2022-23 Providence College Hoops: AMPed for a Title Defense

CouchsideSteve

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Guys, it’s late October. There is a chill in the air. There are basketball scrimmages happening at The Dunk Amica Mutual Pavillon, and quite frankly, Providence basketball is experiencing a renaissance. So of course I’m excited to start a new season thread.

This post is about the 2022-23 vintage, not an elegy for last year’s team. If you’re looking for the latter, there is a thread for that – it suffices to say that team and those kids meant and accomplished so much. Champions, one and all. Will there be a hangover from the program’s first Big East regular season title and the subsequent Sweet Sixteen run? I predict not. Ed Cooley signed another contract extension, which was not a certainty given the change in school leadership. He’s the exact right man for the job, and as fans, we should periodically remind ourselves how lucky we are to have him.

The Friars graduated virtually the entire core of last year’s historically great team. We bid farewell to fifth-year big man Nate Watson, four-year starter AJ Reeves, inside/outside threat Noah Horchler, as well as the fantastic grad transfer combo of Al Durham and Justin Minaya (keep an eye on Minaya, who showed well for the Hornets in NBA Summer League). And let’s not forget walk-on elder statesman Andrew Fonts, who drilled a critical 3 in the 19-point road comeback against Butler – had he not hit that shot, I genuinely believe the Friars would not have won the conference title. What a group.

Admittedly, for a few weeks in March and April, I was concerned we might be looking at a major setback. But doubts were quelled with another superb haul from the transfer portal. The replacements include former 4* recruits Bryce Hopkins (via Kentucky), Devin Carter (via South Carolina) and Corey Floyd, Jr. (via UConn) who each have 3 or more years of eligibility remaining. Plus, one-and-done transfers Noah Locke (via Louisville and before that Florida) and Clifton Moore (via LaSalle) as experienced reinforcements. They’ll be joined by HS commits Jayden Pierre and Quantee Berry, who I expect to serve as backcourt understudies, if not redshirts. Lest we forget about big man Rafael Castro, who redshirted last season and surely absorbed a lot from that veteran group, jostling with Watson in practice.

So what can we expect on the floor?
  • Likely Starting Five: Jared Bynum, PG (rSR); Noah Locke, SG (GR); Devin Carter, Wing (SO); Bryce Hopkins, Wing/PF (SO); Ed Croswell, Big (GR)
  • Key Bench Pieces: Alyn Breed, G (JR); Clifton Moore, Stretch/Big (GR); Corey Floyd, Jr., G (rFR); Rafael Castro, Big (rFR)
  • Rounding Out: Jayden Pierre, G (FR); Quante Berry, G (FR); Kieran O’Haire, G/F (SO); Luke Fonts, G (SO); Scott Morozov, Wing (FR)

On paper, it’s a talented group, led by the fourth-year player Bynum, who earned Big East second team honors last season and is a pre-season first team selection. He will set the tone. (Bynum retains a year of COVID eligibility after this that he is unlikely to use.)

It will also be interesting to see Ed Croswell step outside the shadow of Nate Watson. Arguably, Croswell outplayed Watson at the end of last season, as a much better rebounder and defender. Croswell impressively changed his body last offseason, showing a lean strength and athleticism that allows him to be an imposing center, even at a listed height of 6-8 (he’s probably more like 6-5). The worry with Croswell has been mental lapses: Missing switches, dumb fouls, etc. He needs to keep his head in the game.

Noah Locke could lead this team in scoring. He took 199 shots beyond the arc last season, converting at 34%. If that nudges up to the 40-42% range that he shot in his SO and JR seasons at Florida, the offense will be cooking. He steps into the AJ Reeves roll, arguably as a better shooter, but not nearly the same level of defender.

Carter is a slasher, who takes the ball to the rim and took a lot of shots as a Freshman at South Carolina last season, though he’s not much of a 3-point threat. Paired with Bynum, we'll have dueling threats off-the-dribble. Hopkins is a strong kid who can pass and score from the high post -- I think we'll be viewing him as the best player on the roster going into the 2023-24 season.

If there is a risk, I think it’s that the starting lineup is awfully small. Bynum, of course, is undersized and limited as a defender; so is Locke. Croswell is a terrific defender, but he’s going to get in foul trouble against some of the larger bigs in conference play (Nunge at Xavier, Sanogo at UConn). Breed and Moore will level-up the size and defensive length when they’re swapped in, but they will lower the offensive ceiling.

***
KenPom has Providence at #57 nationally and 7th in the Big East. I’m a metrics guy and a fan of his work, but his projections have historically underrated the Friars, in part because under Ed Cooley they’ve won a lot more games than the shooting percentages would predict and have an uncanny ability to win close games. Last year, some called it luck.

The Big East coaches poll slotted the Friars at 5th in the conference. I think that’s about right: Creighton, Xavier and Nova are the upper crust in this year’s Big East, with UConn and Providence a half step behind, in my opinion.

The Friars will have the opportunity to earn a top 25 ranking early in the season, if they show well at the Mohegan Sun HoF Tipoff against Miami on Nov 19 (and then either Maryland or a very good St. Louis team). A Nov 30 trip to TCU is another resume opportunity. The annual matchup with URI, now coached by Archie Miller, will be at the Ryan Center on Dec 3 -- always a tough place to play, even if URI is rebuilding.

Big picture: I’m excited. This team is pretty good, and the program is as healthy as it has ever been.
 

Mloaf71

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Glad you started this thread. I've been too lazy to lay out what you did.

I think late in the year this team will be a tough out. A ton of talent that will need time to gel.

The other incredible thing is the recruiting haul coming in next year. Currently ranked 22 in the country after pulling in 3 recruits from the same HS in SOCal. Two of them (Garway Dual and Drew Fielder) look like studs with the third a typical Ed Cooley late bloomer.

This is the most stable footing I ever remember the Program being on with consistent 2nd week and beyond talent for the next 2 - 3 years.
 

CouchsideSteve

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Season is here! Friars are 13pt favorites over a very competitive Rider team tonight at the AMP. Game is on FS1 at 6:30.

Rider knocked Rick Pitino’s Iona squad out of the MAAC tournament last season. They’re a good, experienced mid major that PC can’t take lightly — several high majors lost buy games in their openers last night. You can’t earn a tournament bid in November, but you can lose one.
 

shawnrbu

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PC up 1 with the ball with 31 seconds to go. 43 free throw attempts for the Friars. Rider hanging very tough after giving up a 15 point lead.

Edit: Rider ball down 1 with 10.1 seconds to go after a shot clock violation.

Rider player slips near the Amica Mutual Pavilion writing on the floor. Loose ball turnover and the Friars get the W.
 
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CouchsideSteve

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Not much to take away from last night, IMO.

It’s a new collection of guys, and that showed. Bynum was off and the big guys missed some easy buckets. The free throw shooting was miserable and that better not repeat. I also didn’t like seeing Pierre off the bench so early — Cooley might feel some pressure to keep him engaged with how freely kids transfer, but he looked overwhelmed.

Lucky to win, but this will end up being just one of several Quad 2 victories on the resume in March. Let’s not repeat the mistakes on Saturday against Northeastern.
 

Humphrey

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Hopkins looked good from what I saw.

PC shouldn't have any problem w/NU, they don't look much better than they did last year, which was a down season.
 

god loves the sox

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I've got two tix for the Hall of Fame games at Mohegan Sun today that I can't use.

1:00pm - University of Maryland vs. Saint Louis University
4:00pm - Providence College vs. University of Miami

Section 17
Row T
Seats 3 & 4

PM if interested.
 

CouchsideSteve

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Important early season test this weekend. The Friars dispatched Northeastern and Stonehill, but there isn’t much we can take away from those wins.

PC is a +2.5pt underdog in game 1 against Miami. They’ll have a quality opponent in game 2 regardless. Coming away with one win is essential to holding serve, but netting two would be enormous for the resume.
 

CouchsideSteve

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The weekend could've hardly gone worse. Yes, they were slight underdogs in both games, but the way they lost both is troubling:
  • Against Miami, who I would admit is a talented team with more continuity, they substituted too much early (by Cooley's own admission), resulting in a big run by the Canes, which was overcorrected by a failure to substitute in the second half -- the starters got tired
  • In the loss to St. Louis, the guys simply pissed away a 13 point second half lead with poor shot selection and lack of clock awareness. Cooley called two TOs on the final possession and yet they failed to engineer a quality shot
Hopkins looked really good all weekend, even if he had a few lapses. But Bynum struggle to find his shot, Locke is ice cold and looks lost, and the result seemed to be Carter trying to do too much. Croswell played tough, but not necessarily smart, and missed a lot of easy ones at the rim. Ugh.
 

Mloaf71

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The second half today was bizarre. Cooley didn’t substitute after Floyd and Pierre looked good in the first half.

Bynum being lost and pounding the ball into floor, he has no confidence in his outside shot so far this year. Same for Locke. Those two need to see the ball go through the hoop a few times In the next couple games before TCU.

Interested in Cooley’s presser today.
 

CouchsideSteve

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Finished 8-3 in the non-conference slate. The good news is no bad losses from a resume perspective. But they dropped the three best opportunities for a showcase win against Miami, St. Louis and TCU. I give the team a C+ for that first trimester.

Really important road win today at Seton Hall to open Big East play. Hopkins and Croswell were both terrific, with Carter making some game-changing plays with athleticism. Shortening the bench in the second half was the difference. There is a pretty big gap between the starting 5 and the bench. Breed is a capable and experienced sixth man, and we can get by for stretches with Castro and Moore when Croswell subs out. The Freshman Pierre and Floyd surely want to play, and Cooley has given them some run (including shaky minutes today), but they’re just not fits — neither offers anything that Breed doesn’t. This is a veteran team that can make the tournament. It’s not the time for development.
 

HomeRunBaker

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Finished 8-3 in the non-conference slate. The good news is no bad losses from a resume perspective. But they dropped the three best opportunities for a showcase win against Miami, St. Louis and TCU. I give the team a C+ for that first trimester.

Really important road win today at Seton Hall to open Big East play. Hopkins and Croswell were both terrific, with Carter making some game-changing plays with athleticism. Shortening the bench in the second half was the difference. There is a pretty big gap between the starting 5 and the bench. Breed is a capable and experienced sixth man, and we can get by for stretches with Castro and Moore when Croswell subs out. The Freshman Pierre and Floyd surely want to play, and Cooley has given them some run (including shaky minutes today), but they’re just not fits — neither offers anything that Breed doesn’t. This is a veteran team that can make the tournament. It’s not the time for development.
Cooley seems to have a great feel for the transfer protocol and what to look for in players who are looking to leave their program. For that reason, I feel he is going to continue trying to find minutes for these younger players until he gives up on them. If he feels a kid has a future here he’s going to have to find minites for him or else they can simply leave in the spring. This is the new (protocol) normal when it comes to playing time.
 

moretsyndrome

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2-0 in the Big East, baby! Despite the 8-point lead evaporating in the 1st OT, it was just an exhilarating game to witness. So many clutch shots, stops and rebounds down the stretch! The building was absolutely on fire like I haven't seen it in decades. I've taken my son to lots of games of all sorts over the years and he's already a hoops freak at 12, but I could tell by the look on his face at the end of the game that his fanaticism had been cemented. It was a look like "Ohhh, THIS is way you're so obsessed with sports!"

Damn right, kid. Let's go!
 

HomeRunBaker

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Wow, the Friars nearly got beat by a kid who grew up down the road in Cumberland. Good to see PC escape with a Win and great to see any old friends son have the game of his career in his home state. Keep your eyes out for Tyler Kolek, he may be making a leap this year to Big East stardom.
 

Humphrey

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Caught the end of regulation and the 2 OTs...have to agree that the crowd was really amped up .....really happy that PC's got an atmosphere like that going for it.
 

CouchsideSteve

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2-0 in the Big East, baby! Despite the 8-point lead evaporating in the 1st OT, it was just an exhilarating game to witness. So many clutch shots, stops and rebounds down the stretch! The building was absolutely on fire like I haven't seen it in decades. I've taken my son to lots of games of all sorts over the years and he's already a hoops freak at 12, but I could tell by the look on his face at the end of the game that his fanaticism had been cemented. It was a look like "Ohhh, THIS is way you're so obsessed with sports!"
So cool to hear this! The in-arena experience for PC hoops these days has to be among the best in the country. Outstanding season ticket and general attendance numbers. Really lively crowds. Cooley and the players genuinely feed off it.

As for the team, that was a gutsy win against a really talented Marquette squad. Concerning that they lost the lead late in the first OT, but the shot selection was crisp for most of the night, and the rebounding was again spectacular — led by Hopkins, who is the best player we’ve had since Kris Dunn. Might’ve been Bynum’s best game of the season, and Alyn Breed played some really clutch minutes yet again.

Bring on DePaul at 2:30pm on New Year’s day.
 

Mloaf71

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Man, great win tonight. Finished December without a loss…That first half was a thing of beauty. Devin Carter was unstoppable, Croswell a double double machine as usual, Bynum settling into his new role as a true facilitator and a steady hand. Best D of the year.

Trap game @ DePaul up next on New Year’s Day before the big time matchup with UConn at the AMP.

Also, Top 10 teams in December (embedded image and tweet below):


View: https://twitter.com/mattstdream/status/1608645379045875714?s=46&t=dpHaioIae2AlH8iE2yGy1A
 

CouchsideSteve

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I somehow overlooked the Butler game in my last post. I’m in Scotland this week, but came home from a bar and tuned in thanks to FriarTV, when the score was 9-9. What a pleasant surprise.

This team is gelling far quicker than I imagined.
They’re legitimately good, and I think they have the ceiling to play with anyone in the Big East — a hypothesis that will be put to the test on Jan 4, hosting UConn.

But first… don’t get tripped up by DePaul tomorrow!
 

Mloaf71

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Took care of business in the Midwest. Carter is really something. Bynum might be back.

Bring on the Huskies!
 

HomeRunBaker

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Cooley going for B2B Naismith Coach of the Year Awards? There have been 5 coaches to win this award multiple times (K, Self, Cal, Few, & Wright) but nobody has won it in consecutive years.
 

StuckOnYouk

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UConn fan here - congrats on the win. You guys played your asses off and seemed to get every single loose ball. Cooley is a hell of a coach and seems like a good guy.

UConn has had huge shooting and foul issues the last two games. Big concern.
 

bosox188

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Good game but seriously can they figure out how to keep the court dry over there? Two separate times i thought a UConn and then a PC player had gotten hurt on a wipeout. Is the roof still leaking?
 

pdaj

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Good game but seriously can they figure out how to keep the court dry over there? Two separate times i thought a UConn and then a PC player had gotten hurt on a wipeout. Is the roof still leaking?
From what's been reported, the roof is slated to be replaced for next season. Here's hoping for no more rainy game days in the meantime ...

Had a long drive back to Western MA after this one, but it was definitely worth it. The crowd is AMPED tonight, and I don't say that casually. The fans didn't disappoint in this one -- and, most importantly, neither did the players. It was great to see Breed, Moore, Castro, and Floyd all contribute in this one. Perhaps tonight was also Locke's coming out party. The Friars ceiling expands a bit if he can become that reliable, knock-down shooter.
 

CouchsideSteve

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Great week for Cooley’s crew. First the win over UConn, where Hopkins took over but there huge bench contributions from Breed, a clutch 3 from Floyd, and some solid defense by Moore. Bynum going out with injury forced everyone to step up, and the team uniformly answered the call.

Today’s win over a desperate St. John’s team wasn’t pretty, but they summoned enough to advance to 6-0.

Gotta hope Bynum gets back to full strength. Breed is a very capable stand-in, but Pierre as the third guard is not ideal. The kid has talent, but is erratic and a defensive liability — not his fault, but he’s just not ready.
 

PC Drunken Friar

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Great week for Cooley’s crew. First the win over UConn, where Hopkins took over but there huge bench contributions from Breed, a clutch 3 from Floyd, and some solid defense by Moore. Bynum going out with injury forced everyone to step up, and the team uniformly answered the call.

Today’s win over a desperate St. John’s team wasn’t pretty, but they summoned enough to advance to 6-0.

Gotta hope Bynum gets back to full strength. Breed is a very capable stand-in, but Pierre as the third guard is not ideal. The kid has talent, but is erratic and a defensive liability — not his fault, but he’s just not ready.
What are they saying about Bynum's injury? That could cost them a couple games.
 

CouchsideSteve

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On the road at a very talented Creighton team. Bynum’s injury hasn’t healed, so he’s out; Floyd and Pierre are also out (COVID/illness).

Almost a house money game. May need to play Moore at the 4 to keep everyone fresh in a short rotation. Alyn Breed will be playing 38-40 minutes.

Let’s see.
 

CouchsideSteve

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Dropped the game at Creighton, though the fight was admirable — down 16 at one point in the second half, clawing back to make it a close game at the U4 timeout. Similar story on the road against Marquette: The offense really lacks fluidity without Bynum, so they battled valiantly and came up short.

The losses drop PC to 6-2 in conference play. Interestingly, this is one of the most advanced metrics-friendly teams under Cooley. Hovering around 30 in the KenPom ratings. It’s an elite rebounding team that shoots well enough to keep pace with high end offenses, when healthy. The team defends the 3 point line extremely well, holding conference opponents to 25% shooting, which has been a hallmark under Cooley. The major flaw is the turnover battle: Making way too many, forcing too few. It’s pretty simple: Ball-handling is weak without Bynum, and back-court defense is well below average even with Bynum (Locke and Pierre are under-sized turnstiles). Corey Floyd, Jr. is getting more time and I’d like to see more lineups with him playing alongside Breed to shore up the D.

I’ll be at the AMP today for the tilt with DePaul. Expecting a hyped atmosphere and a double-digit W.
 

Mloaf71

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Good summary and spot on. Rumor is Bynum back Wednesday or next weekend.

This is a huge stretch if they want to repeat as regular season champs. Marquette @ Seton Hall today, X is at UConn and Creighton this week, while the Friars have DePaul, Butler, Nova the next week before going to X.
 

Mloaf71

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Great to see them turn it on after that slow start. It’s unfortunate Seton Hall and UConn couldn’t help us out taking down Marquette and Creighton this week.
 

CouchsideSteve

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The wins Saturday over DePaul and last night over Butler highlight what’s different about the Friars of the past two seasons — they handle the games they’re supposed to without a lot of drama.

Providence will be favored in a visit to Villanova on Sunday, which is a weird thing to type. Important game to keep pace in the Big East title race.
 

Mloaf71

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Another nice win. Great to see Bynum get going in the 2nd half.

Massive game Wednesday!
 

CouchsideSteve

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Tough, gutsy win at Nova.

We’re also very lucky that Nova handed one of the ten best jobs in the sport to a guy who struggled at Fordham last year. Obviously it was Moore’s first game off the Achilles tear, but Neptune now has 3 of 5 starters from a Final Four team, plus a 5-star recruit in Whitmore. And he’s turned that Ferrari into DePaul.

The whistle was pretty even. We had open looks off every timeout. Jay Wright isn’t walking through that door.
 

HomeRunBaker

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Another nice win. Great to see Bynum get going in the 2nd half.

Massive game Wednesday!
What a difference Bynum makes. With him 100% this is a Sweet Sixteen-caliber team…..and those teams are just two wins from something special.
 

Mloaf71

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What a difference Bynum makes. With him 100% this is a Sweet Sixteen-caliber team…..and those teams are just two wins from something special.
If they could somehow get the Albany/MSG path that would be something else.
 

Mloaf71

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That first 15 mins was rough, but as always these guys fight back. I thought the OT 3 was going down.

Should have 2 relatively easy games, followed by 3 that will determine whether PC has a shot At the regular season title and potentially a protected seed in the NCAAs or not.
 

CouchsideSteve

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The Xavier game felt like playing with house money until the news broke that Zach Fremantle would be out — at that point I was hoping to see a win. Hard to fault how the kids played, though. Really spirited effort. Ultimately, their best player (Hopkins) had an off night and the shooting was ice cold in the first half. Hard to overcome those two headwinds against a still-very-good team on the road.

Friars will be huge favorites hosting Georgetown on Wednesday, but they can’t overlook a frisky St. John’s team on Saturday at MSG. Need those games to keep pace with Xavier and Marquette.
 

HomeRunBaker

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The Xavier game felt like playing with house money until the news broke that Zach Fremantle would be out — at that point I was hoping to see a win. Hard to fault how the kids played, though. Really spirited effort. Ultimately, their best player (Hopkins) had an off night and the shooting was ice cold in the first half. Hard to overcome those two headwinds against a still-very-good team on the road.

Friars will be huge favorites hosting Georgetown on Wednesday, but they can’t overlook a frisky St. John’s team on Saturday at MSG. Need those games to keep pace with Xavier and Marquette.
Georgetown can not be overlooked either as that team can put on some points in a hurry. Also of note, they have covered the 1H pointspread, mostly by a lot, in something like 10-12 straight games. In other words, don’t expect the Hoyas to roll over despite their conference record. This is a dangerous team.
 

pdaj

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At 11 AM, I almost posted to communicate something to the extent that, "St John's on the road concerns me." After a 14-5 start, I'm even more concerned. This game is going to be a battle.