By Chris Metcalf
Following Friday’s 78-69 win for the Friars over Fairfield, Ed Cooley stated that the game Sunday against the Kentucky Wildcats is “just another game.” Looking in the short-term, he is absolutely correct. One game in early December does not make or break a season for any basketball team. Providence will certainly play several high-caliber teams in hostile environments within the new Big East Conference. Plenty of opportunities await them during this season. However, this game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn could potentially mean more for the Providence Friars in the long-term.
This neutral site game is the type that presents the Friars with a great opportunity to make some serious noise around the college basketball world. Kentucky attracts more national attention from the media than any other team in the country. A win against those Wildcats on Sunday night would create a massive amount of exposure for the program. For example, flashback ten years to December of 2003. Providence beat a nationally ranked Illinois team led by NBA All-Star point guard Deron Williams in New York at Madison Square Garden. The win made the country aware of the Friars talent that year, and gave that squad plenty of credibility.
The victory against Illinois in 2003 gave Providence a great deal of confidence and momentum heading into the middle of that season. This Friars team on Sunday has a very similar opportunity to pick up a win versus a powerhouse program such as Kentucky. Their head coach John Calipari did, in fact, claim “we are college basketball” during Kentucky’s Big Blue Madness prior to the start of this season. While this type of statement may sound like something a stuck up character from the movie “Mean Girls” might say, it is difficult to argue his point. Every team loves to play against a team with as much tradition and winning history that the University of Kentucky basketball program possesses. Not to mention, they love it even more to beat them. So yes, it is just another basketball game on Sunday night at 8:30 in Brooklyn against another tough opponent, but it is a game that could definitely mean much more for Providence going forward.