Conference: Big East
Record: 20-12 (10-8)
NCAA Tournament Seed: 11 (East; First Four)
How they got to the Big Dance
The Friars were picked to finish 9th in the Big East in the Preseason Coach’s Poll, a year after finishing fourth. Providence was going to have to overcome the loss of the Big East Player of the year Kris Dunn, and Big East Most Improved player, Ben Bentil — two players who combined for 37.5 points per game last season. The Friars started off the season with a 10-3 record prior to Big East play, with their biggest win coming over then-No. 21 Rhode Island. The Friars then started off sluggish in Big East play, dropping their first two games. It was a bumpy road for them throughout most of conference play, and they were sitting at a 4-8 in the conference before rattling off six straight wins to finish the season, including victories over ranked opponents Butler and Creighton. The Friars racked up with six wins over teams in the RPI top-50 and finished fifth in the Big East. Despite the hot finish, Ed Cooley’s team fell to Creighton in its first Big East Tournament game.
Why they’re a legitimate contender
The Friars play solid basketball on both sides of the ball. They have a shot-creator and solid scorer in Rodney Bullock and a playmaker and assist man in Kyron Cartwright. They also have a 3-point sniper in Jalen Lindsey who shoots 46 percent from long range. The Friars are not going to wow you, but they have the pieces a team needs to get a much-needed basket. To go along with that offense, the Friars play solid defense. Cooley’s team allows 66.6 points per game, which ranks second in the Big East and 51st in the country. If the Friars can get plays out of their stars and continue to play defense, they have a shot.
Why they’re not a legitimate contender
The problem with Providence is that the team really has no glaring strength that is going to give an opposing coach nightmares. The Friars have some good players, but no one that is going to win them a game alone. They play good team-offense and solid defense, but not defense that makes an opposing team worry too much. The Friars are going to have to step up in one facet of the game and get hot, whether that be from 3-point range or playing lockdown defense. The Friars need to find something that is going to make an opposing coach and team anxious.
Player to watch: F Rodney Bullock
The 6-foot-8 junior forward out of Hampton, Virginia can score in a multitude of ways. Averaging 15.7 points per game, Bullock leads the Friars in scoring. He has the ball handling skills to be able to drive past his defenders and has a strong finishing ability at the rim. Bullock has shown flashes of athleticism and can throw it down in transition, and also equips a solid jump shot and can get hot from 3-point range. Look for the Providence forward’s versatility on the offensive end to be a big factor for the Friars in the tournament.
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