The Providence Friars will travel to New York this holiday season to face the Miami-Florida Hurricanes on December 22, 2013 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Jim Larranaga will coach against his alma mater and the place where he played his college basketball in Providence College. The PC/UM game looks to be an exciting matchup between one-time Big East foes who share the ambition of repeating their recent success.
It's become popular in recent years for teams to play neutral site games before winter break. If a team travels to a game before the break they are able to send their players home afterwards and the school incurs the travel expenses as part of the athletic budget. The return portion of the road trip is considered sending the players and staff back to their respective hometowns and families for the holidays. For this reason, neutral site showcases like the Barclays Hoops Holiday Invitational are attractive to many programs and are becoming commonplace.
The risk of playing a game around Christmas when everyone is about to part and go their separate ways is a lack of concentration and cohesiveness among your basketball team. Both Ed Cooley and Jim Larranaga will need to keep the Friars and Hurricanes focused on the task at hand. The matchup presents an important opportunity for each team to pad their out-of-conference resume against a quality foe.
The Hurricanes are coming off a disappointing 17-16 campaign last season in Larranaga's third year on the job in Coral Gables. The excitement of the previous year's outstanding Atlantic Coast Conference regular season championship, tournament championship, and an appearance in the Sweet Sixteen had quickly faded. The reality was the ‘Canes were not prepared to repeat their breakout performance and need to reload and regroup.
Only 4 players are returning from the '13-'14 active roster. Davon Reed, Mike Fernandez, Manu Lecomte and Tonye Jekiri combined for just 43 starts and 18.5 points per game. The Hurricanes need to improve in scoring where their abysmal 61.5 points per game last year saw them ranked 341st overall in Division 1. UM also sees 2 transfer students returning to eligibility after sitting out the NCAA mandated 1 year. Sheldon McClellan is a 6'5 redshirt junior from Texas and Angel Rodriguez is a point guard from Kansas State. In addition, Larranaga adds a recruiting class of 4 true freshmen into the mix and will hope for them to make immediate impacts on a team that lacks returning star power.
Monday, December 22. It seems a long way off but this contest will be upon us sooner than we think. Will Miami's newcomers help them redirect the trajectory of the program to the upward course it was on in March 2013? Will Providence recapture they magic they found in March 2014 or will their follow-up season resemble Miami's effort? Both squads will have distractions to handle with the impending holiday and the hustle and bustle of New York City. The team that remains focused and secures a win will gain valuable confidence heading into the break and the eventual grind of conference play.