I don’t know if I’ve ever been as excited for a start of a Providence basketball season as I am this one. Every new season is the start of a new chapter in the book that is Friar Basketball; however, very rarely has a team and program been so night and day from one year to the next. It is this level of unknown which has captured my attention.
The combination of my high expectations for this team as well as all the “new” components to the program make this season riveting on multiple levels. We have a new coach in Kim English after a decade with Ed Cooley, and English promises to play a vastly different play style that we haven’t seen before.
We have Ed Cooley remaining IN the Big East. By doing so, he is Enemy #1, and Georgetown has surpassed UConn as Providence’s new arch nemesis.
Providence has a handful of new transfers in Oduro, Gaines, and Fernandez that will be counted on to fill key roles in the Friar rotation. Lastly, the Friars have added several freshmen in Santoro, DeLaurier, Barron, and Dual who will contribute in varying degrees.
I break down below what I’m looking forward to seeing Monday against Columbia.
- The New (And Improved?) Bryce Hopkins – Hopkins lost some weight heading into this season, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this physical transformation carries over to this season. Will he be quicker and more explosive while still maintaining the strength he showed off last year? Can he somehow improve upon the All-Conference showing from last year? If Hopkins can take his game up a level from what it was last year, the Friars will have an All-American on their roster. That’s exciting.
- Garwey. Dual. – The blue chip freshman came in with lofty expectations, and those expectations have only heightened through the summer and fall. Here are a few questions I have: Will Dual start Day 1? Is he a defensive menace or will he show enough offense to be a truly complete player? How does he play alongside Pierre? Does he have a consistent jump shot? There are so many unknowns around Dual, and I have a feeling the narrative on Dual will evolve as the year progresses. If Dual is even close to the version of the player that is being discussed as a sleeper one-and-done, there will be a lot of folks questioning why they slept on the Friars.
- Oduro’s Role in the Offense – Josh Oduro is one of the least talked about transfers in the nation. The two time First Team All A-10 Center is expected to replace Ed Croswell as the starting 5 man. Josh was the focal point of the George Mason offense, and it will be very interesting to see how he plays alongside Hopkins and Carter. Being a role player, rather than the default offensive option, may do wonders long term for Oduro and Providence, as he won’t get burnt out carrying the offensive load for his team. Providence needs him to stay healthy.
- Filling in the Pieces of the Starting Line-Up – We know Hopkins, Carter, and Oduro are locked in as starters. Who are the other two starters? I believe one of the two will be Pierre, but the last spot is likely going to be constantly changing depending on the opposition. My guess for Game 1 will be Ticket Gaines due to his seniority and a nod from English to him due to his continued loyalty. With all that said, I expect Gaines, Floyd Jr, Dual, and Pierre each to average 20 minutes a game.
- Kim English’s Style of Play – I cannot wait to see an offensive style of play that doesn’t cause me physical and mental pain. Ed Cooley was the master end of game coach, and his teams outperformed their raw skillset (in my opinion), but I won’t miss watching his teams play offense. English promises a more free flowing, NBA style type of offense where shooters are all over the court. It will be entertaining, no doubt, but I admit I am getting flashbacks of similar promises from Keno Avis – I mean Davis. I also am concerned, as discussed on our podcast with John Rooke, that we may not have the personnel in place yet to play a 4 and out type offense where everybody on the court is a threat from the perimeter. We shall see.
- Kim English on the Sidelines – We’ve had Cooley for a decade plus, so it will be unique seeing a new guy patrol the sidelines for the Friars. I’m looking forward to overanalyzing every action, inaction, and facial expression of Kim English. Welcome to big time hoops.
- Castro in Extended Minutes – Castro is going to be counted on heavily this year, especially with the 11th hour departure of Will McNair. How does Castro hold up playing a consistent 15+ minutes a game? We may have to wait for the game against Wisconsin and the Bahamas Tournament before we really know what we have in the reserve big man. If Castro can secure rebounds, protect the rim, and not turn the ball over too frequently, I think the Friars will be okay. Please, Basketball Gods, let Oduro stay healthy all season.
Providence Preseasons Articles
Intel from Big East Media Day – https://theprovidencecrier.com/2023/10/24/2023-big-east-media-day-insights-and-intel-from-the-friars-the-big-east/
Non-Conference Prediction – https://theprovidencecrier.com/2023/08/10/bocs-way-too-early-non-conference-prediction/