What Have We Learned Heading into Big East Play: Providence Friars

Providence is 8-3 with no great wins and no terrible losses. One might say they are status quo heading into Big East play (St. Louis outcome could be argued, but I digress). With the out of conference behind us, we take the time to analyze what we have learned in these 11 games before getting into the meat grinder of the Big East.

If you recall, we rolled out a comprehensive season preview at the start of the season. You can revisit that here (https://theprovidencecrier.com/2022/10/31/the-providence-criers-2022-2023-providence-friar-preview/#more-5165).

We pick back up on some of our predictions from the preseason and detail what we’ve learned from out of conference.

Revisiting BOC Predictions

  • Hopkins leads the team in scoring = Win. Hopkins has exceeded expectations, and the expectations were quite lofty as is.
  • Croswell leads team in rebounds = To be determined. Croswell is currently trailing Hopkins in rebounds per game. This is more of an illustration of the versatility of Hopkins than any indictment on Croswell. Croswell is putting in solid work at 12 points and 7 rebounds.
  • Bynum and Hopkins Make All Conference = To be determined, but likely only correct on 50% of this prediction. More to come below on Bynum’s performance to date. Hopkins has been a revelation.
  • Devin Carter leads team in steals = Win. This was an easy one, and I can’t see anybody catching him. He is the top defender on this squad, and I’d make the case he can make a run at Big East DPOY. I’m still annoyed with the Minaya snub from last year.
  • Pierre gets 15 minutes a game and is crowned the heir apparent to Bynum = Win. Pierre is averaging 15.3 minutes a game. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then. Something that has developed of recent is that Breed may be making a push to start at guard spot alongside Pierre next year. A good development indeed.

Revisiting Crier Predictions

  • Friars play with more tempo and pace this offseason = Win. Crier nailed this. I’ve LOVED what I’ve seen in the half court set with pace and motion. Cooley seems to recognize he has the athletes to push pace the entirety of the game. The Friars are historically known for their defensive intensity and, at times, frustrating offense. Not this year, at least. They are 4th in the Big East in 80.3 points/game. For reference, the 2021-2022 Sweet 16 Friars averaged approximately 71.8 points a game. Quite a stark contrast.
  • Jared Bynum will be First Team All Big East = To be determined, but this is looking like a miss. With that said, nobody was talking about Bynum at this point last year as an even All-Conference honorable mention. There’s a whole lot of season left, and I’m hoping Bynum makes the haters eat a lot of crow.
  • Bryce Hopkins Earns All-Conference Honors = To be determined, but this is looking like a Win. Hopkins is leading the Friars in scoring and is third in Big East in rebounds.
  • Noah Locke will Finish Top-5 in Friar history in 3 pointers made in a season = To be determined, but he’s on the outside looking in. Locke has been serviceable but not really the sharpshooter we were anticipating. Hopefully, the bright lights of Big East play cause him to become a deep ball assassin.
  • Ed Croswell Records 10+ Double Doubles this Season = To be determined, but likely a miss. Croswell has two double doubles this season. Expecting 8 more when the competition rises is a tall task for Eddy Croswell.

What We’ve Learned About the Friars

1. The Friars have another season of balanced scoring – Hopkins leads the way at 14.9 points, but we have 3 scorers at 11 points a game, and six players at or above 8 points a game. Similar to last year, we have many weapons on offense. Having balanced scoring is a recipe for success in Big East play when coaches know the blueprints of their foes and can game-plan around taking away a team’s best offensive asset.

2. The Transfer Portal has Treated Cooley Kindly – Transfers can really be hit or miss. Cooley went 5 for 5 on his transfers, with 2 of the 5 transfers in Hopkins and Carter being home run additions. Hopkins leads the team in minutes, scoring and rebounds and is third in assists. Carter is second in minutes, third in points, third in rebounds, and first in steals. These two are high level Big East players who will have many Big East awards donned on them throughout the duration of their PC career.

While Moore, Floyd Jr, and Locke haven’t been met with the fanfare of the two mentioned above, they are serving a valuable role on this squad. Locke is 4th in scoring and minutes played. Moore adds a defensive dimension we haven’t had in 5+ years as a prominent shot blocker. He is the first big man off bench, averaging 18 minutes a game, and leads the team by far in blocked shots/game at 2.1 blocks/game. That ranks him 3rd in the Big East, which is even more incredible given his limited minutes. Floyd Jr. has had sparks in limited minutes, but he is going to be a rugged player in his junior and senior years. Think of those Jamie Dixon Pitt guards.

We may need to start calling Cooley “King of the Transfer Portal”.

3. Croswell is quietly stringing together a solid and impressive season. Croswell is averaging 12 points and 7 rebounds in his first year as a constant starter for the Friars. He may never put up gargantuan stats, but he has met expectations as a starting big man. Croswell has more than doubled his scoring average from last year and increased his rebounding numbers by about 3 rebounds a game.

4. Bynum may not be meeting preseason expectations, but is playing the lead point guard role very well. Bynum is averaging 9 points, 5 assists, and one turnover a game. Bynum may be the victim of unfair preseason expectations. Even if he doesn’t meet the expectations of First Team All Big East, he is fifth total in assists/game in Big East and second in assist/turnover ratio in Big East. If Friar fans recalibrate their expectations, they’d be content with the development of Bynum as a complete point guard.

5. Providence has depth, which isn’t something I felt confident about. I think most fans thought preseason that this team may have the right starting pieces, but questions around depth (especially the frontcourt) were very valid. After 11 games, I’m pleasantly impressed with the depth of this team. If Bynum or Croswell were to get hurt (knock on wood), we have suitable replacements in Moore, Breed, and Pierre. That hasn’t been the case with past squads. This team is deep.

6. Providence’s Future is Bright – I’ve always looked at this year as a bridge year between last year’s Sweet 16 run and my belief that the next few years will bring them back to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. I feel even more confident about that after the out of conference play.

We have a budding star in Bryce Hopkins, an All-Conference player in Devin Carter, and heir apparent to Jared Bynum in Jayden Pierre. Round that out with the emergence of veteran Alyn Breed who has eligibility next year and could force himself into a starting role as a senior, and Providence is sitting comfortably for the future. This doesn’t even take into account the flashes we’ve seen from redshirt freshmen Rafael Castro and Corey Floyd Jr.

While I’m not looking past this year, I’ve always thought realistic expectations for this year were sneaking back into the NCAA tournament. I feel no differently after 11 games.

7. PC’s deep ball leaves a lot to be desired. This is a bit of a surprise given how Bynum played last year and the reputation Locke came in with. At 32.7% from deep, they are just not a real threat to beat teams from behind the arc. As has been in years past, Providence is more likely to lose games from behind the arc than win them.

8. PC’s rebounding was my biggest concern. It appears it may actually be a strength. I have a weird suspicion that these numbers may be fool’s gold due to the quality (or lack there of) of opponents, but the fact that they are 3rd in the Big East in rebounds/game at 39.5 rebounds is shocking to me. I thought they’d be exposed all year on the glass. Hopkins has been an amazing surprise, with Croswell being his usual effective garbage man on the glass. Let’s table this one until season’s end.

2 thoughts on “What Have We Learned Heading into Big East Play: Providence Friars”

  1. Cooley seems to be experimenting with “big ball.” He has the players for this—-remains to be seen.

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