For Providence, the 2017-2018 season comes with excitement, anticipation, and high hopes. After last year’s surprisingly successful campaign and NCAA Tournament berth, the Friars look to improve upon their 20-win season by surpassing that mark for the fifth consecutive year. Returning all contributors from last season (insert apology to Casey Woodring), Providence looks to be geared up and ready to go in a loaded Big East.
According to Ed Cooley, this will be the toughest nonconference schedule they’ve had in his time at Providence. Chances are, this means we’ll be seeing Cooley tear off his suit jacket more than a few times. So let’s judge these games on the timing of his jacket removal, combined with an array of Friar GIFs.
Houston Baptist - November 10th (2K Classic)
Providence gets to start off their 2017 campaign in Mullaney Gym at Alumni Hall when they face the Houston Baptist Huskies. This is the first time the Friars will play a non-exhibition game on campus since 1972. The atmosphere alone will make this one a must watch, but Providence shouldn’t have much trouble with the Huskies. Houston Baptist struggled on the defensive side of the ball last season, and returns just one significant scorer, senior center Josh Ibarra. The Friars shouldn’t have any issues here.
If this game were played at the Dunk, Cooley’s jacket might remain on for the entire game. But due to the unavoidable heat in a crowded Alumni Hall, my guess is it comes off before the 10 minute mark of the first half.
Minnesota - November 13th (Gavitt Tipoff Games)
The Friars return to the Dunk on Monday the 13th and welcome in the Golden Gophers and Head Coach (and Providence alum) Richard Pitino. Minnesota finished last season at 24-10, and is returning four of their top five scorers. This experienced and battle tested group will arguably be Providence’s toughest opponent out of their first twelve games.
Early on as it may be, this game will be a great measuring stick for the Friars. The Gophers present length, experience, and depth that will surely test Cooley’s bunch.
Names to remember: Nate Mason, Amir Coffey, and Jordan Murphy
Cooley’s jacket comes off early in this one thanks to a tight battle and an inability to pump up the crowd with restraining sleeves. Friars win a nail-biter.
Washington - November 16th (2K Classic)
Providence opens their Madison Square Garden doubleheader against the Markelle Fultz-less Huskies. It’s a tough time to be a Washington fan. Last season the team went 9-22, while losing their star freshmen to the NBA Draft. But the Huskies had a commitment from the top recruit in the country, so the future was bright. Until Michael Porter Jr. asked for his release from the program and committed to Missouri. Then the future quickly turned dark.
Expect the Friars to put up some big numbers here, as Washington should struggle mightily on defense again in 2017. Beyond the arc is where teams made them pay last year, so keep an eye out for Jalen Lindsey to get plenty of opportunities in one of his favorite arenas to shoot in. And while we’re talking threes, let’s not forget Emmitt Holt.
Cooley’s jacket stays on for the majority of this one.
Saint Louis / Virginia Tech - November 17th (2K Classic)
Depending on how night one goes, the Friars will either face Saint Louis or Virginia Tech in the second and final day of the 2k Classic. In the tournament’s eyes, the ideal scenario is that Virginia Tech and Providence both win on Thursday night and face off in the finale on Friday.
Saint Louis was one of the worst offensive teams in the country last season and looks to improve on that this year with their young group. Buzz Williams’ team on the other hand didn’t have much trouble scoring the ball, so let’s focus on the Hokies.
Virginia Tech has the odd situation of needing to replace their two top scorers while returning all five starters. A classic, non-conventional, Buzz Williams scenario. With loads of experience, the Hokies will return to the tournament this March as long as star Chris Clarke remains healthy.
Cooley will lose his jacket very early in this potential matchup. If the Friars do end up facing the Hokies, they’ll need to take advantage inside. Virginia Tech lacks a rim protector. Despite that, I think PC loses here in an end-to-end battle.
Belmont - November 22nd (2k Classic)
Providence returns to the Dunk the following Wednesday and faces off against Belmont in a game that somehow still falls under the 2k Classic umbrella. The Bruins were a bubble team last season finishing at 23-7 out of the Ohio Valley Conference, but ended up getting bounced to the NIT. They lose their top two scorers, and will need to find an interior presence if they want to be successful.
Hopefully Cooley’s jacket remains on for the majority of this one, but I could see this being a closer game than many think. Friars win, but Belmont gives them all they can handle.
Boston College - November 25th
BC comes down I-95 this time around for the annual New England matchup. The two teams have split the series while alternating wins over the last six years, with the Eagles upsetting the favored Friars in last season’s tilt. If the pattern holds, its Providence’s turn to win this one, and all signs point to this being the case.
The Eagles finished last season losing 17 of their last 18 games, so there’s really nowhere else to look but up. Providence matches up well here and shouldn’t have too many issues. BC returns its top two scorers from last season, but until there’s a coaching change in Chestnut Hill, things will stay relatively mundane.
Cooley’s jacket comes off late in the first half due to a slow Friars start. PC pulls away and wins handily.
Rider - November 29th
Rider sports a long and athletic lineup, but lacks any true interior presence. If PC does their job, this should be a game that allows some of the younger players to get valuable minutes. Look for Nate Watson and Dajour Dickens to have some of their best numbers yet against the Broncs.
Ideally, Cooley keeps his jacket on from start to finish.
Rhode Island - December 2nd
Ahh finally, the battle for the Ocean State.
Always marked on each team’s calendars, this classic rivalry never disappoints. Last year, it was Providence knocking off the top-25 Rams. This year’s chapter will most likely see the Friars as the favorite, as they head to the Ryan Center for the annual bout.
I think PC takes this year’s battle, as their depth will be the separating factor. Dan Hurley’s Rams will be effective once again this season, but the Friars could run a 10 man rotation this year if they want to, and that’ll be too much for URI to keep up with.
The suit jacket comes off very early here, as tensions always run high when these two programs get together.
Brown - December 6th
Providence will go with back-to-back in-state opponents to open the month of December. for the second year in a row Brown was horrendous on the defensive side of the ball last year and lost their top two contributors due to graduation. Again, this can be an opportunity for some of the young guns to get some much needed minutes.
Hopefully Cooley doesn’t even consider taking his jacket off in this one.
Massachusetts - December 12th
Cooley and the gang travel to Amherst to face the Minutemen in another annual New England get together. First year head coach Matt McCall is looking to get UMASS back on the right track, after the team struggled to maintain a balanced attack last season.
Besides Rashaan Holloway, the Minutemen lack height, and Providence’s length will be the difference maker here.
This one will be closer than it should be, so Cooley’s jacket comes off early, but the Friars still prevail.
Stony Brook - December 17th
It’s at this point in the nonconference schedule where Big East play is finally in sight. With this comes looking ahead, and potentially overlooking the final few non-con opponents. Last year the Friars lost to BC just five days before their Big East opener, which eventually led to Providence losing four of their first five in-conference matchups - not ideal. The Friar coaching staff will once again take on the difficult job of keeping a group of college kids focused on the task at hand.
Stony Brook is a prime example of a pesky mid major who could easily steal a win from the Friars. Beware of an upset here alongside a lack of suit jackets.
Houston - December 20th (Hall of Fame Showcase)
Providence travels to Mohegan Sun to face Houston for the second time in program history. The Cougars are a team that could potentially give the Friars some trouble. Finishing at 21-11 last season, Houston is returning leading scorer Rob Gray, and look to be set up for more success in the AAC.
Again, be weary of an upset, but the Friars deep rotation helps them to pull this one out as long as their trusty vets show up.
Jackets are oftentimes proper attire at a casino, so with this in mind, Cooley will keep his on for at least the first half.
Sacred Heart - December 22nd
The Friars wrap up their nonconference schedule with one final tune up against the Pioneers of Sacred Heart. One final opportunity for the newcomers to get some experience before they face the Big East. One final opportunity for Cooley to keep his jacket on for a full forty minutes. One final opportunity for Cooley World Order to bring the noise against a non-con opponent until next season.
The season is finally upon us, and its clear Providence has a great opportunity to put themselves in great shape alongside the other Big East elites.
A creepy mascot, suit jackets, and the Dunkin’ Donuts Center; all just a month and a half away.