Bryce Cotton finished with 25 points and seven assists and LeDontae Henton added 23 points and 11 boards as Providence won their fifth straight game on Saturday, knocking off Xavier 81-72.
The Friars moved to 15-5 overall and 5-2 in league play, putting them in a tie with Xavier for third place, just a game behind Creighton and Villanova.
That means that Providence is now right in the mix with what has been the consensus three best teams in the conference this season. They’ve beaten two of those teams in the last seven days. Does that mean that the Friars are an actual contender in the Big East?
They certainly have the talent on their roster to continue to make noise. Bryce Cotton may be the nation’s most underrated point guard and the quartet of Henton, Kadeem Batts, Tyler Harris and Carson Desrosiers should mean that Providence never faces a situation where they will get overpowered in the paint.
That group will allow to Friars to compete every night.
But here’s the problem: that’s basically it when it comes to players that Ed Cooley has at his disposal.
Josh Fortune Desrosiers sees some minutes off the bench, but the Friars don’t go much deeper than that. That’s what happens when you lose a star point guard to an injury (Kris Dunn) and a pair of talented recruits a violation of team rules (Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock).
There’s also this note: the Friars have won four of the five games during this streak at the Dunkin Donuts Center, where they have a notable home-court advantage. The game they won on the road? In double-overtime at St. John’s.
No depth and no proven success on the road is not an ideal combination, but it’s working well enough to this point. Providence will have their work cut out for them if they want to be in contention for a conference title, but this does look like a team that can made a run at an at-large bid.
Given everything that Cooley and company have dealt with this season, I’m not sure how much more Friar fans could ask for at this point.