Is Providence College becoming a heated rival for UConn men’s basketball team? Depends on who you ask

There is no current team in the Big East that the UConn men’s basketball team has played more often than Providence.

When they first met, Babe Ruth’s 1927 Yankees were still the reigning World Series champions. Two of the seven original members of the Big East – a league created by former Friars coach Dave Gavitt – they’ve clashed 75 times since and 63 times as conference opponents. UConn owns a significant head-to-head advantage overall (45-30), in Big East play (38-25) and, of course, in national titles (4-0). Still, the Friars have had a few spurts of dominance and have often been a tick in the Huskies’ fur, even besting some of UConn’s championship teams (Ryan Gomes, anyone?).

Separated by merely a 50-mile bus ride down Route 6, and back together as the Big East foes after an eight-year respite due to conference alignment, UConn-PC would appear to be a natural, burgeoning rivalry.

But is it?

“I would say by geography, Connecticut’s got to be up there,” PC coach Ed Cooley said. “I think Villanova is definitely up there. Those two come to mind right away, for me. You’re looking at two of the bigger brand-name teams in the Big East. I do not know if those schools or fan bases will see that, but from my eyes as the head coach, as far as proximity and region, those two stand out for me. ”

Providence head coach Ed Cooley claps for his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Butler at the Big East basketball tournament Thursday, March 10, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo / Frank Franklin II)

Frank Franklin II / Associated Press

UConn coach Dan Hurley wasn’t quite ready to go there, however. In fact, Hurley’s not sure the Huskies have a true rival at all.

“Not when you’re at UConn,” he stated. With the history of this place, and the brand and notoriety and respect with the four national championships and all the NBA players, one of the greatest coaches of all time (Jim Calhoun), and everything that’s gone on with women’s basketball… every game , you feel like it’s the other team’s Super Bowl. ”

Asked specifically about Providence, Hurley still would not budge.

“St. John’s feels like a rival, Seton Hall feels like a rival, ”he noted. “I think everyone in your conference feels like a rival. For UConn, it’s different, because of the brand. It does not have anything to do with any of us that are coaching or playing here right now. We were not a part of all that success. But every game for us feels like a rivalry game, because we get everyone’s ‘A’ game every night. ”

Still, PC has to be getting under Hurley’s skin a little bit lately. Providence beat UConn – which was playing without injured Adama Sanogo – in the Huskies’ first game back in the Big East in front of fans on Dec. 18 in Hartford.

Connecticut head coach Dan Hurley reacts during the first half of a college basketball game against New Mexico State in the first round of the NCAA men's tournament, Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Buffalo, NY (AP Photo / Frank Franklin II)

Connecticut head coach Dan Hurley reacts during the first half of a college basketball game against New Mexico State in the first round of the NCAA men’s tournament, Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Buffalo, NY (AP Photo / Frank Franklin II)

Frank Franklin II / Associated Press

The rematch slated for Jan. 15 in Providence was postponed due to COVID issues within the Friars program, and the game was never rescheduled. While a sizable chunk of Huskies fans seem to believe that PC was ducking the rematch, the fact is the league was responsible for all rescheduling, and the only available date (Feb. 3) would have entailed UConn playing three games in five days, sandwiching the Friars between bouts with Creighton and at Villanova.

UConn wanted no part of that.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: