On senior day, the Providence team carried over the issues of recent into the Seton Hall game and were thoroughly outplayed by an undermanned Seton Hall Pirate team. Seton Hall decisively beat the Friars 82-58. What is worse than the shellacking is that Providence seemed completely content with letting the Pirates dominate in all facets of the game. There was little to no energy or life in the game besides a minor spurt in the second half that was quickly put out by the Pirates.
This game was objectively the worst showing from a Providence team this year. They are uncharacteristically limping into postseason play when you want them playing their best.
I would say that preseason expectations for this Friar team were realistic. Most Friar fans thought this team would take some time to gel and inevitably stumble early while they got used to playing with each other (they replaced five starters!), but that they would begin to click in February and March in time for the Big East Tournament. That timeline was surprisingly sped up, as PC hit an earlier than expected groove in December and January. It now appears this team is playing worse as they play more with each other. It’s incredibly bizarre and downright confusing, to be honest. I know a lot of folks inside and outside the program are left scratching their heads as to how the Friars have arrived at this point.
Traditionally, Ed Cooley’s teams begin to peak in February as they make a push in the Big East Tournament, but this iteration of the Friars are significantly regressing from where they were early in the year. There are a lot of red flags right now.
We break down below what went wrong in this one and try to come up with ideas on how to right the wrongs of this Friar squad.
Defensive Woes Continue – Seton Hall averages 68 points/game and was without their leading scorer in Kadary Richmond. Even without Richmond, Seton Hall scored with absolute ease to the tune of 82 points. There was no resistance from the defense of the Friars. Seton Hall pick and rolled Providence to death, and the lack of communication on the defensive end by the Friars led to continual easy buckets.
It is not that these teams are having fluky offensive games. The Friars are putting up little to no resistance on the defensive end, which allows these teams to have offensive field days. Easy line drives to the hoop, uncontested lay-ups, missed box-outs leading to offensive rebounds, miscommunication leading to open men. The list goes on.
These are all things that are transpiring, and that is shocking. Cooley’s teams don’t do this. The usual warts on Cooley’s teams are that they play ugly and have trouble scoring, but defense keeps them in every game. This Friar team can score the ball, sure, but they haven’t been able to stop anybody in weeks.
Team Looks Checked Out – The last time I’ve seen a team look this defeated and disinterested in basketball was when Providence was bounced from the first round of the Big East Tournament by DePaul in David Duke Jr.’s last year as a Friar. That team all year would get hit in the mouth and not fight back. More importantly, they didn’t seem to care about getting run off the court. They were content with being pushed around. That is something that, until recent, we haven’t seen again.
Today, Seton Hall walked into the AMP with a toughness, swagger, and desire to punk Providence physically and emotionally. Besides Croswell and Carter, Providence was willing to accept a physical beat down by the Pirates. The Seton Hall team jawed the entire game, and Providence didn’t seem to care. That’s more concerning than any win or loss. They appeared completely content with losing.
Hopkins Hitting a Wall? Hopkins had another game to forget, scoring 4 points on 2-9 shooting with 4 turnovers. In the last 3 games prior to this one, Bryce has gone 4-11, 3-5, and 4-10. We have to remember all the good that Bryce has done this season. You don’t become an All Conference player by accident. Hopkins is a likely first rounder whenever he decides to leave school. He is learning to be a leader and that doesn’t come naturally. All Providence fans may have been a bit jaded with the quick conference start and dominance Bryce showed. I know I was.
It’s also fair to say the amount of minutes and time he has played appears to be taking a toll on him. Recall that this is really his first time playing real collegiate basketball. Add to that that he is the go-to player on Providence, and I’m sure it is emotionally and physically draining.
This extended time off before the Big East Tournament to rest and recover may be good for Bryce and the Friar team. A quarterfinal game against Connecticut, where he’s had a lot of success in both times facing them, may be what he needs to get his mojo back. The Friars are going nowhere without Hopkins leading the way.
Line-Up Changes on the Horizon? Cooley insinuated postgame that changes may be coming ahead of postseason play. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Breed get the start moving forward, with Bynum going back to his familiar role as sixth man.
I believe Cooley senses a change is needed because of the way in which this team is carrying themselves on the court. This team, as a whole, is playing without joy. They don’t appear to be having fun. Having a new player in the starting line-up like a Breed, Pierre, or Floyd may provide the jolt that this team needs, and it may ease the pressure off Bynum. He’s shown to be remarkable in the sixth man role.
Changes need to be made because this version of the Friars is stale and doesn’t possess the ability to make a run in March. That’s a tough pill to swallow as you enter the most important part of the year.