Going into the college basketball season, the assumption was that the Providence Friars would feature two of the top players in the Big East in David Duke and Nate Watson.
It was also believed that A.J. Reeves was primed to put all the pieces together and join Duke and Watson in forming a trio that would cause plenty of headaches.
After that, you could make a compelling case about the importance of a quartet of PC players who were starting over after beginning their college careers elsewhere.
A baptism-by-fire to the Big East culture may have been on tap, yet there was hope that the college-playing experience owned by Noah Horchler, Jared Bynum, Brycen Goodine, and Ed Croswell would lessen the strain of a co-called adjustment period.
With Saturday night’s 8 p.m. game at DePaul representing the first of five regular-season games that definitively remain on Providence’s schedule — still awaiting word about a possible makeup date to the Jan. 16 home game against Georgetown — there’s enough of a sample size to make definitive judgments about the Friar Transfer Crew. Let’s size them up one at a time in alphabetical fashion.
Coming from St. Joseph’s, Bynum sat out last season and appeared to be PC’s long-awaited answer to the point guard issues that engulfed the program in the two seasons after Kyron Cartwright graduated in 2018.
Bynum didn’t shoot the ball well before going down with a groin injury in the Jan. 2 game against Creighton, yet his 29% shooting that included 2-of-28 from 3 wasn’t cause for too much concern. He was a scoring threat in his lone season against Atlantic 10 competition, yet the pervading sense was that any points out of Bynum in a Friar uniform was going to be pure gravy.
His job is to get the ball to others and that’s exactly what Bynum did in 11 games (4.5 assists, five games of five-plus assists). He also took care of the ball (13 turnovers in 328 minutes). In short, Bynum proved as good as advertised.
Alas, health has held him and the Friars back. When the season-ending eulogies are written, make sure they start with the exact moment Bynum went down and the trickle-down effect that’s resulted in his absence.
He was a force on the offensive boards at La Salle and just like last season, Croswell, according to KemPom.com, owns an offensive rebounding percentage of over 18%.
On the flip side, Croswell’s work on the defensive glass has dropped when comparing his output with the Explorers. Per KenPom, Croswell has seen his defensive rebounding percentage sink from 21% as an Atlantic 10 participant to 13.5% as a Big East contributor.
Offensively, Croswell hasn’t scored in double figures since the season opener back on Nov. 25. His determination to power his way to the hoop is admirable. Conversely, he needs a few post moves.
A fresh start seemed to be in the cards after Goodine fell out of favor during his lone season at Syracuse. Instead, he’s averaging fewer minutes as a Friar (7.8) than he did with the Orange (8.7).
Twice, Goodine reached double figures in minutes before Bynum got hurt. The door appeared to be open for an increased workload after it was clear that Bynum wouldn't be back in short order, but that hasn’t proven to be the case. Goodine has only been on the court for 10-plus minutes just twice in the seven games he’s appeared in after Bynum went down.
Goodine seemed to be trending in the right direction after hitting three 3s in a season-high 25 minutes in the Feb. 3 loss to Seton Hall, yet he took just one shot in 14 minutes against St. John’s and committed a lazy turnover as part of the three minutes he logged against UConn.
The hope was that Goodine would take the mantle of serving as the Friars’ combo guard and run with it. Instead, it’s been first-year freshman Alyn Breed who’s been fulfilling said role.
It took a while, but Horcher is starting to be a factor in the four-spot, a role that defined his usage at North Florida.
He’s in the midst of an effective three-game stretch where he’s contributed offensively (19 points against St. John’s) and been a stabilizing force on the glass (three straight games of eight-plus rebounds).
Is it a coincidence that Horchler’s recent upward swing can be traced to taking Jimmy Nichols’ spot in the starting lineup? Or is it simply the case of a player finally getting comfortable against a higher caliber of college basketball player? Regardless of what side of the fence you’re on, the Friars desperately need Horchler to maintain his hot streak.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03