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Big East New Year's Resolutions: Providence Friars

After a 10-3 start to the 2014-15 season that included 3 distinct streaks of 6 wins, 3 losses and 4 wins Ed Cooley will look for his Providence squad to keep the good times rolling as they head into 2015 and the Big East conference schedule. Here are 3 things they need to improve on in the New Year to make sure that happens.

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1. Clean the Glass

The Providence Friars currently have the 5th biggest effective height in the nation according to Kenpom.com. However, Kenpom ranks the Friars 123rd nationally in % of offensive rebounds allowed (29.8%). Their leading returning rebounder, LaDontae Henton, has seen his rebounding numbers drop significantly from the 7.9 rebounds/game he averaged a season ago to a paltry 5.3 rebounds/game through 13 games this season. All too often in the nonconference, the Friars were either out-rebounded by smaller teams, or those smaller teams were able to keep pace with Providence on the glass. If the Friars want to have success in the gritty Big East in 2015 they will need to start cleaning the glass more effectively.

2. Be Better from Downtown

The loss to transfer of two year starting sophomore Josh Fortune has left a gap in Providence's outside shooting abilities. Fortune took, and made, the second most three pointers behind Bryce Cotton, and his ability to get hot from the outside was a real weapon, especially during the Big East Tournament. Through 13 games of the nonconference, the Friars are shooting just 33% from beyond the arc which ranks them 212th nationally, per Sports Reference. Freshman Jalen Lindsey has shown some flashes of being a shooting weapon, but he has been inconsistent due to apparent lack of confidence. He also suffered an ankle injury suffered early in the Notre Dame game on November 23rd, which shut him down for the Yale game on November 28th and broke up a nice rhythm he had gotten into with a 5/6 three-point performance against the Seminoles on November 22nd.

LaDontae Henton is currently leading the team in attempts, and makes from downtown (20/60 on the season). Tyler Harris has developed a bit of a line drive shot at times, which is hard to explain. Providence will need to be more consistent from behind the three-point line if they hope to win 10 or more games in conference play again this season.

3. Improve from the Charity Stripe

A season ago Providence used the free throw line as an offensive weapon. The Friars scored 25.3% of their points from the charity stripe, per Kenpom.com. They also shot 78.2% from the line, which was the 2nd best percentage in the country last season behind Cal St. Northridge's 79.0%. This season has left something to be desired so far from the free throw line. Providence is only scoring 21.2% of their points from the free throw line, per Kenpom.com. That number is only slightly above the national average of 20.9%. The team shooting percentage is also down at 69.9% on the season. Obviously, losing a player like Bryce Cotton hurts here, as Cotton was an 85.3% shooter from the free throw line a season ago. However, Providence returned their best free throw shooter from last season in Tyler Harris. As I mentioned in the 2nd resolution on three-point shooting, Harris has developed a line drive shot. That has been most pronounced while shooting free throws as he is good for a couple of liners off the front rim per game right now. Harris' percentage has decreased from 83.9% last season to 71.2% this season. Providence needs to get back to using the charity stripe as a weapon during 2015 because it's hard to win close games if you don't shoot well from the foul line.

New Year's resolutions can be tricky to follow through on but Ed Cooley won't allow his Providence team to skate by and slack off. Providence is looking to make back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons. These three resolutions will be keys to success if they are to accomplish that goal.