From Nov. 20th thru Dec. 1st, I’ll be on the road, hitting 21 games in 11 days. To follow along and read my stories from the road, click here.
BROOKLYN — Prior to the start of the season, Providence was a team that many people had picked to be a sleeper in the new Big East conference.
With the like of Bryce Cotton, LeDontae Henton and Kadeem Batts being joined by and impressive incoming class — both recruits and transfers — the Friars, on paper, had as much talent as just about anyone in the league.
After losing to No. 3 Kentucky 79-65 at the Barclays Center on Sunday night in a game that Kentucky was more-or-less in control of throughout, it’s obvious what the issues are that the Friars are still working out: they’re still not at 100%.
“I’m going to coach the guys that are on my bus,” head coach Ed Cooley said. “If we’ve only got five guys, those are the guys we are going to go with.”
The biggest issue is with Kris Dunn. The top point guard recruit in the Class of 2012, Dunn has yet to show just what he is capable of doing at the collegiate level as he is still battling a shoulder injury. It forced him to miss much of last season, and Dunn has sat out the last four Providence games.
“Dunn is in a lot of pain,” Cooley said. “He’s really hurt. I don’t expect him back anytime soon at all.”
Losing out on a player like Dunn is problematic in and of itself, but the issue is magnified due to a couple of suspensions. Brandon Austin, an athletic, 6-foot-7 playmaker that was a top 50 recruit, is still suspended from the team, as is Rodney Bullock, another freshman. Cooley hasn’t elaborated on what those two did to get themselves suspended, but he did say that the program and the school are “going to make sure they’re held accountable for their actions.”
“If they can’t play, they’ll be cheerleaders,” Cooley said.
Losing a pair of lead guards forces leading scorer Bryce Cotton into more of a ball-handling role. He’s perfectly capable of that, as he’s played plenty of point guard in his time with the Friars, but when he shares a back court with Dunn or Austin, it gives Providence a different, more dynamic looks.
We won’t fully know just how good Providence can be this season until we know when — or if? — their roster will be intact.