In 2013-14 the Providence Friars won the Big East tournament, resulting in the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance in a decade. Now the question for head coach Ed Cooley and his program is whether or not they’ll be able to build on that momentum, and with seniors Kadeem Batts and Bryce Cotton out of eligibility there are two important holes to fill. Providence got a head start of sorts with their summer trip to Italy, going undefeated in three games and doing so in comfortable fashion.
Among the key returnees for Providence are seniors LaDontae Henton and Carson Desrosiers, and juniors Tyler Harris and Kris Dunn. Friday afternoon the school released its finalized non-conference schedule, and there’s one game that clearly stands out.
Providence will visit Kentucky on November 30, playing against the Wildcats for the second consecutive season. Kentucky won last season’s meeting 79-65 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and this season’s meeting won’t include the leading scorers from that contest. Cotton led all scorers with 23 points and James Young, who scored 18 to lead the victorious Wildcats, jumped to the NBA following his freshman year.
Kentucky’s combination of returnees and newcomers has made them the early favorite to win the national title in the eyes of many, and while this game represents a significant challenge for Providence it’s also an opportunity. The Friars’ schedule has just three games against teams that reached the NCAA tournament last year, beginning with their season opener against America East tournament champion Albany on November 15.
Providence will also play UMass, which earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, with that game scheduled for December 20. Providence will also participate in the Hall of Fame Tipoff on November 22 and 23, with the Friars facing Florida State on the 22nd and Notre Dame on the 23rd. Providence’s two other games against ACC opponents will be played in December, with the Friars taking on Boston College (December 5 in Chestnut Hill) and Miami (December 22 in Brooklyn).
The task of replacing Batts and Cotton won’t be easy, but given the players they have coming back and talented newcomers such as forwards Ben Bentil and Jalen Lindsey, and center Paschal Chukwu the Friars are capable of earning a second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. In order to do so they’ll need to take care of business ahead of Big East play, and while there are some challenges that portion of the slate looks to be manageable.