There have been rumors of Noah Horchler returning to Providence, taking advantage of the “free” year the NCAA granted this past year due to COVID-19. Horchler made it official on Sunday, ensuring that Providence has one of, if not the, strongest frontcourt in the Big East. This news comes on top of Nate Watson returning to Friartown, which we wrote about extensively in the attached link (https://theprovidencecrier.com/2021/03/18/nate-watson-returns-for-year-5-thoughts-impact-to-2021-2022-friars/#more-3446).
Impact as a Player
Horchler didn’t burst onto the scene for Providence until the latter half of the season. It is clear reflecting back now that Horchler was still getting acclimated to the level of athlete and player in the Big East at the start of the season. Once he found his footing, he was one of the top 3 players on the court for Providence.
Horchler finished the season averaging approximately 7 and 6, but those numbers are deceiving. Over the last nine games of the season, Horchler averaged a shade over 11 points per game and just below 9 boards a game. He became the team’s best rebounder and arguably most consistent three point threat (more on that later) averaging 43% from 3 in the last 9 games. Horchler ended up finishing the season as the team’s best three point shooter, averaging a team high 41.9%. That is pretty remarkable when you consider he is Providence’s 6’9 4 man.
With Horchler returning, we anticipate Horchler to pick up right where he left off. I think the uncertainty of his role on the team at the start of the season showed. Once he cemented a role and place in the starting line-up, he flourished. Next year, he should be the locked in “4” starter alongside Watson in the frontcourt from the get-go.
Impact to Teammates
With Horchler in the starting line-up, I’d anticipate his minutes to go from 21 minutes a game (his average this year) to 25-30. It is reasonable to anticipate Horchler putting up a season stat-line of 12 and 7, and I think most Friar fans would be ecstatic with that output alongside Nate Watson and (hopefully) David Duke. Horchler is, at worst, the third option next year, but don’t discount him being one of the more focal points of the offense. He is a chess piece for Cooley. Not many college teams have a 6’9 forward who is their team’s best shooter, but can also drive and score in the post. Cooley can exploit the personnel of the other team and use Horchler accordingly.
Additionally, Horchler’s return does wonders for Nate Watson. Everybody knows that teams will often double Watson as soon as he gets the ball in the post. With Horchler returning, teams have to pick their poison. If you double Watson, you leave a 42% shooter open from 3 theoretically. If you stay home on Horchler and try to body Watson 1:1, Watson should be able to win that match-up with relative ease. It creates quite a dilemma for the opposing team.
Spacing was an issue this past year for the Providence program. With Horchler returning, it should open up the floor for slashers like David Duke Jr. It goes back to the point I made earlier about clogging the paint. If you can put above average three point shooters on the floor alongside Watson and Duke (Reeves and Horchler, for instance), it spaces the floor and allows for less clogged driving lanes.
Impact to the Program
Horchler’s return is really important for the future of the program for a number of reasons. One, Nichols and Gantt leaving illustrate the lack of experienced depth Providence would have at the 3 and 4 positions, where Horchler will slot in. If Noah didn’t return, a heavy role would have been thrust upon likely two of the incoming freshman in Geeter and Castro. Additionally, Cooley would have to ensure he landed an instant impact transfer to play alongside Watson. That is a risky proposition on all fronts, as neither freshman appears to be an instant impact player. Also, you never know what you are going to get with transfers.
Horchler being back gives Geeter and Castro another year to develop in the weight room and on the court. It also helps Providence stay old. The starting frontcourt will be graduate seniors. That level of experience and maturity should pay off in spades next year.
The last remaining domino to fall is Duke’s decision. If Duke returns, three of the starting five will be cemented in Duke, Watson, and Horchler, while the other two starters will have starting experience as well (two of Reeves, Bynum, Breed, Transfer X in my opinion). This will likely be the most veteran, experienced team in the Cooley era, which is a great situation to be in. The present and future is bright for Providence, all due to the return of the starting frontcourt.