Providence is 5-2 on the season, with the season best defined to date as “Status Quo”. There have been no surprise wins and no bad losses. With 4 games remaining in out of conference, with 3 of those games likely having Providence favored by double digits, Providence has a chance to enter Big East play at a respectable 8-3. Steal a win against TCU on the road to get to 9-2, and they honestly may be ahead of schedule relative to expectations. 8-3 or 9-2 still puts PC on the right path to attain an NCAA tournament bid.
That isn’t to say it’s been an easy road thus far. Every win seems to be a struggle, and the team is still finding their footing. Rotations are still a bit all over the place, but the past two games have provided some more clarity on where this team is headed.
Below, we break down how Providence went about securing the victory against Columbia and what we can expect from this team moving forward. I’ll also give my opinion on where I think this team should head in terms of personnel on the court as well.
- Pierre will be getting “starter-like” minutes moving forward – Bynum is in a bit of funk relative to preseason expectations (which may or may not be fair to Jared), so it is nice to see true freshman Jayden Pierre step up when he is needed. Prior to the Merrimack and Columbia game, Pierre was only getting approximately 11 minutes a game. Since the Mohegan Sun tournament, Pierre has increased his play to almost 19 minutes a game. His confidence is shining through as he attains more minutes. Pierre was tied for the team lead in scoring on a very efficient 5-8 from the field and 3-3 from deep. I’d like to see Pierre be the first guard off the bench for both Bynum and Locke, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him push for a spot in the starting line-up, especially if Locke continues to be inconsistent.
- Breed provides a spark off the bench – I have no problems admitting I am the Chairman of the Alyn Breed fan-club. I think he brings a maturity to the court to a team that desperately needs that, and, for better or worse, you know you are going to get a strong defensive guard that won’t shoot himself (and his team) in the foot with turnovers and selfish play. Those type of players may not fill up the stat sheet, but they are invaluable to a program looking to find its footing. Breed will never lead a team in scoring, but he doesn’t expect to. He knows his role and plays it well. Any offensive outputs are a surprise positive, like we saw today. Breed put in solid effort with 9 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals in just 11 minutes. I think he absolutely has a role on this team and potentially a significant one at that. Yes, I’m biased for Breed. I don’t care.
- Re-evaluating Noah Locke’s value – If it were up to me, I’d be pushing for Breed and Pierre to eat into Locke’s minutes until he shows he can be a sharpshooter from deep. Is asking for 35%+ from deep too much? I don’t think so. In 22 minutes against Columbia, Locke went 3-10 and 3-9 from deep. The concerning thing is I’m not sure what else he is bringing to the court if he isn’t accumulating points. In those 22 minutes, he had 1 rebound, no assists, and one turnover. The optimal backcourt line-up, in my opinion, is rolling with Breed, Pierre, and Bynum with Locke subbing in for all 3. He can be a microwave option off the bench. He can re-earn a starting spot once he is more consistent from 3.
- Frontcourt Minutes Remain a Mystery – Croswell is the stalwart in the line-up with no question that our frontcourt will go only as far as Ed will take us. The minutes behind Croswell are still up for grabs. Moore is first man off bench and played 24 minutes, putting up 8 points and 6 boards. Castro also received 15 minutes and put up 3 points and 6 boards. This may be a hot hand situation. Moore is physically developed whose ceiling is somewhat capped. Castro is a bundle of raw potential that clearly needs to put some more muscle and weight on. In an ideal world, Castro sits this year again and comes in next year ready to start at the 5. That isn’t the case though, so we’ll have to live with the growing pains of Moore and Castro off the bench.
- Providence Needs a Consistent Bynum – Bynum went for 7 points and 8 assists, but was 2-8 from the field and 0-5 from deep. Bynum deferred a fair amount today, and you can tell his confidence in shooting is somewhat lacking. Cooley needs to give Bynum a long leash because we clearly know what he is capable of (see: last year). This may be a case of Bynum finding his footing in an alpha role, and we’ll see Bynum come onto the scene in a big way come Big East play.