Providence opened up conference play with a needed road win against the pesky Seton Hall Pirates. Providence was led by the dynamic duo of Ed Croswell and Bryce Hopkins. Hopkins and Croswell accounted for 45 of 71 total points and 19 total rebounds. When Providence needed a basket, they turned to these two. Seton Hall was seemingly a one man show, with Kadary Richmond scoring at will to the tune of 28 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists on an efficient 10-16 shooting.
Below, we break down the good (and the bad) from this conference opener.
Revisiting Keys to Game
Following was the preview article to the game: https://theprovidencecrier.com/2022/12/16/pc-begins-big-east-title-defense-on-the-road-at-seton-hall/#more-5462
Seton Hall Injury Woes – This is a resume building win because of the absence of Yetna, Okudale, and Sanders. Nobody will remember in March who suited up for the Pirates. All that matters is Providence secured a road win. I anticipate Providence to be a bubble team, and these wins are needed if they want to be on the right side of the bubble.
PC Offense vs. Seton Hall Defense – Providence came in averaging 80 points a game. Seton Hall was only allowing 61 points a game. Well, they met in the middle. Providence scored below its season average by 9 points; however, they really found a groove on offense in the second half. Providence scored only 27 points in the first half, but produced 44 points in the second. They found an offensive rhythm simplifying things with Croswell and Hopkins in the low post. We’ll discuss below, but there was too much mixing and matching in the first half.
Big East Bynum – For the majority of the season, I’ve been a Bynum backer due to what he was doing as a pass first point guard. Despite his slow start on offense, Providence could lean on him to take care of the ball and set up his team for quality looks. Well, everything went wrong today for Bynum.
On 31 minutes, he put up only 2 points and 3 assists with 5 turnovers. If Bynum cannot score and cannot take care of the rock, he needs to see his playing time reduced. We can’t have a veteran PG make freshman level mistakes like we saw on the turnover at the close of the game. I’m not a sports psychologist (nor do I act as one on TV), but something is amiss with Mr. Bynum. We need him to get right because we can’t count on Croswell and Hopkins to score 40+ points night in and night out. For better or worse, this team needs to rely on Bynum to be a more consistent player.
Bench Play Leaves A Lot to be Desired – I have a feeling that we are going to be riding our starters all season long, and our expectations for bench production should be significantly tempered. Breed was the only one who scored off the bench today, totaling 6 points on 19 points. The other bench players only played 22 minutes.
Cooley gave his bench a ton of time in the first half, and it hurt the Friars. 10 Friars played in the first half, to only 7 in the second half. When Cooley is struggling, he tends to be overly eager to substitute and have a deeper rotation. I presume he is just searching for answers. Providence shortened the rotation in the second half, and it paid immediate dividends. Providence outscored Seton Hall by 13 points in the second half, and I think it is because so many players knew they were going in and out of the line-up. They could just play.
Moving forward, I want to see a 9 man rotation at most. Breed should be the first guard off the bench, followed by Pierre when we need a potential spark. Breed was praised all game for his consistency, which was spot on by Donny Marshall. Pierre needs to prove he belongs on a Big East court as a true freshman before attaining more minutes. For the frontcourt, I’d rather Castro be first off the bench over Moore. Despite his inexperience, Castro adds length and athleticism to the frontcourt, exemplified by his two blocks and steal in 6 minutes.
Carter is Mr. Defense – Carter made his claim for Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Carter totaled 3 steals and 2 blocks and played his usual pesky defense. I love everything he brings to this team.
Hopkins Emerging as THE GUY – I think the baton has been passed from Bynum to Hopkins as the alpha on this squad. Eddy Croswell will always be grit and grind personified, which is why I love him, but Hopkins seems to be taking this team under his wing. Hopkins can do a bit of everything. He can knock down the deep ball and battle down low. He’s a match-up nightmare, and Seton Hall had no answers for him all game.
Providence, now 9-3 on the season, takes on 9-3 Marquette at home Tuesday at 7 PM EST. Marquette is coming off a nice win against the confounding Creighton Bluejays. If anybody remembers last year’s epic game at The Dunk (RIP), I’m sure this one will contain a ton of fireworks.
While there are a lot of questions around this Friar squad and plenty to improve on, it’s so much easier to get back into the gym and work on these things after securing a win to open conference play. Go Friars!