My favorite joke about the Friars the past few seasons is when I would refer to them as "Provience" since they had no "D" and were one of the worst defensive teams in the country. First-year head coach Ed Cooley is ready to change that fact. He recently stated in an interview with ESPN's Andy Katz that his No. 1 goal is to "focus on fundamentals defensively."
Since the Friars lose Marshon Brooks, who was the 25th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, defense is a wise place to start. Providence finished 310th in Division I, allowing more than 75 points per game with opponents shooting nearly 50 percent from the field.
Replacing Brooks' offensive output will be a team effort. Starting point guard Vincent Council was second on the team in scoring last season but also averaged just fewer than six assists per game. He will likely be joined on the wing by sophomores Gerard Coleman and Bryce Cotton. Coleman had a productive freshman campaign, while Cotton was a key contributor off the bench. Neither guy shot the ball particularly well last season which leaves the Friars without a dangerous sharpshooting threat.
Depth will be an issue for Cooley on the perimeter especially since Duke Mondy and Dre Evans were dismissed from the program during the offseason. Freshman Kiwi Gardner (5-8) is known for his quickness and should allow Council to play off the ball some. Fellow newcomer LeDontae Hinton is the only other wing player under scholarship though he will likely be an energy player off the bench rather than an additional scorer.
Up front, Providence does return its starting frontcourt from last season. Kadeem Betts and Bilal Dixon bring some beef inside, but are not the most athletic or skilled post players. Seldom used a year ago, sophomores Ron Giplaye and Lee Goldsbrough do not provide much size but will compete for minutes off the bench along with redshirt freshman Brice Kofane.
With no seniors on the roster and only 10 scholarship players, Cooley will have to try to keep his head above water in what figures to be another season filled with struggles at Providence.
Player to Watch: Gerard Coleman, SG
The 6-4 shooting guard was one of the better freshmen in the Big East last season despite struggling with his jump shot for most of the year. Coleman was a staple in Providence's four-guard lineup that they often put on the floor last season. Cooley's commitment to defense should mean the Friars will play more of a traditional lineup with more size protecting the rim. Therefore, Coleman will have to sharpen up his half-court game and become a more consistent outside shooter. He by no means will be able to replace what Brooks brought to the team a year ago, but will need to help be part of the team effort to pick up the scoring left behind by Brooks.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/25, 26 vs. Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Rice, Western Carolina, Northern Colorado, Southern U., Florida A&M (South Padre Island Invitational)