Behind Enemy Lines: Inside the Rhode Island Rams/Providence Friars Rivalry

Providence Friars head coach Ed Cooley. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

If some is good, more is better. In part two of our PC Friars interview series, we sit down with FriarBlog to talk about everything from conference realignment to obscene chants to obscure Simpsons reference. We also get the PC perspective on the rivalry and the history that exists between the two schools. And of course, he’ll also let us know what he expects for an outcome tonight, with yet another insane, biased, fooli– wait, he picked RHODY?!?! Well then let’s get started!

Rhody Rampage: First, a general Big East question: What do you make of all the conference realignment-pocalypse and what do you see as the future for the Big East?

FriarBlog: I can’t tell you how much I detest the entire sport of college football. Even before all this mess started, I always hated it. Maybe that’s why I went to PC? Anyways, it’s inevitable that the BIG EAST is going to die, it’s just a matter of time. What is frustrating now is that the basketball schools are not in a position to do much at the moment if they want to keep sucking the football TV contract teet. For a school like Providence, the future is kind of scary since just being in the BIG EAST brought so many good things — Added money, big exposure, great opponents. However, I think our basketball team is a great situtation with Ed Cooley leading the way. He’s building up the program to succeed no matter what the landscape looks like down the road. Will recruiting change? Maybe, but I don’t think Big Ed cares.

RR: Along the same lines, what are your thoughts on the A-10 this year with the additions of Butler and VCU?

FB: I love what the A-10 has been doing. The BIG EAST fans have certainly been following closely to see how the basketball only setup plays out these days. What’s interesting is that anytime anyone talks about the BIG EAST basketball schools breaking off on their own, they all assume Xavier, Butler, and VCU would jump at the opportunity to join in on the fun. Looking at what the conference will be consisted off in two years when everyone leaves (and this could be vastly different since I typed this), would there be much of a difference? As a matter of fact, do you know what the application process is to the A-10? Can we apply online, or is there some PDF that can be printed out and faxed over?

RR: With the youth of this Friar squad and the solid recruits that Cooley has brought in, what level of success do you see coming for PC within the next few years?

FB: I feel like I’ve been said this at various times throughout the last decade, but NEXT YEAR IS IT!!!111one. I’m certainly not writing off 2012-2013 since there are so many unknowns at this point, but the expecations are going to be extremely high next season. The NIT will probably be considered a disspointment at this point. PC has had very little go their way over the last several years with killer injuries, eligibility issues, and tranfers. The talent and depth that Ed Cooley has assembled will be some of the best we’ve seen in some time. A LOT has to go wrong in order to derail this party! Like Mr. Burns said in the softball episode. “Three misfortunes, that’s possible. Seven? There’s an outside chance. But nine misfortunes!? I’d like to see that!”. And yes, I am well aware I may have just jinxed Friartown.

RR: I’m already predicting that Coach Cooley comes down with a case of gigantism. And speaking of which, how do you think the additions of fierce, young, and ultra-competitive coaches like Hurley and Cooley help the annual PC/URI game?

FB: When Hurley was hired, I was pretty excited. There are some Friar fans who would probably like to see URI go 0-32 each season, but not me. RPI purposes aside, I also think that is silly because I think a good URI team only enhances the rivarly. We’ve seen enough of the games to know that it usually doesn’t matter who the better team happens to be in a given year, but having the game mean more for a season as a whole adds even more fuel to the fire. I did like how Hurley got a few of the recruits that PC was targeting (specifically E.C. Matthews) — it kicked off the rivarly between the two a little earlier. What we see on the court over the next several years should be highly entertaining.

RR: We’re looking for an answer to this question once and for all: Who is PC’s biggest rival: URI or UConn?

FB: That’s a good question. I’m going to say UConn, just because we are in the same conference and generally have more opportunities to battle over the years. Good news though: When UConn eventually leaves for the ACC, that spot will be up for grabs! Don’t worry, we won’t make you have a “Bachelor” like contest between other New England schools like UMass, Brown, or BC. The rose is yours, guys.

RR: In your opinion, what has been the best PC/URI game you’ve seen in your lifetime?

FB: I only got to PC in 1998 (by way of New Jersey), so I’ve definitely missed out on a lot of the previous battles over the years. Two games really stand out for me, one good and one bad. Last year it was great to see the Friars finally win in the Ryan Center (no matter how poor the URI team was at the time), especially in the first year of the Ed Cooley era. That place had not been kind to them since it opened. One of those bad memories was I believe 2003 when URI hosted PC for the first time in years. There was a huge snow storm across the entire coast, and I remember listening online at home in NJ after furiously shoveling massive amounts of snow. The game was tied at the half, but then URI started hitting EVERYTHING. I just remember John Rooke’s disbelief on some of the shots Dustin Hellenga was hitting.

RR: We’re asking for trouble here, but what’s the best anti-URI chant you’ve heard at a PC/URI game?

FB: To answer this one, let’s go to Friarblog correspondent @TTAPCBball:

TTAPCBB: At least in terms of full student section chants, we generally used to stick to the classics. “U-R-High” (probably my favorite of the bunch, just timeless), “F-URI” (which universally degenerated into “F*CK-URI” in the second half) and “safety school” were always popular. “Heeeeer-peeeees” would come out occasionally, most often when the URI cheerleaders were on the floor. Personally, I was always a practitioner of the pointed one-liner, i.e. “I hope you brought enough meth for everyone”, “Did you bring your sister-slash-girlfriend today”, and of course “You can’t spell ‘urinary tract infection’ without URI”, but that’s really an entirely different animal from the traditional chant, so that doesn’t really answer the question.

RR: Along those same lines – who is your least favorite URI Ram of all time and why?

FB: If I had to pick someone, I think it would be Dustin Hellenga at this point. I feel like he always killed the Friars.

RR: Gut feeling: If PC wins on Thursday, do the fans storm the court?

FB: The only way Providence fans will storm the court is the following scenario: PC has been trailing all game, but the “SEXY SIX” have gutted out another close one. With 30 seconds to go, things look bleak with the Friars down 8 points. Who comes hobbling out of the locker room unexpectedly? ICE COTTON!! The sell out crowd erupts, and all of a sudden Coach Hurley looks like a deer in headlights. Cotton comes off a screen and drills a three. URI gets fouled, and bricks both foul shots. Cotton brings up the ball, and stops and pops yet another three to cut the defecit to 2 with 15 seconds left. On the inbounds pass, Josh Fortune steals the ball and Ed Cooley calls a timeout. URI pratically triple teams Cotton on the ensuing play, so Kadeem Batts tries to tie the game with a mid range jumper. The rebound falls to Ice in the corner, who SWISHES HOME THE GAME WINNING THREE AT THE BUZZER. That is the only way I would approve a court storm. Anything less would simply be embarrassing.

RR: The haunting part about this scenario is the “URI bricks two free throws in the final minute” part. Makes it almost seem plausible. You forgot to include that Jim Ross would have to be broadcasting the game, and he would scream out, “WAIT, NO! THAT’S ICE COTTON’S MUSIC! OH MY GAWD!”. Also, someone would have to get hit with a chair… Sorry, where were we? Ah yes, final question. Give us your prediction for tonight.

FB: If Bryce Cotton and Kris Dunn both don’t play (which right now looks like will be the case), the Friars need two things to happen in order to win. Josh Fortune needs to limit his turnovers given he’s the only capable ball handler on the team. He’ll play all 40 minutes out of position, so it’s going to be tough. Two, Kadeem Batts needs to stay out of any sort of foul trouble while having another dominant performance offensively. Since the Friars have essentially no margin for error, I think URI is going to win a close one. I think it’s going to be ugly offensively though. 55-50.



Thanks to FriarBlog for taking the time to speak with us. You can check out more of their insights at friarblog.com, or follow them on Twitter @friarblog.

Topics: Basketball, Providence Friars, Rhode Island Rams

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