Monday, October 18, 2010

2010-11 Preview -- Providence Friars

Too Busy for the Details?
Can Coach Davis stabilize the program after the Friars' disappointing 2010 campaign and disastrous off season? After climbing to a 10-8 record and an NIT bid in his 2009 inaugural campaign, Coach Davis launched a rebuilding project in 2010 and saw the squad stumble to a 4-14 conference record that included a 10 game losing streak to close out the season. The off season brought not only the anticipated graduations, but a wave of transfers, staff changes and off court turmoil of the kind that plagued the program in Coach Welsh's tenure, leaving fans less optimistic about the 2011 campaign. The Joseph Young recruiting stand-off not only adds another swing-and-miss on the recruiting trail (and a cautionary note to PC's future targets), but makes Providence look petty in the process. A no-win from the moment the young man decided to decommit, the school should have cut their losses early and moved on. The Friars are due for another rough year, how rough? Freshman Bryce Cotton's dunk show notwithstanding, very rough...Prognosis -- A 4th quartile finish.

3 Years At a Glance

The Friars will return more minutes (but fewer points -- note the %3FGM from 2010, that's why the Friars did not see the significant drop in returning points scored in 2010) and rebounds than 2010, but the steep loss of points should be troubling. Where will the scoring come from in 2011?

According to Pomeroy...
Overall DRtg104.823799.313197.195
Overall DR%63.430963.530263.9296
Overall Def 2FGM%52.232750.125349.4204
Opp 3FGA%22.531528.213927.4231
Eff. Height-2.63181.4891.966

The Friars' Defensive rating, not good in Tim Welsh's last season (2008) has continued to decline steadily over Coach Davis' two seasons. Defensive rebounding, combined with poor two point shot defense points to problems in the low post. The Friars' vulnerability was not a secret. A check of opponents' three point attempt percentage suggests Providence's opponents understood their scoring opportunities were more promising inside than outside. A quick look at effective height confirms Providence has been getting "shorter" over time. One would expect beefing up Providence's front court presence would have to be a recruiting priority for the Friar staff. Losing French recruit Alex Gavrilovic, a 6-10 235 pound bfc to academics was a blow.

For the Record...
Big East4140.2221080.5566120.333
Post Season?BET Rnd #1NIT Rnd #1BET Rnd #1

The Friars' Nucleus
Coach Keno Davis welcomes more returning minutes than last season, but he still has a lot of gaps to fill. Council, Brooks and Dixon all logged better than 60% of the minutes at their positions, but a quick look at the entire cohort and, Dixon aside, none is taller than 6-5. And that can be trouble for the Friars, not a defensive dynamo last season. The five players listed below logged at least 10% of the minutes at a position last season, add Chris Carter and fifth year Ray Hall (two deep bench players last season), the only other veterans from 2010 returning, and (red shirt Kadeem Batts aside) Providence will build around a nucleus of six scholarship players. Which will probably make them the least experienced squad in the conference next season.

On Offense
Vincent Council68.8106.621.517.444.45.21.0153.8
Marshon Brooks66.2113.922.825.953.16.51.1023.1
Bilal Dixon61.4107.416.915.552.511.91.0740.0
Duke Mondy33.7100.214.515.742.84.20.8913.5

Council, a Big East All-Rookie Teamer last season, will most likely take the point, with senior Marshon Brooks on the wing. Bilal Dixon, listed at 6-9 and 245 pounds on the Friars' web site will man the low post. 6-2 guard Duke Mondy will be part of the rotation. The last two positions will have to be filled by freshmen.

On Defense
Vincent Council68.88.226.821.30.42.3
Marshon Brooks66.29.810.
Bilal Dixon61.416.74.818.36.92.0
Duke Mondy33.711.513.419.40.64.3

Significant Additions
Three of the five incoming freshmen are over 6-5, but only one, 6-7 Ron Giplaye, weighs more than 225 pounds, and none is listed as a "center", which leaves the low post duties to Bilal Dixon and red shirt freshman Kadeem Batts, a 6-9, 250 pound forward (and maybe senior Ray Hall?). Of the entering freshmen, Gerard Coleman, a 6-4 170 pound off guard is the most highly regarded. Coleman, a gradauate of Tilton School in New Hampshire, is a scorer who can hit the lane or step back and drop a mid-range jumper. He will see wing minutes pretty early, but may need to hit the weight room (and cafeteria) to fill out a bit. 5-10 point guard Dre Evans will spell Council at the point, but probably not much more this season. A very late and under-the-radar point guard out of Palo Verde HS in Tuscon, Arizona however is the one who has tongues wagging after his Midnight Madness dunking exhibition. 6-0 175 pound Bryce Cotton was a very late July pickup for the Friars, the kind of late recruiting season reach (necessitated by the Joseph Young fiasco?) which, if it pays off, will add to Providence's reputation as a program with a very good eye for diamond in the rough recruits. Of the two wing/forwards Coach Davis will welcome to Providence this fall, the more highly regarded is 6-8, 205 pound Brice Kofane, a native of Cameroon who finished at the Miller School, and turned a few heads on the AAU circuit in 2009. The "need" position at the #4, will probably see undersized Ron Giplaye, a 6-6, 230 pound forward out of Notre Dame Prep, log a few minutes this season. A handful of others, Mike Murray (guard, Troy, NY), Xavier Davis (guard, Smithfield, RI) and Lee Goldsbrough (forward, Manchester, England) will round out the roster.

Alexandre Gavrilovic, a 6-9 225 pound French import who schooled at the IMG Academy in Florida last season will be the one who got away. Gavrilovic dazzled recruiters in the spring evaluation period and signed with Providence (to much applause) in May. While very much the kind of big Coach Davis is looking for, grade conversion issues with the NCAA Clearinghouse will sideline him for 2011. Back in France in late August, it was not clear Gavrilovic would enroll in the fall.

Explode If...
1. Council, Brooks and Dixon have breakout seasons.
2. The freshman Ron Gilplaye proves to be another DaJuan Blair, only better.
The Friars will have a very rough road to travel even if Council and Brooks have very good, but not breakout-level seasons.

Implode If...
1. The freshmen and seniors become discouraged. The squad faded badly at the end of the 2010 season and was then rocked by several embarrassing developments in the off season. News from the staff (well-regarded recruiter Pat Skerry moved over to Jamie Dixon's staff at Pittsburgh) and recruiting fronts was discouraging, so the team will need some good bounces early to keep their spirits up.
2. More off the court developments distract the squad.

One of the advantages of a young squad is that they often don't know enough about the conference and schools to be intimidated. Young players do, however, become discouraged with extended losing streaks. Should the conference schedule put these player onto a run of three or four very difficult games in a row, they could become discouraged. Coming early in the conference season, could (dis)color the entire season for them.

Crucial Run/Bellweather Games
The early season features a mix of the traditional regional rivals, Brown, Boston College and Rhode Island to go with a trip to Cancun (La Salle and either Missouri or Wyoming), a middling SEC opponent (Alabama) and the usual cupcakes. La Salle should be the first "test", as the Explorers are expected to finish anywhere from #7 to #13 in the A-10 Conference. Dr. Giannini's squad features some length in A-10 Rookie of the Year Arec Murray and experience on the wings and back court. The Friars should take this game, so a loss would be a bad sign. Going 2-0 in Cancun (there are two preliminary round games which Providence should take easily) would be a good sign, as 0-2 would be troubling. The eight days running from the first Saturday in December (12/4) to the second Saturday in December (12/11) will feature four games, three against challenging opponents and one taken on the road. The kick off opponent will be Rhode Island, in something of a rebuilding year themselves. The Rams do feature Delroy James, a well-regarded forward who will team with Will Martel and should clog the lane and dominate the boards. A quick trip to Boston to play the BC Eagles, then back to Providence and a match with Alabama, a team expected to finish in the middle of the SEC's weaker West Division to serve as the closing bookend. The Tide will feature another long low post player, JaMychal Green, who the Friars will struggle to counter. Trevor Releford will man the point; Providence will counter with Bryce Cotton and home court advantage. If the Friars are on a run they might go 3-1 or better through that stretch, but anything south of 2-2 would set a down mood to close out the out of conference (OOC) portion of their schedule.

The Big East schedule-maker dealt the Friars three mirror opponents who, like Providence, have their own demons to conquor. USF, Louisville and Rutgers all (like Providence) hav lost headlining players. For USF the depletion is pretty severe, but like Alabama and (maybe more on target) La Salle, the Bulls have a good front court presence that the Friars may be hard pressed to counter. If avoiding last place is the objective, the Friar staff will have to find at least four-to-six wins, and two, maybe three can come from the mirrors. Providence will find out early, as they go on the road to face Rutgers and South Florida as part of a three game swing in the second week of January. West Virginia is the sandwich filling, so taking one of the three games would be good news, and most likely break the anticipated three game losing streak that will most likely open the season. Should they return to Friar Town 0-6, they would be in serious danger of going winless in January and through the first half of their conference schedule. Of the three games left to close out January, a young Louisville squad may be the most vulnerable team, especially given the Cardinals are young and visiting. The back end of the conference schedle holds some promise, as the Friars will host South Florida, DePaul, Cincinnati and Rutgers, all winnable (on paper) games. The question is whether Coach Davis can keep his team engaged through the very rough run in the first half of the conference. Two or three conference wins going into February would do the trick and keep the Friars out of last place in the bargain.

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