Providence earns No. 4 seed in NCAA Tournament, will face South Dakota State in first round


PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Providence didn’t need to worry about its place in the NCAA Tournament. But it didn’t make the reaction to making the field any less special.

The Friars, after a magical regular season made them a lock for the Big Dance, finally learned their fate Sunday and their draw couldn’t be much more ideal. Providence earned a No. 4 seed – highest in program history – and will face 13th-seeded South Dakota State in Thursday’s first round in Buffalo.

PC, which stumbled in the Big East tournament with a 27-point loss to Creighton in Friday’s semifinals, didn’t fall off the four-seed line, which coach Ed Cooley said was important.

“Any time you can get a low seed, it just offers you the greatest opportunity to advance by the numbers,” Cooley said. “I’m not an analytics guy, but what I am is a realist and throughout the years, a quality seed has allowed you the opportunity to move forward.”

If the Friars beat the Jackrabbits, they would face the winner of No. 5 seed Iowa vs. 12th-seeded Richmond for a shot at the Sweet 16. The other top seeds in PC’s region in the Midwest are No. 1 Kansas, No. 2 Auburn and No. 3 Wisconsin.

Upon seeing their name flash on the screen at their practice facility in Providence, the Friars celebrated in joy before Cooley quickly took them aside to share a private moment with his team. The coach didn’t immediately know much about South Dakota State, other than that the Jackrabbits are the best 3-point shooting team in America. They shot from distance at a 44.93% clip this season, a sizable gap over Colgate, which is second at 40.26%.

SDSU, the champion of the Summit League, has not lost a game since falling to Missouri State on Dec. 15, winning 21 in a row.

“It’s a short preparation but we’ll learn about them as quickly as we can,” Cooley said.

Cooley thought his team’s seed validated the season PC had after winning the Big East regular season championship and finishing 25-5. The metrics were never the Friars’ friends – they’re 49th in KenPom and 33rd in the NET – but went 14-5 in Quad 1 and 2 games and beat eight teams that made the NCAA Tournament field.

“I think our men earned that,” Cooley said. “I really do. When you look at the body of work, it’s unfortunate we didn’t get a great last game. But it’s about the body of work we’ve put in for the year and I think this program deserved it.”

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