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Providence Friars 2017-18 Season Preview

The Friars are looking to make their 5th straight NCAA Tournament Appearance.

NCAA Basketball: Providence at Creighton Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Providence Friars Season Preview

2016-17 Record

20-13 (10-8 Big East) - Finished 3rd in the conference.

Ed Cooley

This will be Cooley’s 7th year at the helm for Providence. He sits at a record of 123-80 through his first six seasons.

Winning hasn’t been a concern for Cooley at PC. He’s led the Friars to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time in program history while surpassing the 20 win mark in each of those seasons. Recruiting hasn’t been an issue either. Cooley’s put together four top 20 recruiting classes, including his star studded 2018 group.

Now the focus turns to making a run in the big dance. One win is the “deepest” Providence has gone in those four tournament appearances. The pieces are there, the future is bright, now’s the time for Cooley to get his team past the second round. Expectations are at an all time high in his seventh season in Friartown.

Last Season at a Glance

The Friars were picked to finish 9th in the Big East preseason poll. They’d eventually finish 3rd take another trip to the NCAA Tournament. Had it not been for a massive second half meltdown in their first game against USC, Providence also would have picked up a tournament win for the second year in a row.

Considering the expectations, last season was a tremendous success. 20-13 with no seniors, a lack of depth, and average height is pretty solid if you ask me.

PC improved immensely on their three point shooting (37.1%) from the prior two seasons, where their percentages were just above 30%. Much of this was thanks to Jalen Lindsey who shot 46% from beyond the arc. The Friars were also known for their energetic and stifling defense, which became an identity of sorts early on in the season. Using defensive to create scoring opportunities, Cooley and his staff found a successful formula for this group.

Rodney Bullock led the scoring charge, averaging 15.7 per game, while Emmitt Holt was a key contributor at 12.5. Kyron Cartwright (averaging 11 and 7) was the quarterback of the offense, and did not disappoint in the first season of the post-Dunn era. Except for Holt (injury), expect much of the same this season.

Key Departures

None. Three transfers (Fazekas, Council, and Donovan) and the graduation of lone senior Casey Woodring gives Providence the luxury of not having to fill any voids.

Key Returnees

Every contributor from last year’s team returns for the Friars. They’re deep, they’re experienced, and they’re ready to be one of the Big East elites.

Player Year 2016 Stats/Notes
Rodney Bullock Sr. 15.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, Preseason All-Big East Second Team
Kyron Cartwright Sr. 11.4 PPG, 6.7 APG, Preseason All-Big East Second Team
Jalen Lindsey Sr. 10.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 46.0 3PT FG%
Emmitt Holt (injured) Sr. 12.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG, Suffered Abdominal Injury, Status Uncertain
Alpha Diallo So. 5.7 PPG, 3.2 RPG, Started 19 Games in 2016
Isaiah Jackson Jr. 5.6 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 40.4 3PT FG%, Started 11 Games in 2016
Kalif Young So. 3.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG, Started 5 Games in 2016
Maliek White So. 2.5 PPG, 1.3 APG, 1.0 RPG

Key Additions

The Friars welcome in the 20th ranked 2017 class in the nation.

Player 247Sports Composite Rankings
Makai Ashton-Langford 4-star, 40th Ovr, 9th Pos, 1st St (New Hampshire)
Nate Watson 4-star, 99th Ovr, 9th Pos, 5th St (Virginia)
Dajour Dickens 3-star, 141st Ovr, 13th Pos, 9th St (Virginia)

Projected Starting Lineup

Providence has an interesting predicament on their hands with the injury of Emmitt Holt shaking up there lineup. Add in Jalen Lindsey’s knee issues and being held out of exhibition games due to “coach’s decisions”, and the Friars’ starting lineup on November 10th is suddenly up for debate. Here’s my take, assuming they’ll be without Holt and Lindsey to begin the season.

PG Kyron Cartwright

SG Isaiah Jackson

SF Alpha Diallo

PF Rodney Bullock

C Kalif Young

Key Nonconference Matchups

Nov. 13 vs Minnesota

Nov. 17 vs Virginia Tech (Only occurs if both PC and VT win on Nov. 16)

Dec. 2 vs Rhode Island

Dec. 20 vs Houston

Reasons for Optimism

  1. Depth - This is the deepest team Ed Cooley has coached in his tenure at Providence. If they really wanted to, the Friars could run 10 deep. Rotations that extensive are a luxury that PC fans are not used to having.
  2. Returnees - Providence is returning every contributor from last season. Literally every meaningful piece. If this doesn’t get you excited, I’m not sure what will.
  3. Youth Movement - This year’s freshman class is due to make an immediate impact, and certainly a significant one in the years to come. Makai Ashton-Langford will provide a tremendous spark off the bench. Through two preseason games, it’s already pretty clear that this kid is going to be a problem for opponents. Nate Watson and Dajour Dickens will be huge with the absence of Holt. They’ll create a strong interior presence for Providence over the next four years.

Reasons for Pessimism

  1. Injuries - It’s a very likely that we won’t see Emmitt Holt suit up for the Friars at all this season. It’s also very likely that Providence will start the season without Jalen Lindsey. Focus on injuries and absences and it can get pretty dark relatively quickly.
  2. Losing to Carleton - The Friars lost their second exhibition game to Carleton last Saturday, which sent some people into panic mode. These games are for exposing weaknesses so that teams can fix them before the season begins. Carleton is also no joke. They’ve beaten Alabama, Vanderbilt, and Northeastern over the last few months. Since this section is about pessimism, I won’t try and talk you off the ledge (maybe). Just relax - even though some people take this as an opportunity to be negative, don’t. It’s not a legitimate concern.
  3. No Holt = Young Interior - As much as this is something to look forward to, it can also be a reason for concern. Without Holt, Watson and Dickens will be looked at to step up and play meaningful minutes right away alongside Kalif Young. With any young players, you never know what your going to get.

Best Case Scenario

The best case for Providence is that they take the next step from where they left off last season. Jalen Lindsey returns to the lineup sooner rather than later, Nate Watson helps fill the absence of Emmitt Holt, and Makai Ashton-Langford continues his strong play from the preseason.

The veterans play with consistency. They don’t take games off and they play smart, setting the tone for the underclassmen.

Kalif Young and Alpha Diallo continue to trend upwards and cement themselves as regular contributors for this team. Drew Edwards returns as a reliable rotation player off of the bench.

The Friars make their fifth straight NCAA Tournament and win 2+ games there for the first time since 1997.

If these things fall into place, it’s going to be an exciting season in Providence.

Worst Case Scenario

WARNING: This is NSFW for all Providence fans. Proceed with caution and remember - this is all hypothetical.

The worst case scenario for the Friars would be to not take that next step. The motivation and consistency is nowhere to be found. If they become heavily reliant on Bullock and Cartwright alone, it could get problematic.

Wow this is depressing to write.

The loss of Emmitt Holt extensively hurts their interior game, and the Friars have trouble competing against strong bigs. Jalen Lindsey’s absence is drawn out, and he doesn’t suit up until late November / early December.

Cooley’s depth isn’t effective as expected, and he’s forced to run a short rotation. This would most likely include the freshman class showing their youth and performing inconsistently throughout the season.

OK - now wash that section from your memory. Forever.

2017-18 Outlook

Providence fans should be extremely excited going into this season. It’s not crazy to think this team could challenge Villanova if everything goes as planned. Cooley knows what he’s working with this year. There’s minimal unfamiliarity, which is extremely beneficial for any coaching staff.

Expect Providence to make the tournament for the fifth straight season. The Friars are going to be a ton of fun to watch this year and will be a tough out for all of their opponents. Thanks to the combination of seasoned vets and exciting underclassmen, Providence will be a force in the Big East.

Prediction: 22-8 (12-6 Big East)