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Providence College fans flying to Sweet 16 on Patriots' AirKraft 2

The No. 4 Friars take on the No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks for a berth in the Elite Eight of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

AirKraft 2

The excitement in New England is palpable, with the Providence College men's basketball team advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

The No. 4 Friars entered March Madness with a regular-season Big East title and their best seed in school history, with coach Ed Cooley leading the team to this round for the first time in 25 years.

As special as this run has been, Providence has a tall task against top-seeded Kansas to earn an Elite Eight berth and continue it. To ensure the team is represented well in the stands in Chicago this weekend, the Patriots are helping to send some of the Friars' biggest supporters to the United Center.

"New England teams helping New England teams. I just want to personally thank you and the Patriots organization for allowing our family, our supporters, our donors, and many of those who have the opportunity to ride on that wonderful plane, getting them to Chicago in the Windy City," said Cooley in a video message to thank Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

"This would not be possible without your support, so I personally, on behalf of Providence College Basketball, and Providence College Athletics, want to send a sincere thank you to you and your organization. Thanks a lot. I'm a huge Patriots fan. Go Pats! Go Friars!"

The team plane took off Thursday afternoon to add some black and silver to the stands, hoping to rival fans of the blue blood school.

"The greatest thing for me is there's so many Patriots fans, so to have this opportunity to not only get to go root on the Friars, which they love, but they're getting to experience something they could only dream about going on one of the Patriots' planes," said Steve Napolillo, who takes over as Providence's athletic director on July 1.

"It's such a home run for people who are diehard Patriot and Friar fans."

With how many fans who wanted to get out to Chicago for the game, Napolillo reached out to some contacts within the Patriots organization who put him in touch with the right people about renting either of the team planes.

The flight schedules fortunately allowed for it, and Providence was able to transport its additional staff, family members of coaches, and donors who support the athletic program with gifts of $50,000 or more.

It also allowed Robert Kraft the opportunity to personally wish the Friars good luck.

"We're really fired up. Coach Cooley talked to Mr. Kraft last night, Mr. Kraft reached out to him so he was really excited."

The Friars and Jayhawks tip-off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, but Napolillo is hoping for another ride in the jet -- this time with a special guest hopefully tagging along.

"I'm hoping I have to ask you Sunday night that we want to use it to go to New Orleans next week and Mr. Kraft wants to get on the plane with us."

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