Providence is already a crazy city, and it's about to get crazier.
The 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship (aka "March Madness") returns to Providence this week following a five year absence. Since then, the Dunkin Donuts Center (aka "The Dunk") has undergone a massive renovation, making it one of the best arenas in the Big East, and the stage for some potential first and second round Cinderellas and flops.
The Dunk, formerly known as the Providence Civic Center, is certainly not a new venue. In addition to being the home arena for the Providence College Friars and periodically the URI Rams since 1972, it has been the site of some of the most intense college basketball match-ups. The arena hosted the East Regionals of the tourney in 1975, 1978 and 1985 --and hosted the opening rounds of the 2010, 1996, and 1989 NCAA Men's Tournament.
With so many impactful college basketball games having been hosted by the Dunk, it's difficult to identify the greatest. But alas, here are the 5 Greatest College Hoops Games Played at the Dunkin Donuts Center.
5. Providence Friars vs. #1 Pitt Panthers
February 24, 2009 (Regular Season)
Score: 81-73 (Friars)
At 16-11, the 2008-09 PC Friars were amid a mediocre year, and were seemingly on the outside of the tournament looking in. The forecast was even drearier when Pittsburgh rolled into town with a 25-2 record and ownership of the #1 ranking in the Associated Press poll. PC Head Coach Keno Davis could not have cared less. The Friars came out scoring -- in bunches -- and led by 18 at halftime. They continued rolling in the second half, securing an 8 point victory, and knocking off the #1 team for the first time in 33 years.
4. Ohio Bobcats vs. Georgetown Hoyas
March 18, 2010 (NCAA Tournament)
Score: 97-83 (Bobcats)
The University of Ohio Bobcats needed a miracle to even make it to the Big Dance, and a miracle they got. After a disappointing season, the Bobcats tore through the MAC Conference Championships, and carried their momentum all the way to Providence. As a #14 seed, they were matched-up with the perennial powerhouse, and #3 seeded Georgetown Hoyas for a first round contest at the Dunk. Ohio jumped out to a 12 point lead by halftime, and were able to fend off a Georgetown comeback to take the upset victory, and move forward to the second round for the first time since 1983.
3. NC State Wolfpack vs. Iowa Hawkeyes
March 19, 1989 (NCAA Tournament)
Score: 102-96 (2OT) (Wolfpack)
The Iowa Hawkeyes entered the NCAA Tournament with a 22-8 record and a roster, led by B.J. Armstrong, that would send five of its players to the NBA. Meanwhile, the NC State Wolfpack, with legendary coach Jim Valvano, was entering its eighth Tourney appearance in nine years. Both teams breezed through the first round, leading to their fortuitous match-up in Providence for Round Two. The game went to halftime tied at 41, and the tie remained at the end of regulation: 75-75, thanks to a buzzer-beating jump shot by NC State's Rodney Monroe. THEN, Monroe struck again in overtime, nailing another baseline buzzer-beater, and sending the game to a fourth frame. Monroe went off again in the second overtime, ending with 40 points, a spot in the Sweet 16, and one of the best performances in NCAA history.
2. Robert Morris Colonials vs. Villanova Wildcats
March 19, 2010 (NCAA Tournament)
Score: 70-73 (OT) (Wildcats)
It's rare that a #15 seeded team upends the #2 seed in the Big Dance, in fact, it has only happened seven times. Robert Morris, however, nearly made that number eight in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament as they faced off against the 25-7 Villanova Wildcats, a Final Four team in 2009. Villanova may have overlooked the game, but Robert Morris certainly did not. Robert Morris led most of the way, but the Wildcats kicked it up a notch in the final four minutes, pushing the game to overtime. The Colonials never let down in overtime, and had the ball with 10.2 seconds, trailing by the smallest of margins 71-70. A last second 3-point attempt by senior Mezie Nwige was just wide, ending the improbable upset.
1. URI Rams vs. PC Friars
December 8, 2008 (Regular Season)
Score: 68-67 (Friars)
I was there.
I was there on a warm December afternoon as the 6-2 URI Rams, led by coach Jim Baron, made the 30-mile trek up north to Providence to take on the 5-3 Friars in front of a sellout crowd of 12,600. Both teams shot well in the first half, as the Rams hit 51.5 percent of its shots while PC was at 47.1. The largest lead for either team in the first half was just 3 points.
The Rams opened the second half strong and took a 45-38 early second half lead. The Friars recaptured the lead on a three-point play by Weyinmi Efejuku, putting the score at 52-51. URI quickly responded and led 59-56 with less than six minutes to go in the game.
Efejuku's hot hand remained in tact as he continued his hot shooting when it mattered, hitting a clutch three to tie the game, 61-61. With the Friars down 65-64 with 18 seconds left, Geoff McDermott hit his free throws to give the Friars a 66-65 advantage. The Rams had one final opportunity to earn a win on the final play, but a contested miss on the team's final possession clinched the victory for the Friars.
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