Friar Basketball

5 Things to Watch For: With Council Hurt, Friars Welcome Bryant

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1. It took a career high 34 points from Bryce Cotton and a late rally for the Friars to overcome an upset-minded Bryant squad at the Dunk last December.

That Bryant led 56-49 with under seven minutes to play, combined with the sudden loss of Providence star Vincent Council has many in Friartown believing that the Bulldogs could pull the upset on Monday night.

Ironically, Council had one of his worst games of the season against Bryant last season, shooting only 3-14 from the field, while Providence got only two points off of the bench in the 72-61 Friar victory.

Similar contributions from the subs may be in store this season, as Council is not expected to be available, meaning Providence is down to just six scholarship players, with walk-on Ted Brancroft seeing significant time.

While Cotton carried the scoring load last season, LaDontae Henton was solid against Bryant as well, with a 13 point, 12 rebound, six block double double.  Both will have to play well for Providence to win on Monday night.

Let’s not get carried away with last season’s game, however.  This is a Bryant team that is coming off of a 2-28 season, one in which they went 0-17 on the road.  Yes, Alex Francis is a solid player (17 points, 13 rebounds against the Friars last year), and yes, they saw a more raucous crowd at Indiana on Friday night than what they’ll see on Monday, but they still allowed opponents to shoot nearly 48% from the floor last season (330th nationally), surrendering over 75 points per game (325th).

Even without Council, Providence should be able to defeat a team that finished last in the Northeast Conference a season ago.

2. How does Cotton handle the point guard duties in his first start guiding the offense?  NJIT may have missed an opportunity to pressure the Friars on Saturday afternoon and Bryant would be wise to mix in some pressure defense to try to force turnovers.  Providence committed only 11 turnovers without a true point guard on Saturday.

There simply aren’t many ball handlers on this team without Council.  With Council, the Friars would most likely prefer it if teams brought pressure and allowed him to pick them apart in an open court game.  It will be a problem without him.

3. Can Providence get offense from someone outside of Cotton and Henton?  On paper, it would appear as though Kadeem Batts would be the best option outside of those two, as Bryant isn’t a particularly big team.  Batts was taken out of rhythm after picking up two early fouls in Saturday’s win, and he’s still battling through a shoulder injury, but he still finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.  Notably, Cooley said Batts had a terrific week of practice heading into the weekend.

Freshman Josh Fortune struggled with his jumper in the opener and will need to bounce back this week if the Friars are to win on Monday night and stay competitive when they take on Massachusetts in Puerto Rico.

Brice Kofane can be counted on for put-backs at the rim and energy free throw line trips, and Lee Goldsbrough may need to face the basket before firing passes off as quickly as he typically does, but the onus will fall largely on Batts and Fortune to round out the scoring.

4. Cooley and Bryant head coach Tim O’Shea were both on Al Skinner’s staff at Boston College.  O’Shea is a BC grad who had a successful run at Ohio University before taking on the job of transitioning Bryant to the Division I level.  O’Shea won 79 games in his final four seasons at Ohio, and had winning seasons in five of his seven years there.

5. Foul trouble could cripple Providence without Council.  As Craig Belhumeur noted after the game, Bancroft was on the floor when PC had the ball in a tie game with 10 seconds to play.  The junior walk-on had scored two points in 35 career minutes heading into this season, yet there he was on the floor on the most critical possession of the game coming out of a timeout.

To say the Friars are lacking for options at this point would be the understatement of the year.

 

Email Kevin at kevin.farrahar@friarbasketball.com

 

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