The Big East Conference becoming a shell of its former self, the Catholic Seven starting a new league, the Connecticut Huskies exceeding expectations, Mike Aresco is a village idiot. Those are just a few story lines that have headlined Big East hoops this season, but it’s not even close to summarizing what has been a great farewell tour for the once proud conference. One of the stories that has gone widely uncovered is the Providence Friars making big moves to become even bigger players when they leave the Big East to join the Catholic Seven in the potential super-hoops conference.
I’m not even talking about this season. So far, the Friars have accumulated as many wins as losses (11) and the season can be considered a disappointment. Although, in all fairness to the squad, players being hurt or ruled ineligible never gave Providence a chance to get their season off the ground.
No sir, I’m talking about the future. Head coach Ed Cooley joined the program just two years ago, and next year, he looks to take it to places no Friar has seen since 1987 (Well, maybe a literal Friar has, but nobody who has played hoops there. Literal Friars can buy tickets), the Final Four.
Last year’s recruiting class was filled with top-tier athletes set to join the Providence roster. Thanks to eligibility issues, injuries, and that evil building in Indianapolis, Cooley hasn’t been able to set his lineup as he imagined it before the season started. Ricardo Ledo, super-talented recruit, was ruled only a partial qualifier for the year, making for a lack of depth and talent at the 2 guard. Kris Dunn missed nearly the entire non-conference schedule and is still adjusting to the college game. Josh Fortune isn’t playing particularly well but shows a lot of upside and should be vastly improved next season.
That class was ranked as high as number ten in a lot of “Scouting” websites. However, due to all of the issues stated, this class hasn’t even begun to make their impact at Providence.
With next year’s recruiting class set to join last season’s group of ultra-talented players (depending on if anyone transfers or whatnot), the Friars can possibly have one of the most stacked rosters this side of the Mississippi.
Cooley, still muddling around mediocre at Providence, has been a proven winner before. During his time at the powerhouse program known as Fairfield, Cooley improved the team’s record each season before finally finishing his coaching stint there with a 25-8 record his final year. A winner is a winner everywhere and anywhere they go (except Oliver Purnell). There is absolutely no reason Cooley won’t be able to duplicate his past success with the Friars.
Being a part of a new conference next season (assuming the Catholic Seven pay to bail early) is certainly going to help Providence as well. A change of scenery can be beneficial to the program in several ways. Headed by Cooley, the team can start to officially re-brand the image of Providence basketball. Many folks consider them a bottom feeder in the Big East, and with the new conference and a slew of talent ready to wear a Friars’ uniform, it may only take one season for Cooley to put Providence in the national spotlight.
While other Catholic Seven programs seem to be headed in the wrong direction (Villanova Wildcats), others being exactly who we thought they were (as in horrible, DePaul Blue Demons), a team like Providence can jump on the opportunity to better their program and do so quickly.
There might not be a better man to fix that program than Cooley, and with the incredible amount of talent slated to play in Providence next year, I can easily imagine the Friars in the Final Four next season.
Joe covers the Catholic Seven for Rant Sports and assures all, that his credibility is only slightly on the line with this article. For the love of Sam Cassell, follow Joe on the Twitter Machine @JosephNardone