FRIARS ARE BIG EAST CHAMPIONS!

Despite being nearly 8-point underdogs to the explosive offense of the Creighton Bluejays, Providence executed a near perfect game plan in the Big East Final, grabbing their third victory in three days, with a 65-58 win, and in the process, punching their NCAA ticket as the Big East Champion.

Winning big in high major college basketball is not easy, and after almost ten years wandering in the proverbial basketball wilderness, the Providence basketball program has not only played their way into the NCAA tournament, they've done it in impressive fashion, being crowned Big East Champions under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.

Providence's upset victory over Creighton will be remembered for years for Head Coach Ed Cooley's audacious use of a 2-3 matchup zone against projected national player of the year Doug McDermott and the best 3 point shooting team in the nation. "Because I'm crazy", Cooley said when asked what prompted him to go zone when conventional wisdom said otherwise.

The Friars had mixed defenses all year long, but had played Creighton just over a week ago in Omaha in a straight up man-to-man defensive set. McDermott had torched them for a career high 45 points in that one. This time around, McDermott was less spectacular, forced away from the basket much of the game to take increasingly longer shots. While still excellent as always, he was limited to 27 points on 10 for 19 shooting. He didn't get much help from his teammates who were 3-18 from the 3-point line. When you limit the best offense in the country to less than 60 points, you are definitely doing something right.

But it wasn't just the Friar defense that won this championship. Providence was exceedingly disciplined on offense, slowly burning off the shot clock with each possession, and running their sets in an attempt to expose a somewhat vulnerable Bluejay interior. Bryce Cotton retuned to the superman he has been for the Friars all season long, scoring 23 points and limiting his team's turnovers to a meager six for the entire game. Cotton received the tournament MVP award, a just reward for not only his contributions in the Big East Championship, but in reality a tacit nod to the player who was really Big East Player of the Year not named Doug McDermott. Cotton and his band of ironmen players had now bested McDermott's high octane Bluejays 2 out of 3 times, and on the Big East's biggest stage.

Friar fans are keenly aware of how gratifying this win is for the players, and head coach Ed Cooley and his staff. The amount of adversity this team has endured this season would cripple just about any program, and it played a role in why so many national basketball pundits never thought Providence had the chops to make the NCAA Tournament. This team and their coach proved everyone wrong.

This Big East Championship was also for the loyal Providence fanbase, who has stuck with the program for many painful seasons in recent years. The program has not made the NCAA tournament since 2004, and the Friars haven't been Big East Champions since 1994. There has been a lot of disappointment along the way. However, this season saw the program finally break through. Finally fight off the adversity, the lack of depth, the lack of national appreciation for one of the best guards in college basketball.

Providence will walk on the blue carpet of the NCAA Tournament this week as the Big East Champion. Heading out of New York City from the Big East Tournament, a marathon of traffic passes through Times Square. A band performs while greeting everyone belting out a rendition of U2's Beautiful Day. Indeed it is, Friartown.

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