Team: Providence Friars
2015-16 Record: 24-11, 10-8 in the Big East, 0-2 against Marquette
2015-16 Big East Finish: Tied for fourth
Final 2015-16 KenPom Ranking: #44
Postseason: Lost to #1 seed North Carolina in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament
Key Departures: Kris Dunn (16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists); Ben Bentil (21.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists)
Key Returners: Rodney Bullock (11.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.3 blocks); Kyron Cartwright (5.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists); Jalen Lindsey (7.0 points, 4.4 rebounds)
Key Additions: Alpha Diallo (6’7” SF, #117 247 Composite); Maliek White (6’2”, 170 lb PG, #128 247 Composite); Emmitt Holt (6’7”, 230 lb. forward; JUCO transfer; 11.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks for Indian Hills CC; former Indiana player that hit his teammate with a car while both guys were intoxicated)
Coach: Ed Cooley, in his sixth season (195-136 overall, 103-67 with Providence)
Outlook: Well, it’s time to see what Ed Cooley’s got in his bag of tricks.
When he took the Providence job in 2011, Cooley inherited Vincent Council and Bryce Cotton from the previous administration and then immediately brought in LaDontae Henton. The following year, Kris Dunn was a freshman, and two years ago he signed up Ben Bentil. These guys have combined to propel the Friars to a Big East tournament title and three straight NCAA tournament appearances. This was the first three year tourney run by the Friars since 1972-74 and their first appearance at all since 2004.
Those guys are also all gone now.
Maybe for a different team that wouldn’t be that big of a deal. I think it might be a massive deal for a Cooley-run Providence team. Under Cooley, the Friars have always had at least two players that played more than 32 minutes per game. In fact, it’s only been two once, in 2014-15, with the other four years split evenly between three and four. There’s been random guys to flit in and out of that list, but there’s been at least two of the guys I mentioned above every single year under Ed Cooley playing at least 32 minutes a game.
The good news, I suppose, is that there will be a little bit of continuity going forward, as Rodney Bullock played 32.8 mpg last season. Maybe Bullock becomes a bridge to new guys who will line up and play heavy minutes for Ed Cooley, but for now, the Friars head into 2016-17 with a lot of questions to be answered and a lot of minutes from Dunn and Bentil that need to be filled.
The biggest question is probably how to replace Kris Dunn, the #5 pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Dunn inherited the mantle of go-to-guard at Providence from Bryce Cotton, and between those two guys running the show in Rhode Island, Ed Cooley has always had a highly efficient offense. The answer is probably Kyron Cartwright, who ended up #80 in the country in assist rate last season. At 5’11” and 185 lbs., he’s almost assuredly never going to turn into the rebounder that Dunn was. While he’s shown a bit of outside shooting proficiency (36% this past season), Cartwright’s also probably never going to be able to finish at the rim like Dunn, either. Even though Ben Bentil was the Friars’ leading scorer last year, it’s going to be rough sledding to find someone - or to be truthful, someones - to provide the lift that Kris Dunn did during his time in Providence.