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2021-22 Big East Women’s Basketball Team Preview: Providence Friars

Things did not go well in Friartown last season, and they’re losing about half their offense.

Big East Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Team: Providence Friars

2020-21 Record: 7-14, 4-10 Big East

2020-21 Big East Finish: Seventh, two games behind Creighton in the win column and three behind them in the loss column.

Final 2020-21 Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #236

Postseason? Only two games in the Big East tournament before being bounced by #2 seeded Marquette in the quarterfinals.

Key Departures: The Friars have lost five players from last season’s roster, and all five were regular contributors. Chanell Williams and Kyra Spiwak go to the front of the line here as they were two of the three women to start all 21 games last season for PC. The two are somewhat close in terms of contributions with Williams averaging 9.0 points, 3.4 rebounds, and a team high 3.0 assists per game and Spiwak adding 11.0/1.9/1.6 per game.

Olivia Orlando started in all 20 of the games that she appeared in and played over 32 minutes per game. She didn’t score much at just 3.4 per game, but she was #2 on the roster in rebounds at 6.3 per contest, and her 2.6 assists per game were a welcome addition. Andrea Cooper gave the Friars nearly 18 minutes a night while appearing in all 21 games and starting twice although her stats (2.8 points, 2.2 rebounds) don’t look like she was adding all that much. Finally, there’s Sophia Widmeyer who came off the bench for 11 minutes a game in all 21 contests last season. That’s about all that’s worth mentioning for the 5’10” Canadian.

Key Returners: We have to start with leading scorer and rebounder Mary Baskerville. 12.7 points and 6.5 rebounds topped the charts for both categories a season ago, and if she could play more than 25 minutes a night, she would have been much further up the chain there. Alyssa Geary is the third woman who started every game last season, and the 6’4” forward helped out to the tune of 11.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game.

The Friars bring back two every night players from their bench corps as well. Grace Efosa-Aguebor played 15 minutes a night off the bench last season, while Lauren Sampson added 10.5 per game. The two women combined for just over five points and three rebounds a game, so they were more “we’re providing rest for everyone else” type players than really anything else.

Key Additions: Janai Crooms is on her fourth season of college hoops after starting with two years at Ohio State and spending last season at Michigan State. The 5’10” Rhode Island native has been going backwards in terms of production since her freshman year where she averaged 8.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.2 assists for the Buckeyes. She appeared in 22 games for the Spartans last season and went for 5.1 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 3.0 assists.

Andreana Wrister is using her bonus year of eligibility to play for the Friars after spending her first four seasons at Tennessee State in the Ohio Valley Conference. The 5’7” guard averaged 14.5 points in her first year as a fulltime starter last season and added 2.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists as well.

In addition to those two, Providence features six freshmen on their roster. Three of them get a mention from Blue Star Basketball, but none of the three are top 200 prospects. I’ll mention Emily Archibald, one of the three non-mentioned prospects, because when you’re a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in your state, even if that state is Maine, then you might be pretty good at this whole basketball thing. What the heck, I’ll give a nod to Meghan Huerter as well because the 5’11” guard is the little sister of Atlanta Hawks guard/forward Kevin Huerter.

Coach: Jim Crowley, entering his fifth season in charge at Providence and 21st on a Division 1 sideline. He has a 61-88 record with the Friars and 319-319 overall.

Outlook: Providence was kind of “meh” at best last season, and that’s if you look at finishing 7th out of 11 teams as “middle of the pack” instead of looking at 4-10 in the win/loss columns as bad. It’s been two straight “meh” at best seasons for the Friars ever since Jim Crowley gave them their first winning season in nine years when they went 19-16 overall in 2018-19. He had a pretty good run for 16 years at St. Bonaventure.... but it hasn’t quite come together in Friartown yet.

Now, this year, for the second straight season, Providence is kind of hitting the reset button. That’s not ideal. They have five women transfer out inbetween the end of 2019-20 and the start of last season and things did not go well last year. Now PC is losing 48% of their scoring, 46% of their rebounding, and a whopping 63% of their assists. They have no reliable outside shooting threats returning with little used Julia Fabozzi’s 5-for-16 (31.3%) coming in as the best returning shooting percentage on the entire team.

At least they have Mary Baskerville for another year. The 6’3” Connecticut native is a double-digit threat every time she steps on the floor.... it’s just a question of whether or not she stays on the floor. Her Hoop Stats says that she has had minimums of 19 points and 11 rebounds per 40 minutes during her career at Providence, but last year was her highest minutes average at 24.3 per game. Baskerville cracked 30 minutes in a game just five times last season, and broke 25 minutes just eight times out of 20 appearances. Yes, she has an absolutely terrible foul rate, nearly falling into the bottom 25% in the country in that department, so part of Providence’s problem is that they just can not keep her on the floor due to foul trouble. Then again, she only have five games where she ended up with four or five fouls last season, so part of this isn’t Baskerville’s fault and instead lands on the coaching staff for just not maxing out what certainly looks like their best player.

Can PC figure out a way to get 30 minutes a night from Baskerville? Can they find some outside shooting to space the floor and stop defenses from collapsing on the interior and thus creating problems for Baskerville when it comes to fouls from rebound attempts? Can they pick an end of the floor to establish an identity behind for this season... or even just a specific item on the floor like rebounding or scoring off the pass?

In other words: Can they just manufacture wins and get back to a winning record again?