Friars First Half Recap

The Providence College Friars men’s basketball team has reached the midpoint of their 2013-2014 campaign.  Their record stands at 11-5 overall and 1-2 in conference play.  For what seems to be the norm around Providence, the main stories of the season are what’s going on off the court instead of on.

Top recruit Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock were suspended for the season shortly before the new year for an off campus untitledincident the school has tight-lipped about.  Austin promptly transferred to Oregon joining another ex-Friar top commit  that never played a game for the Friars in Joseph Young.  If Friar fans want a glimpse of what could have been, keep an eye on the Oregon program.   Bullock has stayed at Providence and will likely let the suspension play out and be eligible to play in games next season.

Another of Ed Cooley’s highly touted recruits, Kris Dunn  is also out for the season with a shoulder injury.  Dunn injured his shoulder before the start of his freshman season last year.  He missed 10 games last season.  Dunn played in just four games this season and should be eligible for a medical red-shirt, allowing him to not lose a year of eligibility.  There is concern, however, about Dunn’s status with the school overall because he has not been seen with the team over the winter break.  He has chosen to stay at home in New Haven over the break.  If Dunn had been healthy, I strongly believe the Friars beat UMASS and Seton Hall.  The Kentucky game also would have played a bit differently.

On the court, the Friars have put forth solid effort in every game this season with the exception of the 30 point loss to Villanova.  Coach Cooley has referred to that game as the worst game he has had at Providence.  He will not find an argument from me.  I have been encouraged by the play of the Friars, especially with the realization they are undermanned night in and night out.  Losing three guys in half a season puts a lot of strain on the active roster.

Bryce Cotton is averaging 38.6 minutes a game.  He has played 6 games where has played 40 minutes or more.  He has scored in untitleddouble figures in all but 1 game this season, and put up at least 20 points in 10 games.  He is without question the team MVP.  Kadeem Batts has struggled most of the season.  The 5th year senior seemed to have lost his shooting touch.  He has also been bullied on the defensive end of the floor in a few games this season.  I was encouraged with how he played against Georgetown.  If he can start getting back to the way he was playing his junior season, the Friars season may not be lost after all.

Transfers Tyler Harris and Carson Desroisers have played pivotal roles for the Friars this season.  Harris is a poor man’s Tayshaun Prince with a massive wingspan.  He is averaging 13 points and 5 boards a night.  Harris has become the 2nd option in the offense behind Cotton.  I am excited to see Harris develop as he is only a sophomore.  I expect to see big things from this kid before his career in Providence comes to a close.  Desroisers has been a game changer on the defensive end of the floor.  I can’t remember anyone that protected the rim better than Carson wearing a Friar uniform since Karim Shabazz and Marcus Douthit.  He is averaging nearly 3 blocks a game.

LaDontae Henton has been the unsung hero of this season.  Henton has been a glue guy for Ed Cooley’s Friars.  He will never be untitledmentioned with why the Friars would win a game.  He hasn’t had any outstanding games this season but he goes about his business.  He has improved his rebounding and is getting rebounds in traffic amongst bigger opponents.  He is the team’s leading rebounder.  A year after his three-point shot disappeared, Henton is shooting 43% from deep.

As a season ticket holder, I was disappointed in not seeing Austin, Bullock, and Dunn this season. After seeing Ricky Ledo on the bench in a suit all of last season, I thought this would be the year the Friar Faithful’s patience would be rewarded.  I was wrong.  the familiar mantra of “wait ’til next year” rings true yet again.

Fortunately the guys who have taken the floor night in and night out have been fun to watch.  Saying the team plays hard is an understatement.  Credit Cooley with fielding a competitive team.  These kids will run through a wall for him.  I believe the Friars have a chance of finishing in the top half of the new Big East behind Villanova, Creighton, and Xavier.  A four seed in the Big East would put the Friars squarely on the bubble for the NCAA tournament.  If that were to happen with the amount of adversity the team has faced all year, I would consider 2013-2014 a success.

I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF