A 3-pointer’s worth of Friar hoop thoughts as Providence College swings back into action Wednesday night at Creighton …
1. If the Friars are going to stop the bleeding and prevent the season from further falling off the rails, it’s imperative they display a greater commitment on the defensive end.
A check of the numbers reveals that the apple has fallen far from the tree when comparing this year’s squad to others during the Ed Cooley era. As of Tuesday, Providence’s defensive efficiency per KenPom sits at 103rd in the country. Among Big East schools, only Georgetown and St. John’s own a worse defensive rating than PC’s 97.8.
The Friars are riding a five-year streak where they’ve finished inside the top 50 of KenPom’s defensive metrics. Cooley’s teams may endure their peaks and valleys when it comes to scoring, yet the coach has always been able to hang his hat on getting his players to buy into the importance of getting after it defensively.
This current PC vintage would be wise to reverse the disturbing trend of how many 3-point field goals it allows. In the last five games, the Friars have permitted teams to make no fewer than seven treys. Granted, some of the actual percentages suggest that there isn’t cause for alarm — Marquette was 7 for 24 from beyond the arc in last Tuesday’s 79-69 loss. That being said, the sheer number can’t sit well with a coach who lives by the creed of “tough twos, no threes.”
2. The case is closed in short order when talking about the Friar who is missing Jared Bynum the most during the current three-game slide.
David Duke has to walk a fine line. Filling in at point guard in Bynum’s absence, he needs to get his teammates involved, but also has to determine when to get some shots himself. If Duke wasn’t averaging a team-best 19.9 points per game, perhaps the decision would be easier.
The last two games — both played sans Bynum, who remains day to day with a groin strain — have revealed plenty as far as Duke’s difficult position. While he scored 30 points against Xavier, he also turned the ball over five times. Against Marquette, Duke passed for a career-high nine assists compared to one assist in 40 minutes, yet he was 5 of 18 from the field.
Not having a solid backup plan at point guard was a concern heading into the season. Cooley asking Duke to shoulder more responsibility was to be expected, yet it’s worth wondering why Brycen Goodine hasn’t been called upon more often to date.
3. Once again, the Friars endured a stretch of inactivity that wasn’t of their own doing. Wednesday’s 7 p.m. tip at Creighton will mark the end of an eight-day break from competition, the result of Georgetown — a team PC was scheduled to host last Saturday — going into COVID-19 hibernation.
Cooley has always been a big fan of having a break in the schedule, thus allowing for more practice time. The only major downfall is that a contest against one of the Big East’s bottom-tier clubs — the Hoyas are 3-8 overall, 1-5 in league play — would seem to be the perfect cure-all for a Providence squad that’s yet to win a game in 2021 and is on target to play four straight on the road before the next scheduled outing at Alumni Hall.
Considering the desire to push ahead as the pandemic rages on, it's worth wondering why an adjustment wasn’t made to the schedule that would have alleviated Providence and UConn from next month’s marching orders of squaring off twice over a six-day span.
Similar to the Friars, the Huskies unexpectedly lost a game due to COVID concerns in the opposing camp. The “postponement” label was needed last Friday for Villanova, though the Big East on Tuesday announced the game has been rescheduled for Jan. 28. To date, no makeup date has been announced for Hoyas-at-Friars.
There’s going to come a point when teams are going to run out of dates to play games. If that proves to be the case, we will be looking back at this past weekend when the Friars and Huskies could have fulfilled one of their two regular-season obligations.
On the flip side, Wednesday will mark game No. 14 on the season for the Friars. That’s no small feat when factoring in the NCAA stipulation that consideration for the NCAA Tournament will be granted to those who play at least 13 times.