Providence: 2011-12 Post-MortemPosted by mlemaire on April 19th, 2012
Our apologies for
plagiarizing borrowing the ideas of our colleagues over at the Pac-12 microsite, but we liked their post-mortem team breakdowns so much that we decided to replicate them with our conference. So over the course of the next two weeks, we will break down each team’s season, starting from the bottom of the conference standings. Next up is Providence.
What Went Wrong
If you were one of the few dreamers who thought Providence could make a run to the NCAA Tournament this season, then you probably thought a lot went wrong. But if you were realistic about new coach Ed Cooley‘s first season in charge of the Friars, then you probably weren’t too disappointed in the way the season went. Basically the Friars cruised through a relatively easy out-of-conference schedule before being exposed by the better teams in the Big East.
It didn’t help that Kadeem Batts was suspended for the first semester of the season and there were grumblings about discontent in the locker room which led to a number of key transfers. On the court, the defense was the primary issue as the team finished 212th in defensive efficiency and 13th in the conference in scoring defense. Offensively the team had plenty of weapons, but they didn’t shoot it very much from behind the three-point arc and they were much too inconsistent, especially against better defensive teams.
What Went Right
Although perception and opinion can change quickly in college basketball, Cooley’s hiring brought a lot of energy and optimism for a program lacking both after the Keno Davis era. Snagging big man LaDontae Henton after arriving at Providence proved to be an excellent move as the freshman was a consistent double-double threat and should only get better next season. Point guard Vincent Council missed one game for undisclosed reasons but for most of the season he was one of if not the best point guard in the Big East, and the development of sophomore wings Bryce Cotton and Gerard Coleman should give the Friar faithful plenty to look forward to, especially considering how loaded the backcourt will be next season. Batts was only okay after his return from suspension, but he and rising sophomore Brice Kofane give the team some interior depth heading into next season as well.
By the end of the season, Henton might have surpassed Council’s as the team’s most consistent weapon, but Council still gets the nod here just because of his distributing abilities and his steady hand running a very young team for the entire season. The junior improved his shooting percentage — although 39.1% from the field is nothing to write home about — his assist totals, and his scoring average while playing nearly every minute of every game of the season.
His shot selection left a lot to be desired and he still had the tendency to force the issue when he could have patiently waited for a better scoring chance, but there is no denying his all-around talent. The onus will be on Council next season because there will be a lot of talent on the Providence roster and as a senior, Council will be counted on for leadership whether he likes it or not. If he can show a commitment to defense, take some better shots, and take better care of the basketball, he will be a legitimate NBA prospect this time next year and easily one of the best players in the conference.
The rumors of unhappiness in the locker room manifested once the season ended as Coleman is confirmed to be transferring, and Bilal Dixon and Ron Giplaye have been said to be transferring since before the season ended. The good news is that things could have been much worse. Cotton almost transferred before announcing he would stay, and Council toyed with the idea of going pro before deciding to come back for his senior season.
As for the players actually leaving, Giplaye and Dixon were inconsistent big men whose departures will only affect the depth of the frontcourt. But news that Coleman is transferring hits a little bit harder. Yes, Coleman’s departure opens up more playing time for the heralded recruiting class coming onto campus next season, but Coleman was big and strong enough to play on the wing and looked poised for a big year next season. He would have allowed Cooley to play a three-guard lineup without having to really worry where the rebounding, physicality, and defense would come from. Now he is gone and he will be missed.
Players Coming In
If you follow college basketball, then you have undoubtedly heard at least some of the heaps of praise that have been thrown Cooley’s way thanks to his recruiting efforts. The four-man class is considered one of the best in the country and the two headliners, point guard Kris Dunn and shooting guard Ricardo Ledo, will be expected to make immediate impacts next season. Both five-star prospects, Ledo has been a known quantity for some time and will be a dangerous scorer from Day One. Dunn caught the attention of scouts in the summer before his senior season and impressed with his all-around game and explosive athletic ability.
The other two recruits, Ian Baker and Joshua Fortune, are excellent prospects in their own right, but they will struggle to find playing time in what will be a crowded backcourt. The only other incoming player is former four-star prospect and Arizona freshman Sidiki Johnson. Johnson ran into some academic issues in the desert and transferred out of the program in December. The New York native moved closer to home so he will be eligible in the middle of next season. Assuming he is ready to play, he gives the Friars a versatile scorer in the frontcourt and another wide body to use in a physical conference.
D+. They weren’t as bad as DePaul, so they earned the plus mark on the end of their D grade. The Friars lost four conference games by three points or less and were competitive in even more than that. Cooley brought his trademark energy and enthusiasm, and despite their struggles this season, there is a lot of optimism running through Rhode Island right now. It will be interesting to see how the elite recruiting class meshes with each other and the current players, but the best case scenario may have the Friars competing for a spot in the NCAA Tournament as soon as next season.