How One Offseason Has Laid the Groundwork for a Final Four Run

Everybody has heard the slight murmurs in the background:

“This was a fluke season by Providence”

“Flash in the pan”

“Everybody is gone. I hope Friar fans enjoyed this lucky run”

Let everybody enjoy making these comments. With what Ed Cooley did this past season and into the offseason, the trajectory of this program has been completely altered. Providence is about to enter into a level of consistency and performance we have not yet seen under Ed Cooley, and I cannot wait.

In one offseason, Cooley has singlehandedly raised the ceiling of the Providence program for years to come. With the commitments Coach Cooley has landed this offseason, the Sweet 16 will be the norm moving forward, not the outlier. Call me a prisoner of the moment if you wish, I do not mind. If you look at what Cooley put together this offseason, this Friar squad is going to be perennial Big East contenders and a consistent Top 25 squad moving forward.

We analyze below how the 5 transfers impact the future of the Providence basketball program.

Immediate Term – 2022 – 2023 Season

Yes, I am aware 5 starters are gone from last year’s Sweet 16 team. I am not discounting how massive of a loss that is. Expecting another Sweet 16 run with those personnel losses is probably setting unrealistic expectations on the shoulders of the Friar players and staff. If you had to ask me today to make a guess on season outcome next year (without the benefit of seeing how the team looks preseason), I’d expect the 2022-2023 Friar squad to be a team that squeaks into the NCAA tournament. Despite the personnel losses, Cooley has landed 5 impact transfers that not only will keep the Friars afloat, but also make them a likely NCAA tournament team again next season.

Cooley recognized that he needed some veteran players alongside the returning producers in Bynum and Croswell. Insert Clifton Moore and Noah Locke. Those two have been in college for four years and understand the rigors of high level basketball. Locke will walk in Day 1 ready to replace the output of A.J. Reeves. Locke is a career 10 point per game scorer and expecting him to replace the production of Reeves is very realistic. If anything, he should exceed those expectations. Moore, at worst, will fill the Croswell role from last year. At best, he pairs nicely with Croswell in the frontcourt and is the rim protecting big alongside the big bodied, physical Croswell.

Now, let us revisit the returning players in Croswell and Bynum. Croswell, at times last year, outperformed Nate Watson, and it would not be surprising to see him put up a stat line of 12 and 9 this upcoming year. An All Big-East type season is not out of the realm of possibility for Big Ed. I know most Friar fans were pleasantly surprised with Croswell this past year and are very bullish on him heading into this season. Another offseason of training and S&C work should do wonders.

By the end of last year, Bynum was the best offensive player on the Friars, securing Second Team All-Big East honors without even being a starter. He singlehandedly willed them to a home victory against Xavier and will be battling Posh Alexander and Andrew Nembhard for title as best point guard in the Big East this upcoming season. I think it is fair to expect Bynum to average something like 15 and 5 next year, up from 12 and 4.

Don’t let the departure of 5 starters fool you into thinking this team doesn’t have returning talent. The composition of the starting line-up will certainly look different than last year, but the cupboard is far from bare. In analyzing the upcoming three seasons, I honestly believe this season will be the “low point” of the next 3 years. The difference being that the low-point is an NCAA tournament bid and first weekend exit, not a .500 season. After this season, the floor for a season has been exponentially raised. The standard has been set.

Long Term – Future Seasons

The real reason I am so bullish on the future of the Providence program is because of the landing of transfers that have multiple years of eligibility. While landing Locke and Moore are fantastic for the immediate term, I look at one-year players as stop gaps for holes on the roster. Everybody looks at last year as a team built by the transfer portal, which is true in theory, but Durham and Minaya were the only new faces to the 2021-2022 squad. Horchler, Croswell, and Bynum had already been with the Friars for a year heading into last season. While Minaya and Durham were superb last year, it isn’t easy to join a team for one year and excel in their roles like they did. That should be the anomaly rather than the norm.

With the new rules of the transfer portal, I love Cooley diversifying who he landed with veteran one-year players and “younger” players with multiple years left to play in college.

Here is why I am so excited about the future:

First off, all three of the multi-year transfers were highly ranked out of high school. Floyd Jr. and Carter were Top 100 players, while Hopkins was a Top 50 player. For what it is worth, if Floyd Jr. didn’t reclassify, I’d bet he would be a Top 50 player in the 2022 class. Star rankings do matter and are generally a good indicator of team performance. Stacking talent is always a good thing.

Secondly, each of the multi-year transfers have 3 years remaining, with Floyd Jr. having 4 years. By the time these kids are in their second and third year in the program, I anticipate they will each be making a huge impact on the court for the Friars. They will also be an old team with talent and experience, a necessity come tournament time.

Lastly, by landing players with multiple years of eligibility left, it ensures there aren’t many gaping holes on the roster moving ahead. The majority of your starting line-up is solidified, and Cooley can be more selective with who he targets out of high school and in the transfer portal. If you anticipate that these three transfers will be starting in 2023 and beyond, that leaves two other starting spots open. The lead guard spot should be Pierre’s to lose (another 4 star for what it is worth), while the 5 spot is the only lingering missing piece on the roster. It has yet to be determined where Castro fits into the mix, but early word has been promising. We know that Cooley will likely target a transfer big and highly rated big out of high school next offseason.

I state all this because I believe these individual puzzle pieces will all fit together to lead to the Friars making a serious run in the postseason in 2024 and 2025. Given the way the roster is shaping up, don’t be surprised if the Friars are Sweet 16 bound in 2024 and Final Four bound in 2025.

That is MY Crier Prophecy.

Here is an early glimpse of what I envision the future starting line-ups to look like for the Providence Friars.

2023 – 2024

Guard – Sophomore Pierre (or Graduate Bynum)

Guard – Junior Carter (or Senior Breed)

Guard – Redshirt Sophomore Floyd Jr.

Forward – Junior Hopkins

Center – Redshirt Sophomore Castro

2024 – 2025

Guard – Junior Pierre

Guard – Senior Carter (or Graduate Breed)

Guard – Redshirt Junior Floyd

Forward – Senior Hopkins

Center – Redshirt Junior Castro

Recruiting Impact

The Big East Title and Sweet 16 run were the catalysts to landing a plethora of blue chip transfer recruits. By making that run, Cooley made it clear that you can win on a national stage at Providence.

After landing these 4 star, nationally regarded transfer recruits, high schoolers are beginning to take notice of what is going on in Friartown. Taylor Bowen, the borderline 5 star recruit in the Class of 2023, has Providence in his short list of schools. Ugonna Kingsley, a Top 4 star 100 big man, is heavily considering the Friars as well.

Seeing other blue chip recruits like Floyd Jr. and Bryce Hopkins enroll sends a message that top tier players want to play at Providence. This has a waterfall effect with all other instant impact recruits. Good players want to play with good players. While Cooley must still prioritize culture over talent, he can now be more selective with culture fits that are also Top 100 type players.

Summary

In summary, this past season and this current offseason is going to do wonders moving ahead. College transfers want to play for Cooley and blue-chip high schoolers are seeing that Providence is now a destination spot. The Cooley 2.0 era is here, and I hope the Friar fans are ready for it. This past season was just the start.

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