Upsets this time of year have become the norm for the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. The hoop experts fall over each other to predict which underdog teams will knock off the favorites.
This year, a trendy pick has become the Providence College team which faces the University of North Carolina tomorrow evening in San Antonio. UNC is seeded at 6 and plays in the very tough Atlantic Coast Conference. PC is an 11 seed.
The Providence College basketball team hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament in 10 years. The University of North Carolina hoop team has won two national championships in that decade.
PC coach Ed Cooley has never been to the NCAA’s as a head coach. Roy Williams, the coach of UNC, will be coaching his 84th NCAA post-season game. Williams, who coached perennial national power Kansas before moving to UNC, has been to 24 NCAA tourneys as a head coach. His NCAA record is 62-21.
Since the 1950s, Providence College basketball has been one of the great story lines in all of college sports, a New England version of the cinematic Hoosiers.
This tale flat-lined for too many years. But make no mistake: the Friars are back to the future, playing a marquee game tonight at Madison Square Garden, where the PC hoop legend really began all those years ago, in the early 1960s, with the National Invitational Tournament, when that post-season playoff at the Garden overshadowed the NCAA’s tournament.
The excitement in these parts around Providence College basketball is back, arguably for the first time since the late 1990s. The Friar hoopsters are in the Big East semi-finals for the first time since 1997 by virtue of yesterday’s 79-74 win over St. John’s.
PC was able to withstand a furious run at the end by St. John’s to win on what is virtually the St. John’s home court at Madison Square Garden. This has been a remarkable team coached by Ed Cooley that has overcome all sorts of obstacles, including the loss of crucial players and injuries.
In another blow to the Big East Conference, Notre Dame has announced that it will leave the Providence-headquartered college sports conference and join the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Fighting Irish are the fourth Big East college sports program to leave the conference over the last 14 months, joining Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia. West Virginia went to the Big 12 Conference and Pitt and Syracuse left for the ACC. Traditional New England Providence rival Boston College earlier left the Big East for the ACC.