Friars Open NIT Against The Braves

Used to be that if you were in the Big East and you finshed with a winning record – say, 14-13 – you were a slam dunk to be a participant in the NIT. No longer.

Now that the NCAA runs the NIT, selection criteria have changed. The NIT selection committee uses many of the same tools that the NCAA selection committee uses, such as computers, polls, RPI, strength of schedule and a whole host of other data. Plus, precious slots are taken up by regular season conference champions who lost in their conference tournaments… thereby denying spots to power conference teams with winning records who may have made the NIT in years past.

A school like Connecticut, with a 17-14 record, would have been guaranteed a spot in the NIT in any other year. This year, the Huskies are sitting home for the postseason. And, as upset after upset occurred in the league tournaments in many of the lower rated conferences, the number of available slots for a team like Providence (18-12) dwindled.

Providence found itself sweating out an NIT bid as it became apparent after the NCAA selections that available spots would be at a premium. News that the Friars had received a #5 seed and were slated to play Wednesday at Bradley, was greeted with relief, but also some disappointment. PC had hoped for at least a four-seed and a first round home game.

BRADLEY

Bradley finished its season with a 21-12 record and a 10-8 mark in the Missouri Valley Conference. They bowed to 11th ranked Southern Illinois, 53-51, in the first round of the MVC Tournament.

Bradley ‘s key wins and losses this season: Beat DePaul 78-58 in the season opener; beat Rutgers 101-72 in the fifth game of the season; lost to Illinois 75-71 in game six; lost at Michigan State 82-53 in game eight; won at Iowa State 76-66 in game nine. In the league, Bradley split with Wichita State; split with Southern Illinois; lost to Creighton; and was swept by Missouri State.

The Braves are a well balanced team offensively, without big individual scorers. Led by 6'0 senior Will Franklin's 14.4 ppg, four Braves averaged double figures. Franklin is a crunch time player who hit 84 threes and had 130 assista to 64 turnovers. Jeremy Crouch, a 6'5 junior, averaged 13.9 ppg and had 77 threes. Daniel Ruffin is a 5'10 junior point guard, who averaged 13.9 ppg and 5.4 apg. He had 65 threes and 165 assists to 69 turnovers. Zack Andrews, a 6'8 senior center, is the fourth double digit scorer, at 11.1 ppg, and the leading rebounder at 6.9 rpg.

After those four, Bradley features Matt Salley, a 6'7 junior forward, who averaged 7.2 ppg and 4.8 rpg; J.J. Tauai, a 6'3 senior guard, at 7.2 ppg and 3.9 rpg; Danny Adams, a 6'4 senior at 6.1 ppg and Andrew Warren, a 6'5 freshman, at 4.1 ppg. Sam Singh, a 6'9, 260 pound senior center, sees 23 mpg of action, but contributes only 0.9 ppg and 1.3 rpg.

The Bears average 74.4 ppg on 46% shooting, including 67% from the foul line and 43% from three point range. Along with Franklin (85), Ruffin (65) and Crouch (77), Adams has hit 60 threes, Tauai 24, and Warren 20. The leading shotblocker is Andrews with only 25, while Ruffin leads with 55 steals.

Bradley is not a big team; in fact, they start a short backcourt, and should be susceptible to PC's frontcourt. They average only 29 rpg and have been outrebounded all season. Where Bradley can kill you is from the three point line… they have a bevy of outstanding long range shooters. Coach Jim Les will undoubtably look to exploit PC's 2-3 zone, while the Friars would be wise to pound the ball inside.

This will be PC's fourth matchup with Bradley; the Friars are 0-3 against the Bears. In the NIT, PC and Bradley squared off in the 1960 NIT championship game, with Bradley and its star Chet Walker, disappointing Lenny Wilkens and the Friars by a 88-72 score… This is PC's 17th NIT invite and the Friars have a 30-17 all-time tourney record.

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