  4. Providence coach Ed Cooley was briefly hospitalized at a Cincinnati hospital after feeling ill during their game against Xavier. Very little information regarding the hospitalization was released, but it seems like they observed him for hypertensive urgency although his reported symptoms wouldn’t necessarily fit with that diagnosis. From what we have read this does not appear to be a chronic/recurrent problem for Cooley, which is reassuring. Cooley, who left the team with an 8-point lead that they surrendered immediately with Xavier going on an 18-2 run, is planning on returning for the team’s next game, which is on Wednesday against Villanova.
  5. Mike Krzyzewski has company in the 1000-win club. Less than two weeks after Krzyzewski became the first coach to win 1,000 men’s college basketball games, Philadelphia coach Herb Magee won his 1000th game too. While Magee generated much less attention doing it at the Division II level, it is still a remarkable accomplishment particularly when you realize that Magee did it all at one school. During Magee’s 48 years at the school, he has led them to a national championship (1970) and has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011. Regardless of the level of competition, Magee’s longevity and consistent success is remarkable.
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Providence: The Big East’s Darkhorse

Posted by Justin Kundrat on December 23rd, 2014

With Villanova grabbing national headlines, St. John’s maintaining a Top 25 ranking, and both Butler and Georgetown wavering in and out of the polls, much of the focus on the Big East this season has naturally shifted towards them. Meanwhile, Ed Cooley has quietly pieced together a 10-3 season with five Top 100 wins, most notably against Notre Dame and Miami. While Providence found themselves in the Top 25 earlier this season, an unsurprising 20-point loss at Kentucky knocked them out, and a shocking home loss to Brown has kept them out. But college basketball, and the tournament selection process, are about a team’s body of work. Led by LaDontae Henton, the Big East’s leading scorer with 20 points per game, the Friars deserve more respect than they are getting.

With Henton Leading Them, Providence Is A Contender In The Big East

A quick review of Providence’s schedule shows the team has apparently gone through a number of phases. The first was the Henton-dominated early season schedule, where the Friars knocked off Florida State, Notre Dame, and Yale in just one week and Henton scored a combined 91 points in those games. Then came a down phase in which Henton scored just 28 points combined in the next three contests, all of which the team lost. Now, following a win over the previously-ranked Miami, the Friars appear to be back on the upswing. It’s a dangerous recipe, relying on one player to shoulder the scoring load, but the Bryce Cotton-led tournament team from last year would beg to differ. Henton is a dynamic player with an array of post moves and outside shooting as well as a lethal combination of strength and quickness makes him a mismatch on the perimeter and in the post. This versatility causes a tough match-up for any team, and his cold shooting nights this season appear to be more a function of his own doing and less one of getting flustered by defenses.

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One on One: A Big East Preview with Jon Rothstein

Posted by Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) on November 3rd, 2014

RTC interviews one on one

Rush the Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you throughout the preseason with previews of each of the major conferences.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview with the Big East, RTC correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the pleasure of speaking with a Big East expert in CBS Sports Network College Basketball Insider Jon Rothstein (@jonrothstein)

Rush the Court: Villanova enters the season as the pretty clear favorite to win the league. The Wildcats return four starters from a team that went 29-5 last season. What are some reasonable expectations for Jay Wright’s squad this season?

Expectations are high for Jay Wright and Company. (Getty)

Expectations are High for Jay Wright’s Villanova Team (Getty)

Jon Rothstein: I think reasonable expectations are to win the Big East title, have a chance at winning the Big East Tournament title, and get another high seed in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova was terrific last year in close game situations. I think there is a real possibility that Villanova could be a better team this year than it was last year, but have a worse record because its non-conference schedule is that much more difficult. What makes Villanova so good this year is that it does not lose 50/50 balls. Every ball that is being contested seems to go Villanova’s way almost every time. A big reason for that is Josh Hart. Hart is a guy who can go on a tear for Villanova this year, as he will step into a more enhanced role with the departure of James Bell. I think right now if there is one person who epitomizes Villanova’s culture and brand, it is Josh Hart.

RTC: Georgetown had a below average season last year [just 18-15 overall and 8-10 in conference]. There are no two ways around that. Does John Thompson III’s team have enough firepower to ensure a more successful campaign this season?

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What North Carolina Needs to Do to Beat Providence

Posted by Chris Kehoe on March 19th, 2014

North Carolina has its hands full tonight with its first round match-up against #11 Providence. The Friars are red-hot at the moment, coming off a Big East Tournament title that included an upset win over Creighton. Head coach Ed Cooley placed a premium on winning the title in Madison Square Garden because the Friars hadn’t won it since 1994 and only once in the past 34 years. Providence may have lucked out in avoiding top seed Villanova after the Wildcats were upset by Seton Hall at the buzzer, but they still managed to get past the Bluejays and college basketball’s likely NPOY. The Friars’ best player, senior guard Bryce Cotton, was a unanimous first team all-Big East selection and he is a handful for any defense. A capable scorer who has increased his distribution skills this year, Cotton is much like North Carolina’s Marcus Paige in that they are both rail-thin, ball-dominating guards that are relied upon heavily from the perimeter. Their battle at that position will be one of the key match-ups in this game, and if Paige can play Cotton even or better, the Tar Heels will be well positioned to advance.

Marcus Paige must be looking forward to his matchup with Bryce Cotton (Photo: Robert Willett/ Raleigh News & Observer)

The competitor in Marcus Paige must be looking forward to his matchup with Bryce Cotton ( Robert Willett/ Raleigh News & Observer)

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Rushed Reactions: Providence 65, #14 Creighton 58

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 15th, 2014

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Brian Otskey attended the Big East Championship at Madison Square Garden.

It Was a Dream Come True For Providence and Ed Cooley (AP)

It Was a Dream Come True For Providence and Ed Cooley (AP)

Three key takeaways.

  1. Dancing Friars. After living on the bubble for much of the season, the Friars left no doubt in clinching the Big East’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Providence won its first Big East Tournament crown since 1994 and will be in the Big Dance for the first time since 2004. It has been a long time coming for an old Big East program with a strong fan base that has been dying for a winner to rally behind. With this team, they have a great bunch of guys to root for. Providence’s late season surge after a mid-season slump has been impressive, with its only losses coming in double-overtime to league regular season champion Villanova and at Creighton on senior night for Doug McDermott and company.
  2. Is the book now out on Creighton? Providence made every Creighton basket a chore with a 2-3 zone that in many ways resembled what Jim Boeheim and Syracuse use. Ed Cooley mixed in some full court pressure at times and that made Creighton use a lot of the shot clock on many possessions. Cooley said he went zone “because I’m crazy,” but it was definitely a smart decision. Providence rotated perfectly in sync and frustrated Creighton all game long with it. Creighton outshot the Friars but Providence was able to get to the free throw line 26 times where the nation’s No. 2 free throw shooting team converted on 23. Offensively, Cooley and Providence made a concerted effort to work the post, specifically when Ethan Wragge was forced to defend Kadeem Batts. When combined with Cotton’s ability to penetrate, Providence was able to generate a number of quality looks around the rim.
  3. Ed Cooley coached a tremendous game. His team was motivated all tournament long and you could tell the confidence of his players was brimming. It felt as if the Providence players played even harder once they realized it was not just a pro-Creighton crowd. Cooley’s defense was physical and his team hit the glass hard, outrebounding the Bluejays by three on the offensive glass. The game plan was clearly to get out on the shooters and get the ball inside when on offense. With a great floor general in Bryce Cotton executing the plan, it worked fantastically for the Friars. Providence also utilized its frontcourt depth, posting up Ethan Wragge all night long, who didn’t stand much of a chance against the bigger and more physical Friars. After the game, Cooley said that was exactly what they planned to do on that end of the floor.

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Rushed Reactions: Providence 80, Seton Hall 74

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 14th, 2014

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Brian Otskey will be reporting from the Big East Tournament all week.

Bryce Cotton Has Led His Team to the Brink of a Big East Title (NYDN)

Bryce Cotton Has Led His Team to the Brink of a Big East Title (NYDN)

Three key takeaways.

  1. Providence was simply the better team. After the teams traded baskets for the first six minutes, Providence opened the game up with a quick 12-0 run and never really looked back. Seton Hall never led again and Providence kept the Pirates at arm’s length for the majority of the game. There were multiple sequences throughout this game where Seton Hall would miss a jump shot and Providence would make one on the next possession. It was that simple, as the Friars thoroughly outplayed the Pirates en route to their first conference championship game since 1994 when they beat Georgetown.
  2. Providence had fresh legs and played outstanding defense. When Ed Cooley showed zone, his team executed the game plan very well. Fresh Friars’ legs allowed the zone to rotate flawlessly and track Seton Hall’s perimeter shooters all game long. The Pirates finished the game 6-of-23 (26.1 percent) from the three-point line, a team that makes 36.1 percent on average. It was the difference in the game as Providence was able to make Seton Hall incredibly stagnant on offense for the better part of the night. Three-point defense had been a strength for Cooley’s team in conference play, and it vaulted them to a win tonight.
  3. NCAA ticket punched? Providence will not have to worry about the bubble if it wins tomorrow night, but is a run to the Big East Championship game enough on its own? One would think so. The Friars have played extremely well down the stretch after a midseason lull. Aside from a double-overtime loss to league champion Villanova and a setback at Creighton on Doug McDermott’s senior night, Providence has taken care of business in every game since losing four out of five games in early February. While the resume remains light on quality wins, one would think Providence has done enough to warrant a bid, especially when compared to other bubble teams throughout the nation.

Star of the Game: LaDontae Henton, Providence. Look no further than Henton when searching for reasons why Providence is playing for the Big East title tomorrow night. The lefty wing filled up the stat sheet with 26 points and 14 rebounds on 9-of-13 shooting. Seton Hall never had an answer for him and Henton made his name known in front of a big crowd and a national TV audience. This is a guy that needs more publicity as he has been productive in every season at Providence. He is a big time breakout candidate as a senior in 2014-15.

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Rushed Reactions: Providence 79, St. John’s 74

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on March 13th, 2014

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Brian Otskey will be reporting from the Big East Tournament all week.

Three Key Takeaways.

Providence Advances to the Big East Tourney Semifinals (USA Today)

Providence Advances to the Big East Tourney Semifinals (USA Today)

  1. Providence is alive. St. John’s, not so much. With the win today, Providence lives to see another day. I’m not quite sure that the Friars are in the field of 68 just yet, but they get another opportunity for a win tomorrow night. However, that win would have to come against Seton Hall, a sub-100 RPI team. Now we know the Pirates are not a bad team, but a loss to them would qualify as a “bad” loss on Providence’s NCAA resume. The Friars surely don’t want to lose that one and put themselves in jeopardy with a chance to win their way into the NCAA Tournament. As for St. John’s, it is the unfortunate loser of what was likely an NCAA elimination game. With 12 losses on its resume and not many quality wins to boot, the Red Storm appear to be NIT-bound. Still, it has been a remarkable turnaround for a team that started 0-5 in conference play.
  2. It was important for Providence to show it can win without a strong Bryce Cotton performance. Cotton, the star Friars senior, struggled to the tune of a 1-of-10 shooting night and yet the Friars still held a comfortable advantage for most of the game. Cotton made up for that by getting to the line 13 times (making 10), but it was certainly not a dominant game for him. It was interesting to note that Cotton played “only” 34 minutes, his lowest game total since playing 32 minutes against Vermont on November 18. The good news for Providence? Cotton isn’t likely to shoot this poorly tomorrow night, and as an additional bonus, should be relatively well-rested.
  3. Free throw shooting continues to serve Providence well. The Friars are the No. 2 team in free throw shooting nationally and Carson Desrosiers’ clutch makes at the end of the game sealed this win. For the game, the Friars got to the free throw line 30 times, making 22. When you can get to the line that often (specifically Cotton), great free throw shooting can be a lethal weapon. It quells runs and seals games in the final minute. If Providence does end up in the NCAA Tournament next week, don’t be surprised if it wins a game based on free throw shooting alone.

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