Providence tabbed luckiest team in the country; KU’s Self doesn’t buy it

“Luck doesn’t win close games. Toughness and skill and execution does.”
Providence tabbed luckiest team in the country; KU’s Self doesn’t buy it
Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 11:19 PM CDT
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CHICAGO (WIBW) - Making it to the Sweet Sixteen takes talent, hard work and a little bit of luck.

Depending on who you talk to, Providence has plenty of the latter.

“We’ve been looked down upon,” senior guard Al Durham said. “We use it as fuel to the fire that keeps us going and keeps us working hard and keeps us dedicated and locked in.

“Doubt is for motivation for the team that is being doubted,” head coach Ed Cooley said. “Doubt got us here. Doubt got me here.”

Providence is 11-2 in games decided by five or less points this season — a stat factored into ranking the Friars the “luckiest team” out of all 358 Division I programs in college basketball this season.

But Bill Self doesn’t buy it.

“Luck doesn’t win close games. Toughness and skill and execution does,” Self said. “So they’ve got a lot to be proud of. I know they’re going into this game believing that if they play well, they can handle us. And we know that we’re going to have to play well to do that to them.”

The reality? In a league that sent six teams to the NCAA Tournament, Providence took home the Big East regular season title.

They’re coming in red-hot to Friday’s game; the Friars shot 55% from three in their 28-point second round win over Richmond.

“We have to have great switches,” Self said. “They’re going to make threes, but you would rather get them off the bounce, force them to get them off the bounce than off the catch. Be there on the catch where there’s very, very short closeouts, if any.”

Self and his players agree this game is going to be won on the defensive end. So far in the tournament, Kansas has held their first two foes to 34% from the field.

“It’s really important that we do hold these teams to those low numbers, especially Providence,” Self said. “They shot the ball really well last game. So it is a big focus of ours, focus on defense, because we know when we get out and we get stops, we get out in transition, we can run. And that’s when we’re at our best.”

“I do like how we’re guarding better now,” Self said. “I’m not exactly giddy about it yet because we haven’t been as consistently good. But I think people that follow us would say we’ve been a different team defensively the last month than we were prior to that.”

As far as the scout on KU, Cooley says the Friars have their hands full.

“Agbaji jumps out. Braun jumps out. McCormack jumps out. Bill Self jumps out. Superman jumps out,” Cooley said. “There’s a lot for us to worry about.”

This marks the first-ever meeting between the Friars and the Jayhawks. Winner moves on to Sunday’s Elite Eight.

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