PROVIDENCE — Going into this season, the Friars were considered the underdogs, and getting past the NCAA March Madness round of 32 was thought to be a long-shot.
Naysayers, be gone.
More than 300 people swarmed the front doors of the Ruane Friar Development Center on Wednesday, cheering as the beloved Providence College men’s basketball team boarded the team buses.
Sweet 16, here they come.
The Friars — and their so-called lucky streak — will take on the top-seed Kansas Jayhawks on Friday in Chicago. Providence is considered the underdog again, and a chance to play in the Elite Eight is on the line.
One man in the crowd shouted, “Are you Friar-ed up?!”
Students, staff, and nearby residents sported black and silver team gear and hoisted signs with enlarged faces of their favorite players. Guard AJ Reeves, a Roxbury native, wrapped his arm around fellow guard Aljami Durham, watching as fans shouted their names and chanted for “Friartown.”
“This is a huge moment for us... We’re just trying to go out there and get a ‘W,’” said Reeves, a senior this year. “I couldn’t imagine going out any other way, for real. Four years, [and] honestly, it pays off going out like this.”
How sweet it is: Hundreds of people pack the sidewalk outside Ruane Friar Development Center at @ProvidenceCol at a sendoff rally for the @PCFriarsmbb. #friartown #friaredup #rhodeisland #marchmandness #NCAATournament #Sweet16 pic.twitter.com/OjYWleoy1E— Carlos R. Munoz 📰 (@ReadCarlos) March 23, 2022
But, “we’re not finished,” said Reeves.
Head Coach Ed Cooley, a Providence native, said the team has had promising practices since blowing past Richmond in Buffalo, N.Y., last week.
“A sendoff like this is what college athletics all about,” said Cooley. “I am ready for this. Our community is great. I’m really happy for our players.”
“We know we have a monumental task ahead of us,” said Cooley. “Why not the Friars? How far can we make it? Until today. You can’t predict the future. All you ask for is an opportunity, and that’s what we have... We gotta get lucky a little bit, we got to play well because we’re playing against a blue blood and a hall of fame coach.
Unlike Kansas, which just made it to the Final Four just four years ago, Providence hasn’t made an appearance since 1987. And Providence is the bracket’s chance in preventing the Final Four from being filled with the usual big dogs.
“How do you beat a team like Kansas? You play 40 minutes and try your best,” said Cooley.
Alexa Gagosz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz. Carlos Muñoz can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ReadCarlos and on Instagram @Carlosbrknews.