Last night, I had the opportunity to watch two undefeated college basketball teams playing unranked opponents and the results couldn’t be far different, although both games had upset bids.
In the first game, Boston College at 16-0 played at Big East upper echelon wannabe Providence College. Two weeks ago, PC led by double digits at BC in the second half only to see th lead wither away leading to an Eagles win. Last night, Providence led by double digits in the second half at home only to see their lead wither away. BC was even down 75-71 with less than 3 minutes to play when PC forgot to play defense. With the game at 75-73 PC, Jared Dudley came up big with a key three pointer to give Boston College the lead. Providence never recovered, but still had a chance to tie the game at the end, but Donnie McGrath tried to get fouled 35 feet away from the basket, threw up a shot that fell short and BC won the game, 78-75.
For fans of Providence College, it’s another case of illusion of grandeur. They feel going into each Big East conference season that they will run roughshod through the schedule after a winning non-conference schedule made up of Sisters of the Blind, Our Lady of the Poor and St. Mary’s of Assisi. The Friars are 0-5 in conference play and sinking fast.
BC had a killer instinct and thanks to Dudley, Jermaine Watson who came up big in the second half, and Craig Smith all played well for the Eagles who will find their RPI and poll ranking rising after this win. Al Skinner is doing a great job with his talent.
For Ryan Gomes who stayed at PC this season foregoing the NBA draft, he’s finding his stock going down with each loss.
Duke was undefeated coming into last night’s game with Maryland. The Terrapins always play the Dookies tough in the ACC and Wednesday night’s game was no exception. Gary Williams did his best coaching job of the season guiding the Terrapins to a 75-66 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium, no less. Many a team have wilted on Coach K Court, but Nik Caner-Medley who scored 25 points before he suffered an ankle injury on a great defensive play in the second half said that his team had a good week of practice going into last night’s game. When Williams can call on Steve Francis, Juan Dixon and Laron Profit to drum home his point, you know the kids will listen.
John Gilchrist scored a quiet 10 points, but he made a difference on the floor. Despite J.J. Reddick’s efforts, Duke could not pull out the win. For Maryland, they kept close with Duke and when they got the lead, the Terrapins would not allow the Blue Devils to get back into the game, There were key defensive stops late in the game and Maryland hit their free throws down the stretch.
The key difference between Providence’s and Maryland’s upset bids, were one, talent, Providence just doesn’t have the horses. Two, confidence. Maryland has upset Duke in the past, this group of Providence kids is quite young. Third, the coaching was vastly different. Gary Williams kept the intensity in his team and the Terrapins got a huge win. PC coach Tim Welsh constantly gets outcoached in big games and for some reason or another, his kids find ways to lose. That can be blamed on coaching and also a lack of confidence down the stretch.
Providence is sinking fast in the Big East. If it doesn’t put together a streak of wins pretty soon, any chance of postseason play will be gone. Maryland has put itself into position for a good streak in the ACC. Seeing games like last night are the reasons why college basketball is one of the best sports around.