Team: Providence Friars
2021-22 Record: 11-19, 6-14 Big East
2021-22 Big East Finish: Eighth, in a limbo between St. John’s and Georgetown.
Final 2021-22 Her Hoop Stats Ranking: #219 out of 356 teams.
Postseason: Their 68-55 upset loss to Georgetown in the Big East tournament’s first round brought their season to an end.
Key Departures: Just two, but they’re pretty big. Alyssa Geary started all 30 games for the Friars last season, the only woman on the roster to do that and one of just three to play in every game. She was giving them 9.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.0 assists an outing, but she was an atrocious three-point shooter last year. The other one is Mary Baskerville, who heads out of Friartown after what can only be labeled a disappointing senior season. After being a double-double threat every time she stepped on the floor, Baskerville only started in 16 of her 23 appearances and averaged 7.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
Key Returners: Providence does bring back top scorer Janai Crooms, who was PC’s only player to average more than 10 points a game last season. The fact that Crooms was only taking 12 shots a game on average and was still the only person north of 10 ppg on a team that was not playing particularly slowly tells you a lot about how things went for Providence. The 5’10” Crooms was also the leader in rebounding (7.2/game) and assists (3.5/game) so for all of the Friars’ other problems, it’s a good thing that she’s coming back.
Kylee Sheppard wasn’t that far from 10 points a game as a freshman last season, which was good enough to make her the #3 scorer and now the #2 returning scorer. 3.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game are a solid value add, as is her 35% long range shooting. 6’3” forward Olivia Olsen was doing some nice things under the hoop to the tune of 6.8 points and 5.6 rebounds, mostly off the bench. Emily Archibald probably deserved a bigger role on the team, considering the fact that she knocked in 48% of her long range attempts, but when you’re bottom third in the country in long range attempts as a team, trying to set the 6’0” then-freshman up for shots just really wasn’t in the cards even if she did start in 16 games.
Audrey Koch played in every game, and even started 16 of them and averaged over 21 minutes a night.... but that’s about the extent of her contributions (2.8 points, 2.3 rebounds). Grace Efosa-Aguebor played over 13 minutes a night once she got cleared from an injury in the 2021 Big East tournament midway through the season, but that’s right about on pace with what she did as a freshman the year before. Lauren Sampson started 11 times in 26 appearances as the Friars were clearly shuffling the cards an awful lot last season. Nariah Scott and Meghan Huerter got solid amounts of run on a regular basis, but they were not asked to do much on the floor other than be out there.
Key Additions: Providence has a triumvirate of new faces on the roster this season, and all three come from a different methodology as to how they got there. Logan Cook is a 6’1” grad transfer forward from Iowa who played in 53 career games in four seasons. Brynn Farrell is a 6’0” guard from New Jersey who played in 28 games in two seasons for Florida. She scored 80 total points in her stretch as a Gator. Finally, Kammie Ludwig is a 5’10” freshman guard from Illinois who is not even listed by Blue Star Basketball as a commitment for the Friars. Still, breaking your high school’s career scoring record is pretty neat.
I feel like I may have overstated the concept of “Key Additions” here.
Coach: Jim Crowley, entering his sixth season in charge at Providence and 22st on a Division 1 sideline. He has a 72-107 record with the Friars and 330-338 overall.
Outlook: I’m just going to say it: Things are bad.
Here is a full and total list of teams that Providence beat between January 15th and the end of the season, in chronological order:
4-15 Georgetown, but they needed overtime on the road
0-18 Butler at home
0-18 Butler on the road
And that is it. Providence went from 8-7 overall and 3-3 in the Big East after getting a seven point win over St. John’s at home..... to eight games under .500 overall and in the league as well after closing out the year with three wins in their final 15 games. They lost five straight to end the year, including dropping a 68-55 decision in the first round of the Big East tournament to that aforementioned not good Georgetown team.
They lose two of their top four scorers because, even if her senior year can be read as a disappointment, Mary Baskerville was still the fourth most productive offensive option on this roster. Baskerville and Alyssa Geary are two of the top four rebounders as well, and Geary was one of just three Friars averaging more than an assist per game.
They do return a lot of people who played a bunch of minutes last year, but there’s a lot of empty minutes or at the very least not particularly interesting minutes. But does any of that on-court experience matter when the team was mediocre to start the season and then bad for the final six weeks?
Is it good or bad that the 2022-23 Friars are going to go as far as Janai Crooms can drag them? They’re losing two notable contributors and replacing them with two women who weren’t able to get on the court at Iowa and Florida, and one of those two is only in Providence for one season. Hey, maybe I’m wrong about Logan Cook and Brynn Farrell, but until I see Jim Crowley getting 25 minutes a night and useful production out of them in January, I’m not going to believe it’s going to suddenly magically happen.
The real bummer about this is that Providence went 19-16 in Crowley’s second season. That was their first 19 win campaign since 2010.... and they have won 31 games in the three seasons since then. It’s the same story over and over the past three years: Big East play arrives and everything just goes completely to hell. I don’t know what the fix is for them, or even if there is a fix, but it certainly looks like the answer is trending towards this not being Jim Crowley’s problem much longer.