If you ask anyone who the best college basketball team in New England is, the Providence Friars’ success over the past five years would have to put them at the top of their list.
Since Providence native Ed Cooley took the reigns in 2011, he has a record of 154-99 (.609), made the NCAA tournament five straight seasons, and has won a Big East Championship. He’s given life into a program that for many years sat at the bottom of the Big East Conference like clockwork every season.
This season, through 15 games, the Friars sit at a record of 10-5, and 0-2 in Big East play. So far they have quality wins such as Texas, Boston College, and Rhode Island. They also have bad loses like to UMass and Wichita State.
This is a young Friars bunch that often starts three raw, talented freshmen, clearly lacking an identity as a team. They always play tough hard-nosed basketball, but when it comes to putting the ball in the hoop, Providence struggles.
This year, the Friars average 73.7 points per game, which isn’t a terrible number. However, their 66% free throw shooting is absolutely atrocious and helps lose games. That ranks them 281st out of 351 division I teams. Awful.
Providence is a good team when it comes from shooting percentage from the field and the three-point line at 44 and 37 percent respectively, but they get to the free throw line almost 24 times a game so their lack of shooting ability from there hurts them immensely.
Their freshman talent has been a blessing and a curse so far this season. Shooting guard AJ Reeves has won two Big East rookie of the week awards, and was putting up outstanding numbers at 14.2 points a contest while shooting a fantastic 50% from the field. Unfortunately, Reeves hurt his foot 10 games into the season.
Over the last two games, the Friars have shown how much they’ve missed his pure scoring ability. The other freshmen, as well as the veterans, haven’t been able to pick up the slack.
Some of the blame for the lack of scoring is on the players, but much of it lies on Cooley’s shoulders. They run a very stagnant offense that often struggles to create space, or open shots. Many times it seems as though the Friars have to work very hard for every point they score.
They are kept in many games by their tenacious defense and offensive rebounding ability. Two parts of the game that are predicated on great effort, which the Friars undoubtedly always give.
If the Friars want to make it to a sixth straight NCAA tournament appearance, they will need to do things differently. This season, unlike many in the past, they are not one of the top teams in the Big East, and are more likely to finish in the bottom half.
Veterans such as Alpha Diallo, Isaiah Jackson, Nate Watson, and Maliek White have been great contributors all season. They need more help, and unless a youngster steps up I don’t see this team going anywhere besides the NIT this March.
They are usually a great home team, but have already lost two of their Big East games at home this season. Things only get tougher on the road.
The Friars will finish the Big East season with a record of 7-11 and with an overall record of 20-16 after they finish their postseason tournaments.
This was a rebuilding year, and I think that has been clear from the beginning. This year they are young and untested, but next year expect them to be a top 25 team, and to make national noise. The Providence Friars have many more years of prosperity in their very near future.
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